What is SIL

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Written by Robert Wetzel* in 1989
Modified by William Lewis, Jr., Acting Gen. Sec.-Treasurer in 2005
Modified by T. Zohary, Gen. Sec.-Treasurer in 2014

The International Society of Limnology (SIL), founded in 1922, is the oldest and only international society entirely devoted to inland waters.

SIL is international. Perhaps better said “supranational” in the words of one of our founders, A. Thienemann. Our membership, currently consisting of 1250 members from 70 countries, is expanding in regions that had been underrepresented previously.

SIL is limnological. The interests and activities of SIL span all inland waters. Topics of current interest such as global warming, the European Framework Directive, aquatic birds, invasive species, long-term monitoring programs – to name a few, have been addressed recently. Some of the activity on those topics is particularly associated with working groups.

SIL is really SILTA, theoretical and applied. A significant portion of our membership is integrating fundamental research-driven understanding into practical questions of human usage of freshwater resources. Much greater emphasis is being given to the integration of exponentially expanding human activities into the composite analyses of freshwater ecosystems and their effective management than was the case previously. We have been attacking these enormous problems from many directions, particularly by encouraging interdisciplinary coupled research developments on complex ecosystems of great biological and economic importance.

SIL is scientific. This statement is foremost and fundamental, and clearly must remain the foundation of SILTA. If the scientific foundation of SIL is weakened or compromised in any manner, the demise of the association is certain.

SIL will be rendered impotent without a scientific journal. The only important communication in science is the written, published record in scientific journals. Oral presentations are heard by only a minuscule audience and the words quickly dissipate. Abstracts are not true published records. Research that is not published and communicated to the scientific community in written form is not completed. The interactive scientific expertise that has been nurtured and networked over close to a millennium of SIL activities and congresses will simply dissipate and not participate without the scientific structure. SIL members retain their right to present and publish a scientific contribution in a quality scientific journal.

SIL has a primary responsibility to provide quality scientific publications. Until recently, SIL published the proceedings of its congresses in thick volumes of proceedings. Since 2011 the proceedings were replaced by a peer-reviewed journal, Inland Waters. The journal promotes understanding of inland aquatic ecosystems and their management. Its subject matter parallels the content of SIL Congresses, and submissions based on presentations are encouraged. The journal also aims to publish articles resulting from plenary lectures presented at SIL Congresses and occasional synthesis articles, as well as issues dedicated to a particular theme, specific water body, or aquatic ecosystem in a geographical area. Publishing open access is encouraged.


Membership is open to anyone interested.  The annual fee for being a member varies depending on your professional status (student, early career, established scientist, retired) and your country of residence (members from developing countries pay 50% of the regular fee). To find out about membership fees go to Pay annual dues >>>.

Membership fees and institutional subscriptions to Inland Waters are the primary source of income and much of the work is done on a gratis basis that permits members to have the publications at a low cost.


Inland Waters >>> The Journal of the International Society of Limnology is an international, peer-reviewed journal for original papers that advance our understanding of inland aquatic ecosystems and their management. It is not restricted to SIL members.

SILnews >>>  the society’s newsletter published, twice yearly, is available on the SIL web site. SILnews is the forum for small feature articles, announcements, obituaries and more, and constitutes an important link between all members. Please use it. The Editor is Dr. Giovanna Flaim (flaim.giovanna(et)

Members may also use the SIL website for job announcements and other items of importance to the SIL community. Veronica Nava (webmaster(et) is our webmaster.

Prof. Robert Wetzel, SIL’s General Secretary-Treasurer from 1968 to 2005 offered reflections on what SIL was as an international scientific organization. He did this firstly from the perspective of an officer and scientist intimately involved with SIL on a daily basis for about four decades. His nearly continuous exchange and interaction with thousands of letters and discussions on SIL activities placed him in an effective position to comment on how SIL functions. He had a rather unique long-term exposure to how most members wanted the SIL to function. He expressed his perceptions of what facets of SIL are important to most of its membership and, most importantly, to the profession. The principles outlined so clearly by Prof. Wetzel didn’t change with time and still hold today.published twice yearly,.