Creating and maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for all in the aquatic sciences

Creating and maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for all in the aquatic sciences

By James Elser, Past-President (ASLO)

The issue of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct is much in the news these days, including in the sciences.  Two years ago as President, I began a proactive process to address these issues in the aquatic sciences, motivated especially by the occurrence of sexual misconduct at field stations and on research vessels.  Joined by then President-elect Duguay, the effort was broadened to include development of a statement for professional behavior to be included with materials at all ASLO meetings.  The issues were discussed at length by the ASLO Board at the 2017 Hawaii meeting, which also featured a “Presidential Plenary” on the topic of reducing sexual misconduct in the aquatic sciences given by National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt.  The meeting also featured a facilitated workshop on bystander intervention. Resources from this workshop are available on the ASLO website.

From these efforts, two statements of ASLO’s position were developed and are reproduced here.  The first (“ASLO Statement on Sexual Misconduct at Field Sites and Research Vessels”) focuses on field settings where unacceptable conduct can emerge, greatly interfering with the right of all aquatic scientists to pursue their scientific interests in a free and open environment.  The second (“ASLO Events Code of Conduct”) focuses on our scientific meetings and delineates expected behavior at our events, which are so important for the advancement of our professional careers.  Importantly, note that consequences of violation of these codes are specified, including expulsion or ban from meetings and a ban from ASLO itself. Both statements have been unanimously approved by the ASLO Board. 

 It would be naïve to expect that the problem of sexual misconduct will disappear with these actions.  However, it is my hope that it becomes far less prevalent and that, when it occurs, victims of this misconduct will be respected and supported while consequences for perpetrators of such misconduct will be prompt and appropriately severe.

ASLO Statement on Sexual Misconduct at Field Sites and Research Vessels

A core goal of ASLO is to foster a scientific community that is safe, hospitable, and productive for all of its members.  Many, if not most, ASLO members conduct extensive field work, often in remote locations for extended periods and including work on research vessels and at field stations.  Work in such remote settings removed from the normal sphere of social interactions can sometimes enable unacceptable behavior such as sexual assault and sexual harassment (which includes inappropriate remarks, unwelcome attention, uninvited photography or recording, distribution of unwanted sexual content via social media, and unwanted physical contact). ASLO denounces such behavior and urges all, and especially those in positions of authority, to take measures to create a positive working atmosphere where such behavior does not occur and where appropriate sanctions are enforced when it does. These measures include making policies clear to all participants and providing information about avenues for reporting sexual assault and other unwanted sexual behavior.  Measures also include establishing a general atmosphere in which all members of the community take responsibility for addressing the inappropriate behaviors and harmful attitudes that can support sexual harassment and sexual assault. 

ASLO may refuse or rescind membership to individuals shown to have received official sanction for sexual misconduct at places of employment or research; appeals of this sanction must be brought to the ASLO Board. Resources for finding support if you have experienced sexual misconduct and for establishing a safe and respectful work environment at sea and at field sites can be found at the ASLO website.    

ASLO Events Code of Conduct

A core goal of ASLO is to foster a scientific community that is safe, hospitable, and productive for all of its members. Thus, ASLO seeks to provide a welcoming and productive environment for those attending our meetings, workshops, and events, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, physical appearance, or career level.  All participants, including, but not limited to, attendees, speakers, volunteers, exhibitors, ASLO staff, service providers, and others are expected to abide by this ASLO Events Code of Conduct. This Code of Conduct applies to all components of an ASLO event, including those sponsored by organizations other than ASLO but held in conjunction with ASLO events, in public or private facilities.

Expected Behavior

  • All participants, attendees, ASLO staff, and vendors are treated with respect and consideration, valuing a diversity of views and opinions.
  • Be considerate, respectful, and collaborative.
  • Communicate openly with respect for others, critiquing ideas rather than individuals.
  • Avoid personal attacks directed toward other attendees, participants, ASLO staff, and suppliers/vendors.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings and of your fellow participants. Alert staff if you notice a dangerous situation or someone in distress.
  • Respect the rules and policies of the meeting venue, hotels, ASLO-contracted facility, or any other venue.

Unacceptable Behavior

  • Harassment, sexual harassment, bullying, or discrimination in any form will not be tolerated.
  • Physical or verbal abuse of any attendee, speaker, volunteer, exhibitor, ASLO staff member, service provider, or other event guest.
  • Examples of unacceptable behavior include, but are not limited to, verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, national origin, inappropriate use of nudity and/or sexual images in public spaces or in presentations, or threatening or stalking any attendee, speaker, volunteer, exhibitor, ASLO staff member, service provider, or other event guest.
  • Disruption of talks at oral or poster sessions, in the exhibit hall, or at other events organized by ASLO at the event venue, hotels, or other ASLO-contracted facilities.


  • Anyone requested to stop unacceptable behavior is expected to comply immediately.
  • ASLO staff (or their designee) or security may take any action deemed necessary and appropriate, including immediate removal from the meeting without warning or refund.
  • ASLO reserves the right to prohibit attendance at any future meeting.

Reporting Unacceptable Behavior

  • If you are the subject of unacceptable behavior or have witnessed any such behavior, please immediately notify an ASLO staff member or ASLO officer.
  • Notification can be done by contacting an ASLO staff person on site or by emailing your concern to [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected].
  • Anyone experiencing or witnessing behavior that constitutes an immediate or serious threat to public safety is advised to contact 911 and locate a house phone and ask for security.
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