Pat Ormsbee’s Acceptance Speech
Pat Ormsbee, recipient of the David B. Marshall award, was unable to attend the Banquet. She sent this lovely acceptance speech, and kindly gave us permission to repost here. If nothing else, scroll down to the bullet points she leaves for us all.
Thank you, this is a real honor. Since I’m receiving this award, I guess that means I’m old now and should have something profound to say or maybe something mildly entertaining. For starters, I sure didn’t get here alone, hundreds of people are responsible for my career: family, friends, mentors, role models,
teachers/professors, colleagues, the people with the money to make things happen, and of course the
people who disagreed with me – those are the people who made me take a closer look at what I was
thinking and saying.
Many, many people in this room get my thanks. Look around you and appreciate what we have – No REALLY, take a look, you are an amazing group of people – Like many of you seasoned biologists, I’ve
worked with a number of teams and committees across the U.S., and I don’t think it gets much better
than this. The Oregon Chapter of TWS is an exceptionally high‐energy, effective group. It has and
continues to provide the scaffolding to build and support the careers of everyone in this room. It is a
great symbiotic model of how the collective of many can insure the success of its individuals and of
course how the success of individuals insures the success of the collective. Whoooaaaa – kind of like a
bat colony, but even better, with dancing and a bar! How cool is that?
I’m sorry I can’t be there to accept this award, not only for the enjoyment of the recognition – it is such
an honor. Also because I so want to jump up and down and pump my fist in the air and tell you in person
how great you are. Everyday there are a bazillion nail‐biting reasons to be very frightened about the
future of our planet, the species we work for and their habitats, and of course our own species.
For me all I have to do is think of those of you in this room just starting or early in to your career and I’m
reassured the future of the planet is in good hands. You’ve got this. I know and trust this to my very
core. At some point in the not too distant future, society will be forced to recognize that HOLY CHAIN
REACTION BATMAN, everything really is connected! – humans, other organisms, water, air. That the
demise of the latter reflects “Christmas Future” for humans. People can be a little slow, but they will get
it. AND they will come to you for answers and advice and you absolutely will be part of the solution.
If I were starting out and had to pack a mental tool box for the future, here’s some of what I hope I’d to
remember, based on what I’ve learned thus far during my career:
- Stick together, keep the collective strong. Your combined voices will be heard much louder than your
- Remember, you are the voices of wild organisms and places. Develop and maintain your intimacy with them. Get out there, no matter how high up the career ladder you go. “You Tube” is no replacement for the first hand hardships and rewards of being in the field. It is the connection with wild places and animals that has always brought me clarity and inner strength.
- Always fall back on the science, don’t make sh*t up. You may be pushed to do it. Don’t do it. Don’t exaggerate or extrapolate beyond what the data say. Focus your creative and imaginative efforts on how to move forward given the science. Give people the benefit of the doubt, individually and as a whole. As a species, we still have a ways to go to get our scout badge for planetary stewardship, but here is the thing. There is no other species that will go to such great efforts, emotional turmoil, and expense to save another species. We’re it. “The buck stops here” as they sat. Trust and expect this in others and vive them good reason to remember this about themselves.
- Endings are usually the beginning of SOMETHING new. I’ve imagined and anticipated many uncomfortable endings in my life that turned out to actually be great beginnings. My anticipation was actually the worst part.
- Understand that your Area of Concern is huge, it’s one of the reasons that we do this work, we care about a lot of things. Regularly take time to understand and define your Area Of INFLUENCE. This is a MUCH smaller area. Each day make sure you are operating in your Area of Influence, not concern. What can you do each day that no one else can do, to make a difference? What is the best use of your time toactual influence change, not just worry about it? Trust that there are other people out there also working in their Areas of Influence to take care of concerns that you can’t effectively take on. If you continually wing outside of your Area of Influence to take on issues you care about, but can’t really effect change, you’re going to burn out. You’ll be like George Clooney in “Gravity”, floating around in your Area of Concern universe, listening to country music and talking to yourself until you run out of oxygen.
- It’s about the resources and if you are going to do your part to take care of them, then you have to take care of yourself. When I feel my focus shift from the resources to me and my comforts, I know it’s time for a vacation, job change, retirement. If I’m more focused on me than the resources, I’m not being effective in my efforts. Know when it’s time for a change and make it.
- Don’t lose that sense of wonder about your work. For cripe sakes, look where we live and what we do! It’s incredible! We are the privileged, living the dream, pinch, pinch. Most of us are not of the mainstream who think of work as a necessary evil to pay their bills. If you are in that category, it could be time to revisit your area of influence or maybe change jobs.
- If you are in a management position, start a revolution! Pull back the non‐biological work that has migrated to the desks of these folks over the past decade in the name of downsizing, accountability, or centralization. We need their minds wrapped around the real issues and challenges of biology, not wading through antiquated computer programs for time sheets, travel, reporting, reporting, and more reporting. Please, please, please, turn this around, it was mistake. Find volunteers, part‐time office help, whatever it takes.
- For those of you mid‐career. You get to set the stage for those coming behind you. Do what you can to pave the way for them. They are depending on your talents and insights so they can make better sense of what is to come.
- Create levity wherever you can. What we do is important, it doesn’t always have to be serious. Even some of the heavy issues aren’t going to be improved by adding more weight to them. One of my mental notes is to remember that “if it will be funny later, it’s probably funny now”. Not everything is going to be funny later, but a good bit of it is.
- And finally, to steal the words of Al Hicks, one of the first Biologists in the northeast to discover thousands of bats dead and dying from White Nose Syndrome. “NEVER, EVER give up. We can’t give up.”
So I say start the music and give a rousing toast to the future!
Thank you so much for your acknowledgement and companionship