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AOU and COS Merger Status

November 2016: AOS President Announces Merger, Launch of New Society

Dear Members of the American Ornithological Society,

I am writing to you today to announce the launching of the American Ornithological Society (AOS), to assure you of our commitment to the principles of inclusion and diversity, and to emphasize how important it will be for AOS to expand our production of and advocacy for ornithological science and avian conservation, given recent political events in the US and the world.

First, AOS is official! Our Articles of Merger were filed and certified in Washington DC on October 11, 2016. In doing so, we have merged the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) and the Cooper Ornithological Society (COS) into the American Ornithological Society (AOS). AOS held its first Council meeting on 1 November to work on the many tasks required to forge a progressive society for our members that encompasses the best of the AOU and COS. I hope to see you at our historic inaugural meeting of AOS (135th stated meeting of American Ornithology) from 31 July – 5 August 2017 on the campus of Michigan State University.

Second, and critically important, the AOS is guided by its Diversity Statement that promotes inclusion and is committed to creating an environment that encourages the free expression and exchange of scientific ideas. We respect gender, racial and cultural diversity, and fully embrace our responsibility for promoting this diversity in ornithology. At the NAOC meeting in August we established a Diversity Committee, chaired by Kevin Omland, to actively promote this effort. AOS also adopted a Code of Conduct with clearly specified expectations for professional behavior among our membership. We will continue to hold workshops like Women Rock Science and other activities at our annual meetings that serve our broad membership and promote diversity in our ornithological profession. We welcome your suggestions and participation.

Third, I want to emphasize that AOS and its members together have a very important role to play in advocating for public support of science and promoting the use of science to inform policy decisions related to conservation and resource management. We will work to inspire and support both young and established ornithologists to conduct this science, to help them communicate their findings to the public, and to build successful and effective careers.

Coming together to form the AOS, we are now a stronger society and we will need this strength to take on the formidable challenges ahead. With the growing gap between what the public believes about the world and how science tells us it works, and the growing threats to science and birds, our mission is more important than ever. I look forward to working together with you in this effort.


Steven R. Beissinger
President, American Ornithological Society

August 2016: AOU and COS Announce Decision to Merge and a New Name: American Ornithological Society (AOS)

At the historic NAOC VI meeting in Washington D.C., where more ornithologists—representing 41 countries—were brought together than ever before, the American Ornithologists’ Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society proudly announced their decision to bring their membership together as the American Ornithological Society, or AOS, in the very near future. In recent years we have actively collaborated as separate organizations: meeting together, publishing our journals jointly, and working together to benefit the conservation of birds. After a year of fact-finding and due diligence, and in response to the tremendous positive feedback of our membership, our two societies have voted overwhelmingly to merge.

When the societies announced the news during NAOC’s opening plenary session, more than 2000 participants—ornithologists and bird specialists from academia, government, nonprofits, and industry, along with students and citizen scientists—cheered! Our message was clear: a single merged society will better serve ornithologists and advance ornithology by combining our assets—human, financial, and intellectual. We wish to thank all of our members who responded to queries and contributed valuable viewpoints, and also to recognize the many individuals who worked tirelessly and objectively on the effort. Onward! 

With the decision made, the important next steps include the legally required actions to complete the merger, and implementing a new communications and marketing plan for AOS. We anticipate announcing the new AOS in late October to broad audiences—this will be the “effective date of merger.” At the same time, we’ll launch our redesigned websites and social media platforms. The 2017 membership renewal cycle will quickly follow, introducing AOS memberships along with a variety of new services and benefits to members. Next July, when we come together at the 2017 annual meeting in East Lansing, Michigan, we look forward to opening the 135th stated meeting of American Ornithology and the first meeting of the AOS. Please join us!

August 2016: COS members have spoken, and have overwhelmingly approved the merger with AOU​. ​Voting closed on 2 August 2016 with very strong participation (more than 700 ballots cast, representing >55 percent of COS members) and overwhelming approval for merging with the AOU (>85 percent of members in favor). Note that more than 80 percent of COS members are also AOU members and that COS members comprise more than 40 percent of the AOU. The COS vote parallels the results of our informal membership survey (576 AOU members participated) in which a majority of respondents favored a merger between AOU and COS, favored a new name for the merged organization, and specifically favored the name “American Ornithological Society.” Of particular importance is the fact that more than 95 percent of graduate students and postdocs—the future of ornithology—favored the merger.

The next and final decision step is the vote by the Fellows of the AOU whether to merge with COS. The AOU Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws require this to be done by a vote of the AOU Fellows, which will take place at their annual meeting on 16 August 2016 at 4 p.m. They will be asked to approve an update of the Articles of Incorporation under D.C. law, and Bylaws changes to accommodate incorporating COS publications and renaming the AOU to the American Ornithological Society (AOS). We encourage all AOU Fellows who will not be able to attend the annual meeting to cast their vote by Proxy Form. Proxy votes (electronic or mailed) must be received by Andy Jones, Secretary of the AOU ( by midnight, 15 August.

Joint Resolution on Merger
AOU Bylaws Changes

August 2016: Voting on the terms of the proposed merger with AOU opened for COS members on 14 July 2016, as announced via email by COS President Marty Raphael to all members of COS. Members who have not registered their email address with the COS (OSNA) will each receive a letter and the ballot from COS in the postal mail. You can read the July 14 message here. The results of the COS vote will be announced prior to the AOU Fellows meeting on 16 August 2016.

July 2016: AOU-COS Merger FAQ

July 2016: AOU-COS Plan of Merger Final

June 2016: On 24 June 2016, COS President Marty Raphael sent a message to all COS members with an update on the proposed merger of the COS and AOU. Members were informed that the Plan of Merger was available on the American Ornithology website. Raphael also announced that COS members would be asked to vote on the merger in the upcoming ballot, with all voting to be completed by August 2, 2016. You can read the June 24 message here.

June 2016: A joint committee was charged with developing a formal plan of merger and a straightforward process to accomplish it. The resulting Plan of Merger is a simple and streamlined document that provides the legal basis through which the merger can occur. Both AOU Council and COS Board of Directors voted to approve the Plan. The key item is how the memberships of COS are converted to AOU member categories, as most of the remainder of the merger plan is a standard legal process. And for the most part, this is a straightforward procedure. All members of the merged society get the best of both worlds, with access to both The Auk and The Condor, which will continue operating as they are.

Now we are nearing the final steps in the merger process, which require member approval. Legal counsel indicates that the formal Plan of Merger must be approved by the appropriate members of each society. Should the societies choose to merge, we would work to ensure a smooth transition and incorporation of COS into the merged society as the leadership of both societies changes. The merger of the AOU and COS to create the American Ornithological Society is an exciting prospect that coincides with the completion of AOU’s Strategic Planning Process and the start of a Capital Campaign to fund the publication of our journals as open access, to build an endowment to enlarge research in ornithology and assist ornithologists at all career stages, and to support conservation science for birds.

May 2016: A clear message emerged from our poll that a vast majority of members wish to pursue merging the American Ornithologists’ Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society, with 87% of the 614 respondents in favor. Support for merging was expressed strongly from members of both societies and across all age groups. Opinions were more varied about a name for the merged organization. Nevertheless, members of both societies expressed a willingness to consider changing the name of the AOU, the receiving society, if the two societies merged.

AOU and COS Member Survey Data and Member Comments
Addendum to the AOU-COS Joint Merger Committee Report

May 2016: Progress Report from AOU-COS Merger Working Group

November 2015: Member Responses to Potential Merger

October 2015: AOU and COS Agree to Pursue Merger

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