David L. G. Noakes, Oregon State University, February 2008, updated April 2009
I have been asked to say something about the history of the EEEF meetings, and the background to this scientific community. Those of us who have attended previous EEEF meetings know at least something about how we came to be and how we continue to function. The EEEF meetings originated with discussions at a Midwestern Regional Meeting of the Animal Behaviour Society among several of us interested in fish behaviour. Jack Ward agreed to host the meetings, and did so for several years, at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, starting in 1977. Perhaps the only thing normal about our meetings was the name of the city. After Jack Ward’s untimely death, we began the highly successful routine of moving the meetings to different sites. Subsequently we have met in Guelph (Canada), Beaumont (Texas), Durham (New Hampshire), Flagstaff (Arizona), Seattle (Washington), Victoria (Canada), Albuquerque (New Mexico), Athens (Georgia), Quebec (Canada), Saudarkrokur (Iceland), San Diego (California) and Boston (Massachusetts).
Several things have always distinguished the EEEF meeting. We initiated the meeting because we wanted to foster the development of students, and because we wanted to bring together the full range of people with interests in behaviour, ecology and evolution of fishes. We have added conservation biology as another theme to our meetings, largely through the efforts of Gene Helfman at the meeting in Georgia. I think the record of our meetings, particularly in the publications from special symposia or entire sessions of previous meetings, speaks for our success (usually in special issues of the journal, Environmental Biology of Fishes). We have always fostered personal contacts, collaboration and creative approaches to science. Our emphasis continues to be on students, and we continue to learn from, and through, them. The EEEF meeting is always dominated by young people, and new ideas.
We have lost valued friends and colleagues over the years. Jack Ward, Gerry FitzGerald, Jan Smith and Bill Rowland are among the most prominent of those who were involved in the organization of our meetings. But we continue to gain new colleagues and so we continue to grow and develop. We are firmly rooted in the past but dedicated to the future. We try to make sure that the meeting moves around to different geographic locations, so that we enable a different group of local people to attend, to show off their research and to let us see the places where they live and carry out their science. We include both marine and freshwater fishes in our meetings, practical and applied research, academic scientists and those from a wide range of private industry, consulting and government agencies. We have no formal organization, no elected officers and no continuing budget. We meet because we are interested in each other and what we are doing. We organize special sessions on topics of current interest, to recognize lifetime contributions of some of us, but mostly to foster the development of students and young colleagues.