SICB 1998 Fall Newsletter
Message from the President
Alan J. Kohn
This is my last message to you as president, toward the end of an eventful year, both
personally and for the Society. In June, I officially retired as professor at the
University of Washington after 40 years of teaching and research as a faculty member, all
but the first three in Seattle. So far, this event has not changed my life much at all --
I still supervise graduate students and undergraduate research students in various aspects
of integrative and comparative biology. This year's personal zoological highlight was the
opportunity to see the world's largest lizard Varanus komodoensis, the komodo dragon or
ora, in its remote but now protected natural habitat in Indonesia, as well as Komodo's
notable birds, molluscs and corals. Perhaps less spectacular and near the other extreme of
the animal size spectrum, but rarely seen by biologists, was the snail that seems to think
it is a clam, the unusual bivalved gastropod Berthellinia, also seen in Indonesia.
SICB's year has also been eventful, and I think reasonably successful in maintaining
the momentum of past-president Mike Hadfield's many innovative and thoughtful initiatives.
During 1998, we maintained and increased the level of our new program of Grants-in-Aid
support for student research projects. This year's 11 winners were announced in the Spring
1998 newsletter, and student members can request an application for the 1999 awards by
returning the postcard in this issue. However, we need additional contributions from our
more senior members to the Grants-in-Aid endowment, in order to increase the financial
assistance of our students in the critical initial stages of their research. Several new
SICB publications appeared during 1998. Most notably, at this writing, the first three
issues of our new journal Integrative Biology: Issues, News and Reviews, have been
published and have elicited much favorable comment. We also published the long-awaited
brochure Careers in Biology, with many features unique to the diverse disciplines of
integrative and comparative biology, and demand for it has been high. Finally, the
slimmed-down 1998 SICB Membership Directory signals the end of an era, as it will be our
last in the print medium. Future directories will be provided electronically on the web,
where it can be conveniently and quickly accessed and updated.
During 1998, we successfully pursued several efforts aimed at establishing mutually
beneficial and synergistic relationships with other groups having kindred goals and
interests. At the 1998 SICB Annual Meeting in Boston, by far our largest in many years,
several "new" cosponsoring societies joined with us; Most notably the Ecological
Society of America, International Society for Reef Studies and the really new Julia B.
Platt Club. Starting with the 2000 SICB Annual Meeting in Atlanta, the Society of
Vertebrate Paleontology will meet with us. We also joined with the counterpart Cuban
Society of Zoologists, signing a memorandum of understanding to promote cooperation and
collaboration, and facilitating joint individual membership.
This year the Society has also experienced more than its share of internal political
and administrative upheavals, but we are once again operating smoothly. We avoided a
potentially serious problem when president-elect John Hildebrand resigned from that
position last spring. Fortunately, both candidates for president-elect in the spring
election agreed to accelerate their terms of office if elected. President-elect Martin
Feder has thus been serving in that office since the election results were announced.
Martin is working actively in planning the Society's future activities, including the
program for Atlanta, the American Zoologist editor transition, and future election
mechanisms. I look forward to passing the gavel to his capable hands in January. In the
Spring 1999 newsletter, we will again hold an election for president-elect.
Another change is our new staff members in the SICB Business Office. After serving as
the SICB executive director for six years, and after 17 years with Smith, Bucklin and
Associates (SBA), Laura Jungen left at the end of July. She will develop her own business
as a management consultant. We appreciate Laura's conscientious and loyal service, and
especially her most successful efforts in bringing SICB from a bottom line several hundred
thousand dollars in the red to one now several hundred thousand in the black. Peter
Studney has taken over as our new executive director, and I look forward to working with
him. Peter has a master's degree in management and has been with SBA for six years. One of
his major activities has been working with societies of software user groups.
Also administrative manager Pam D'Argo resigned early in the year after becoming the
mother of twins, and membership services coordinator Micki Unkrich left to attend law
school. Susan Heckman and Christopher Mundschenk, respectively, have filled their
positions, and you will meet these new staff members at the Denver meeting.
Financially, SICB received a major financial boost this summer from a most generous
bequest from the late past-president Charlotte Mangum. Charlotte directed that we use
these funds as an endowment to support student members of the Society. In accord with her
wish, the annual interest will be used to support and enhance our student support program
for students presenting papers and posters at the Annual Meetings.
Like individuals, the Society is frequently invited to contribute monetarily to worthy
causes. This year we made modest donations to the National Association for Biomedical
Research, of which SICB is a member, in efforts to defend U.S. Department of Agriculture
animal welfare standards against legal challenges from an animal rights organization; and
the American Cancer Society, in memory of past-president Albert Bennett's son. More
frequently than I had ever anticipated, the president is also solicited to support various
causes with written statements. Many of these efforts are generated by the Council of
Scientific Society Presidents, to which SICB belongs, dedicated to furthering the welfare
of science, wise national science policy, and science education. For example, I've written
to members of Congress in support of doubling federal science appropriations and freedom
in electronic communication. In these statements I have taken particular care to emphasize
my position is that of an individual who is president of a scientific society, rather than
to represent the Society's view.
