Our charter

Table of Contents

Preamble

This document serves as the Charter for a consortium of researchers studying the Pacific Coast Feeding Group (PCFG) of gray whales. PCFG gray whales generally winter in the lagoons of Baja California and spend the summer and fall feeding along the Pacific coast of the United States and Canada. PCFG whales have been observed during the feeding season from southern California through Barrow, Alaska, with a primary feeding area extending from northern California through northern British Columbia (41° – 52° N, excluding the Puget Sound region). 

PCFG Consortium Vision

Foster and advance research of PCFG gray whales through improved collaboration and communication among groups to further our scientific understanding of this feeding group and thus aid management through informed regulatory decisions.

PCFG Consortium Goals and Objectives

  1. Support and encourage coordinated data collection on PCFG whales throughout their summer and fall feeding range to enhance data comparability and collaborations to address research questions with broader spatial/temporal scope of inference than any research group can accomplish alone. Sub-objectives may include
    1. Jointly plan new projects and target funding collaboratively
    2. Produce collaborative papers (i.e., use comparable approaches and address broader spatial/temporal areas than each of us can accomplish alone)
    3. Coordinate methods to enhance comparisons and collaborations
  2. Develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for transparent data sharing of photographs, tissue samples, and sightings information, including policies regarding data contribution, access, use, and ownership. 
  3. Facilitate access to photographs and sightings data of PCFG whales needed for annual abundance estimations, as needed by the United States of America, Canada, and the International Whaling Commission for sustainable management. Other analytical outputs from these data requested by management groups may also be produced, as requested and approved by data owners. 
  4. Support the collaborative collection and analysis of genetic samples of PCFG whales needed for periodic reviews of the population structure of gray whales required for sustainable management.
  5. Host annual meetings of consortium members with presentations and discussion panels to enhance communication and collaborations, coordination of data collection efforts, and development of new projects.
  6. Identify data gaps in need of research efforts to improve our knowledge of PCFG whales.

Approach of PCFG Consortium

The following describes how the Consortium will accomplish the above objectives:

  1. Support coordinated collection of data and samples needed to enable accurate population estimates of PCFG whales and for management efforts by the United States of America, Canada, the International Whaling Commission, and by Indian Tribes and First Nations that manage whales.
    1. Facilitate real-time communication between researchers of field observations of PCFG whales (e.g., shared Google sheet of sighting rates in different areas).
    2. Encourage use of standardized collection methods of data, photos, and samples to enable comparability of data across and between regions. 
      • Conduct trainings and discussion panels to improve the effectiveness of research and share knowledge and experience.
      • Develop a library of data collection protocols used by PCFG researchers that is accessible via the Consortium website.
    3. Accurate abundance estimates of PCFG whales are dependent on survey effort throughout the PCFG range and feeding season. Annually review sightings data at PCFG Consortium meetings to aid in abundance estimations and identify spatial and temporal gaps in research effort.
    4. Representative biopsy sampling improves our ability to make accurate conclusions about population structure from genetic studies. Annually review tissue sample collection at PCFG Consortium meetings to identify gaps in genetic data. 
  2. Foster collaborations between research groups.
    1. Conduct annual meetings of the PCFG Consortium to allow PCFG researchers to meet each other and establish or build relationships.
    2. Host a website to facilitate Consortium goals and communication.
    3. Review data sharing requests and provide non-binding feedback to data requestors regarding potential collaborators on the proposed project. Reviews aim to reduce duplicity in research efforts, enhance methods, and foster collaboration between research groups.
  3. Develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to guide the protocols for data contribution, use, and sharing. 
  4. Facilitate communication regarding research activities.
    1. During annual meetings of the PCFG Consortium, members will be encouraged to share their recent research findings and their plans for research in future years.
    2. The PCFG Consortium may conduct or facilitate workshops, field trips, and discussion panels to help coordinate field methods for collection or analysis of data and samples.

Sharing of Photographs, Samples, and Data

Centralized curation of PCFG gray whale photographs, tissue samples, and associated sighting data is encouraged as these data are essential to produce population trend estimates (e.g., abundance, recruitment), and other information needed for informed management decisions. Database curation of photograph and sightings data is currently conducted by Cascadia Research Collective. Database curation of genetic tissue samples is currently conducted by NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. The PCFG Consortium will develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to guide the protocols for data contribution, use, and sharing.

