The Porcupine Marine Natural History Society Council

Aims of the Society

  • To promote understanding of the biology, ecology and distribution of marine organisms.
  • To stimulate interest in marine biodiversity, especially in young people.
  • To encourage interaction and exchange of information between those with interests in different aspects of marine biology, amateur and professional alike.

Role of the Council

The Council is responsible for the running of the Society and ensuring that the Society works towards its aims.  The Council is made up of both Ordinary and Honorary members who support each other and provide leadership and direction for the Society.  There are seven Honorary roles; Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Secretary, Website Officer, Editor (of the Bulletin) and Records Convenor.  The Honorary title refers to a role as unpaid without the requirement of specific qualifications. Ordinary members of the Council do not have defined roles but may often take on specific tasks and are there to support the honorary roles as well as provide a link to the members.

Most of the tasks of the Council revolve around planning the Society’s annual conference and fieldtrips as part of fulfilling the aims of the Society.  This is always a team effort so there is no single person who would be overburdened by any role on the Council and it is expected that each Council member will contribute as much time as they are able to ensure the smooth running of the Society.  If at any time a Council member feels that they are not in a position to actively support the Council they stand down and are open to being re-elected sometime in the future if they so wish.

Council meetings and the Annual General Meeting (AGM)

There are two council meetings a year in addition to the Annual General Meeting (AGM).  Organising and reporting on these three meetings are the main functions of both the Honorary Chairperson and the Honorary Secretary for the Porcupine Marine Natural History Society.

The AGM is part of the spring conference and the aim of the meeting is to present the Honorary Treasurer’s report and the other council officers’ reports to the members and to accept these as accurate records if appropriate.  At the AGM, announcements of major events or changes to the running of the society such as amendments to the constitution are made.  The election (or re-election) of the council members also takes place.

The two council meetings are when the main business of the society and planning for future events are discussed and agreed. The spring council meeting is usually held the day before the conference with the second council meeting held in the autumn.  The location and date of the autumn meeting are not set and are organised in agreement with all Council members to enable as many Council members as possible to attend. 

Honorary Chairperson duties

The Chairperson’s role is to ensure the smooth running of meetings and to act as an overall leader for the society.  The Chairperson will control the meeting, beginning by outlining the purpose of the meeting and introducing the Agenda. When a discussion is underway, it is the Chairperson’s responsibility to ensure that this continues to flow smoothly, ensuring everyone has a chance to speak. 

The Chairperson should also ensure the meeting runs to time.  At the close of a meeting, the Chairperson should summarise the discussions and thank participants for their contributions.

Leadership: The chairperson has overall responsibility for leading the Society, inspiring and enabling Council members to bring their best to the Society to fulfil its aims.  The Chair leads the way in maintaining the direction of the Society and supporting the Council in order for the Society to thrive and evolve.

Collaborate: The chairperson needs to collaborate with the secretary in the preparation of documents for meetings.

Manage: During the council meetings, the main role is managing the contributions of all council members.

Flexible: Provide a flexible Agenda for the meeting, allowing changes in the order of business to accommodate the needs of the participants.

Focus: The agenda should be followed and actions summarised to be recorded by the secretary. It is important to keep a balance between the time for each agenda item and frequent breaks to aid concentration.

Opportunity: The AGM is the main opportunity for members to comment on the running of the organisation and offer thanks or provide constructive criticism. The AGM requires the same skills as a council business meeting but is more formal and a wider range of people are involved (the membership who are allowed to vote and delegates at the conference who can comment). The Chairperson should be familiar with the constitution which provides clear guidance on society business.

Viewpoint of the current Chairperson, Susan Chambers: “During my 5 years I have learnt many new skills as Chair of Porcupine which have helped me to be a more effective participant at other meetings. The skills heighten your awareness of the dilemma of others and you are more empathetic to the chair when they need to make progress or re-focus the group to the agenda. I would recommend the role of Porcupine Chairperson – it is the perfect environment in which to learn or practice management skills. Porcupine is a friendly and uncompetitive society as we are all volunteers. Everyone wants to be there and is committed to improving our knowledge of the marine environment. You cannot ask for more than that.”

Honorary Secretary duties

 The secretary’s role is to be the guardian of the process of meetings. This is usually the person who makes the arrangements for the meetings and keeps formal records of the group’s discussions and decisions: the minutes of the meeting.

  • Prepare the agenda in collaboration with the Chairperson. Collate and circulate any associated documents that are to be discussed/referred to at the meeting.
  • Arrange the date, time, and venue of the meetings (use doodlepoll or similar). A notice of at least 21 days is required to call a meeting.
  • Keep a formal record of the main business of the meeting in the form of Minutes, and a separate list of actions.
  • Write up and circulate a draft set of minutes to the rest of the council for comments and corrections. Amend draft minutes and circulate with the agenda for ratification at the council meeting.
  • The agreed minutes are the final record of the meeting and should be filed with other governance documents (now maintained in a PMNHS Dropbox folder).
  • Between meetings, remind the council of the agreed actions and keep up-to-date with progress.
  • Maintain contact details of council members.

Annual General Meeting.

  • Preparation, of the agenda and collation of officer’s reports in collaboration with Chairperson.
  • Prepare and send out a notice of the AGM and request nominations for election at least 21 days in advance of the meeting. The information is usually printed in the Bulletin and posted on the website and sent to members via Mailchimp email (in collaboration with the Website Officer).
  • Co-ordinate nominations. Council members are usually elected for 3 years and can be re-elected on a vote by conference delegates. Check which members need to stand down before re-election.
  • Keep a formal record of the main business of the meeting in the form of Minutes, including proposers and seconders for the election of members. The draft minutes should be circulated to the council to check for accuracy but agreed by members at the following AGM.
  • Maintain any amendments to the constitution ratified at the AGM.