Exceptional cases that presented the view of SICB as an organization included the
statement opposing a weakened reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act by Congress,
which reflected the overwhelming support of the membership (94 percent of the vote) for
the SICB Conservation Resolution passed in 1996. As noted in the spring newsletter, seven
other society presidents, representing more than 30,000 scientists, joined this effort.
On a related matter other society presidents and I wrote to members of Congress
opposing a bill prescribing increased logging in national forests, for "forest
health." This bill (HR.2515) was narrowly defeated in the House (201-181), and I was
told that our efforts helped make the difference. Our Conservation and Public Affairs
Committees have been particularly active and helpful in bringing these policy matters
relevant to SICB's interests to my attention and to that of the membership through
electronic alerts. The reasoned opinions and explanations that knowledgeable scientists
provide to policy makers can sometimes be influential!
Finally, our 1999 SICB Annual Meeting in Denver, Jan. 6-10, promises to be as big and
successful as last year's in Boston, which had 25 percent more attendees than the average
of the three prior years. Despite the fact that fewer cosponsoring societies will meet
with us than in 1998, we received abstracts for 703 oral and poster presentations by the
August deadline, only four percent fewer than last year and 35 percent more than the prior
three-year average. We will continue the late-breaking symposium tradition initiated last
year, and there will be 10 exciting and integrative symposia. I look forward to seeing you
Message from the Treasurer
For the first time in a number of years, it is projected that the Society will end the
year with an operating deficit. By using the term operating deficit, I am excluding the
extremely generous one-time gift of $193,313 that Charlotte Mangum bequeathed SICB,
whereby interest income will be generated for student support. This operating deficit
comes on the heels of 1997, when the Society realized an income of nearly $170,000 based
on the fact that there was no official meeting of the Society in the calendar year of
1997. The projected operating deficit for 1998 is about $42,700, which in turn, reduces
the Society's unrestricted reserve fund to a little over $450,000. That figure still
greatly exceeds the goal of keeping our reserve above 40 percent of our operating
expenses, but, as we all know, the Society can ill afford to return to deficit spending. A
number of factors contributed to this shortfall in 1998.
It is projected that dues collected during 1998 will be about $20,000 less than the amount
collected in 1997. As my predecessors have all stated in the last years, the Society needs
to do something to increase the membership! Some of this will be alleviated starting in
1999, when dues will increase by approximately 10 percent. However, the Society would be
in much better financial shape if there were several hundred more members. (The Society
has about 2,300 members currently, of which about 2,100 actually pay dues.)
The Annual Meeting continues to lose money, but the Executive Committee voted at the
Boston meeting not to require that the Annual Meeting break-even, a suggestion that I had
proposed. At the Boston meeting, the expenses were $318,003 with an income of only
$205,880 for a loss of $112,123. The total attendance was 1,199, of which 1,002 were paid
registrants. Only 38 percent of the total attendees were Full Member registrants, but they
accounted for 58 percent of the revenue; 36 percent of the attendees were Student, but
they accounted for only 18 percent of the revenue. The Denver meeting is projected to lose
more than the Boston meeting.
The main source of income is of course the American Zoologist. Although the projected
income for 1998 is about $8,000 less compared to 1997, the projected expenses are about
$10,000 less in 1998 compared to 1997, so income from the journal continues to grow.
The Society has taken on a number of expenses which do not have offsetting income
associated with them. The most significant of these is the offering of Integrative
Biology: Issues, News, and Reviews to the membership. The Society entered into an
agreement with John Wiley & Sons that beginning in 1998, the Society would underwrite
the distribution of IB to all members of SICB for five years. During 1998 this amounted to
an expense of about $31,000. In the three coming years, that expense will nearly triple to
$30 per member per year or about $75,000 a year given current membership. Previous
officers felt it was important to contribute to the success of IB, since the journal is
intimately tied to our Society, so they entered into this agreement with the publisher.
However, it is going to be a great financial burden for the next four years.
Other expenses that occurred in 1998 that did not occur in 1997 include the printing of
the career brochure ($2,500) and the membership directory ($10,000); and the purchase of
computer software ($10,000) to aid in the production of the Annual Meeting (requested by
program Officer Willy Bemis).
As one can see, the 1998 expenses without offsetting income total to about the same as
the projected deficit. The officers of the Society are committed to finding ways to
decreasing the deficit in the 1999 budget and eliminating it by the year 2000. We will be
meeting in Chicago in late October to finalize the 1999 budget. If you have any
suggestions, questions, or concerns, please contact me directly at any time.
Lastly, I wish to thank Laura Jungen, our former executive director, for all the help
that she has given me over the last two years when I served as treasurer-elect and now
treasurer. Laura was a great source of information and advice and is one reason that the
Society is as strong financially as it is today.
