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MSU professor takes leadership of historic biological journal

Copeia is a scientific journal that's been around for 98 years, although the average person has never heard of it. It publishes results of original research performed by members of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH), in which fish, amphibians or reptiles are the study organisms. In laymen's terms, every article in it focuses on walleye, northern pike, frogs, salamanders, crocodiles or snakes, to name a few.

Chris Beachy, Minot State University professor of biology, has become next in a very short, prestigious line of editors to take the helm. In spite of the journal's stoic reputation for tradition, Beachy, a self-described history nut, has plans to "take it to the next level."

"The president of the ASIH asked me to be the editor, and I am very honored," he said. "The journal is the flagship of this society, and I'm pleased that my passion for the ASIH was recognized by others."

As editor of Copeia, Beachy will face some challenges. Membership to ASIH and the journal is declining. There is also pressure to move away from black-and-white photography and old-school hardcopy publishing to more sophisticated, flashier, less expensive online publishing. Beachy admits he will need to facilitate discussions about the direction of Copeia's next 100 years, utilizing a little finesse to move things forward.

"Copeia is in this weird transitional time of tradition vs. online. Old school (thinking) is what built this society, but it also discourages new members. It might be tricky to manage," Beachy said.

Ironically, Beachy thinks old technology might help his cause.

"Most manuscripts are submitted online, so associate editors and research professors are used to using email," Beachy said. "There is so much misinterpretation that can occur through electronic communication, so I am encouraging the associate editors to use the phone."

Beachy says speaking to someone directly opens up dialogue for change, encourages discussion, takes the sting out of bad reviews and is faster and more efficient.

But change doesn't happen overnight, and Beachy knows this. He plans to be Copeia's editor for 10 years.

"Amphibians are expiring in greater numbers and faster than the dinosaurs," he said. "50 percent of salamanders and 30 percent of frogs are either extinct or at risk, and the only scientific societies that care enough are taxon-based (organism-specific) societies and journals."

"I am really excited to be a part of preserving that," Beachy added. "It will make all the work worth it."