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SICB Meeting 2002

The Promise of Integrative Biology

A Society-wide symposium organized by Marvalee H. Wake and John S. Pearse

Thursday, January 3, 2002


Traditionally biologists are trained, and departments and institutes organized, in a manner characterized by specific approaches, techniques, levels of organization in a biological hierarchy, and/or organisms. Integrative biology is both an approach and an attitude about the practice of science. It seeks both diversity and incorporation. It deals with integration across all levels of biological organization, from molecules to the biosphere, and diversity across taxa, from viruses to plants and animals. It provides both a philosophy and a mechanism for facilitating science at the interfaces of arrayed disciplines, in both research and training.

The quintessential integrative biologist in our opinion was Charles Darwin. We recognize in awe that he did systematics, morphology, development, behavior, physiology, and ecology -- and out of it all emerged the grand synthesis that became the foundation of much of modern biology, evolution through natural selection. Since Darwin there has been a tendency to deconstruct biology into smaller and smaller subfields, and few people reach beyond their own speciality to attempt to gain a broader view. Perhaps that is necessary for a successful career in biology today. However, it is becoming clear that we need a broader, more integrative framework, and a common language to better approach and understand the many manifestations of what has been referred to as "biocomplexity." We agree, as did our colleagues in the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology when they changed both the name and the goals of what was the American Society of Zoology 6 years ago. As our Society develops towards integrative biology, we believe it is now appropriate to present a symposium on the topic.

Our symposium will present by example the power of integrative biology in approaching complex biological phenomena. This includes integration across all levels of biological organization: taxonomic, habitat, and methodological; from molecules to global ecosystems; from observation to experimentation; and from different perspectives, including those from different cultures. Integrative biology can and should be used both for research and to train the next generation of biologists so they can better think broadly and synthetically about solutions to complex problems of pressing importance. With the Society's strong student membership, we are particularly concerned about training in integrative biology. Funding from the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) will bring two prominent foreign scientists (from France and Japan) together with five US biologists to share their approaches in integrative biology. The presentations will be published in the Society's journal, Integrative and Comparative Biology, and sent to all members of the Society, as well as widely distributed to subscribing scientific libraries around the world.


1:00. WAKE, Marvalee H. University of California, Berkeley. Introduction

1:20. HOSHI, Motonori, KOBAYASHI, K., ARIOKA, S., HASE, S., and MATSUMOTO, M. Keio University, Japan Science Technology Corporation, and Tokyo Institute of Technology. Switch from asexual to sexual reproduction

2:00. KIRK, David L. Washington University. Seeking the ultimate and proximate causes of Volvox multicellularity

2:40. Coffee Break.

3:00. MCFALL-NGAI, Margaret J.; KIMBELL, J.R. University of Hawaii, Manoa. The Euprymna scolopes-Vibrio fischeri symbiosis: From genes to demes

3:40. DONOGHUE, Michael J. Yale University. The integrative nature of historical biogeography

4:20. MOUNOLOU, Jean-Claude. Centre de Genetique Moleculaire, CNRS Gif sur Yvette, France. Integrative approach of the science and the management of genetic resources.

5:00. PEARSE. John S. University of California, Santa Cruz. Summary and discussion.