PCFG Consortium Membership and Participation

The Consortium values the diverse backgrounds and experiences of its members and is committed to fostering an inclusive and respectful environment for discussion.

The Consortium will be composed of individuals who are Members and Non-members, and led by a Board composed of six elected Members with two year terms.

  1. PCFG Consortium Members
    1. Members must meet at least one of the following criteria:
      • Publication record as an author in peer-reviewed scientific journal for studies of PCFG whales.
      • Contribution of sightings data, photographs, or tissue samples of PCFG gray whales to collaborative, shared databases.
      • Analysis of data relative to the PCFG gray whale population.
      • Acting as an official representative of the governments of the United States of America or state (California, Oregon, Washington), Canada, or First Nations/Tribes for the management of PCFG whales.
    2. Members may:
      • Serve on the Consortium Board
      • Vote on the Consortium Board membership
      • Attend Consortium meetings, present research findings and future goals, engage in discussions, and contribute to Consortium annual reports.
      • Attend activities organized by Consortium.
      • Submit data sharing requests for review by PCFG Consortium Board.
  2. Non-members
    1. Non-members may contact the PCFG Consortium Board for requests to:
      1. Attend Consortium meetings
      2. Deliver a research presentation at an annual meeting and engage in discussions at an annual meeting during portions open to non-member discussion
      3. Attend activities organized by Consortium.
      4. Submit data sharing requests for review by PCFG Consortium Board.
  3. Membership requests will be reviewed by the Board as received.
    1. Applicants for membership must provide 
      • A cover letter including summary of how criteria listed in 1 a-d are met.
      • A Curriculum Vitae.
    2. New members will receive a two-third majority vote by the Board.
  4. Any member may request that their membership be discontinued by notifying the Board in writing at any time.
  5. Standard of conduct of all members and non-members that participate in PCFG Consortium events
    1. The members of the Consortium shall not make commitments on behalf of the Consortium without authorization from the Board.
    2. The members of the Consortium shall not take any position on behalf of the Consortium.
    3. The members of the Consortium shall treat other members with respect.
  6. The Board may revoke membership of the Consortium for members and non-members not adhering to the standard of conduct or for members who are not actively participating.

PCFG Consortium Board

  1. The Board will be composed of six members, including a Chair and Vice-Chair.
  2. To enable continuity in Consortium operations, the Vice-Chair will become the Chair of the Board after two years. 
  3. After two years, all other board positions will dissolve and elections for five new board positions will be held. Previous Board members can run again. Members self-nominate for Board positions.
  4. Election of Board members will occur every two years, in October prior to the Annual Consortium meeting so a “hand-off” of Board duties can occur after the meeting. Elections may be conducted by internet poll.
    • Each Consortium member can vote for up to five people to be Board members.
    • The top 5 vote getters become Board members.
    • The Vice-Chair will be voted on separately from Board membership. After the five new Board members are selected, a second election will occur for members to select the Vice-Chair from the five in-coming Board members. The top vote getter becomes Chair. If there is a tie, the out-going Chair provides the decision. 
  5. It is encouraged that the Board includes diverse representation from various sectors including academia, database curators and contributors, representatives of government agencies with oversight of PCFG whales (i.e., Canada, Mexico, USA), and Indian Tribes or First Nations that study and manage gray whale populations.
  6. The roles and responsibilities of board include:
    1. Review new membership
    2. Coordinate activities of the Consortium including organization of the Annual Meetings and establishment of meeting agendas.
    3. Oversee the Consortium website, including content updates
    4. Manage Consortium finances
      • Oversee consortium budget
      • Submit/support grant proposals for funding
      • Solicit funds from donors
      • Lead fund raising efforts
    5. Develop, and oversee use of, a MOU for data sharing between researchers that encourages contribution to shared databases, collaboration, and transparency. 
    6. Evaluate data requests and provide both data requestors and the associated data holders with a non-binding review that includes (1) recommended collaborators to approach for data sharing, (2) guidance to avoid any potential for duplicative research, and (3) feedback on proposed methods.  
    7. Compile and distribute annual reports on the research activities of Consortium members.
    8. Provide summaries of Board meetings to all PCFG Consortium members.

Modification of the PCFG Consortium Charter

Members can request revision of the PCFG Consortium Charter at any time. The full Consortium membership will review proposed changes during the annual meeting.

Any modifications to the PCFG Consortium Charter will require a two-thirds majority vote by the Consortium members and a quorum of at least half of all voting members.

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