Message from the Secretary
Thomas G. Wolcott
How important is "integrative and comparative biology" when humanity is
gaining abilities to twiddle so many knobs that can "control" nature (e.g., gene
splicing)? This has occupied some of my thoughts here at our field research site on
Chesapeake Bay, while I've been splicing more anchor lines for our wind-propelled aquatic
mobile home. Hurricanes have a way of enforcing humility in the face of nature, a useful
trait in biologists. I'll be singing "My Bonnie lies over the ocean" for only a
few hours more, and then we'll be reminded once again that we are not omnipotent, nor
omniscient, nor often particularly wise.
This summer's work with the belligerent and recalcitrant blue crab has forcefully
reminded me how short and narrow human sight often is. We're dealing with a species that
has huge economic and cultural importance -- affording watermen the last really profitable
fishery in the once-teeming Chesapeake--yet when we try to understand it as a living
animal in a dynamic ecosystem we continually fetch up against bulkheads of ignorance. The
most basic kinds of biological information, and their integration into a picture of this
crab as a behaving, regulating, adapting animal, are woefully lacking. Like so many other
things we like to eat, wear or otherwise consume, it's been treated almost like a coal
seam - a resource to be extracted and exploited without thought for its regeneration or
the hole it leaves behind. Such casual dismissal of biological realities could be the
prelude to disaster, as it has been for so many other species.
Integrative and comparative biology must become pivotal in global society, precisely
because of humanity's habitually exploitative approach to the natural world upon which we
ultimately depend. We must foster, in scientists and laypersons, the ability to see the
"big picture" and appreciate how the effects of a knob-twiddle in one place may
ripple through the system to cause salubrious or dismaying effects elsewhere. The more
decoupled from nature our society becomes (as in "meat comes from
supermarkets"), the more essential this role will become. We've got to learn to see
and to teach connectedness.
Therefore, let me encourage you all to enhance your connectedness by joining us at the
1999 SICB Annual Meeting, Jan. 6-10 in Denver. Not only will there be fascinating symposia
and tales of ICB to share with an incredibly broad spectrum of colleagues, there is much
to see in Denver. Nearby there's the Front Range soaring improbably up from the plains and
harboring various ski resorts and the National Center for Atmospheric Research by the
Flatirons. Don't miss the factories in Golden where Coors produces porcelain labware and
exhausted yeast culture media; Boulder Canyon where Mork and Mindy (and my uncle) live;
Trail Ridge Road into the alpine tundra (tough to see in January without a snow shovel);
and lots of other opportunities to integrate and compare biology with other parts of life.
Come, teach, learn, enjoy!
Message From the Program Officer
1999 SICB Annual Meeting Highlights
The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology's purpose is to promote the
discovery and dissemination of new knowledge and concepts in integrative and comparative
biology, and to adopt and support policies advancing innovative studies of organisms. At
the 1999 SICB Annual Meeting, January 6-10, 1999, in Denver, Colo., we will do just that.
This year's meeting offers symposia and workshops covering the wide range of interests of
our members and cosponsoring societies.
Highlighting the meeting, we have a fantastic line-up of 10 symposia (see separate
article), including the late-breaking symposium "The Wildlands Project: Holding Off
the Sixth Extinction," featuring Michael E. Soulé and Stuart Pimm.
In addition to the ten pre-arranged symposia, SICB is continuing its program of
interdivisional sessions to foster new links in biology. This year, four interdivisional
sessions will be held: "Locomotion and Movement;" "Feeding and
Foraging;" "Reproduction and Life History;" and "Education." We
were thrilled to receive approximately 703 abstracts for oral and poster presentations by
the August deadline, only four percent fewer than last year and 35 percent more than the
prior three-year average.
New developments for teaching comparative biology will be explored in a workshop
sponsored by the SICB Educational Council. This half-day workshop will take place on the
first day before the late-breaking symposium.
For the Denver meeting, we are proud to have four cosponsors participate. They include
the Animal Behavior Society, American Microscopical Society, Julia B. Platt Club and The
Crustacean Society. We look forward to enhancing our relationships with these societies.
The Julia B. Platt Club will meet on January 5, one day prior to the SICB Annual
Meeting, to provide an international forum for evolutionary morphology and development.
Send in your registration form today to sign up for this inspiring meeting. See you in
American Zoologist - From the Editor's Desk
James Hanken, Editor, American Zoologist
I write this column at the close of what has been an extremely busy spring and summer
here in the Editorial Office. In addition to the anticipated crush of symposium
manuscripts from last winter's Annual Meeting in Boston, we have been overseeing the
formal search for my successor as editor, which has involved many people. Here are status
reports on these and other important issues:
Thanks to the continued diligence and hard work of our enlarged cadre of associate
editors, processing of symposium manuscripts from Boston has moved along quickly. We are
on schedule to publish proceedings of one of these symposia in vol. 38 (1998), issue no.
6. As in the previous two years, this will represent an interval of only 12-13 months
following the corresponding oral presentations. Proceedings from three other symposia are
finished, or nearly so, and they are tentatively scheduled for publication in the first
half of 1999 (vol. 39). Proceedings from the remaining symposia are in various stages of
completion and will be scheduled for publication as soon as they are complete. The
tentative publication schedule for the first four symposia is as follows (organizers'
names in parentheses):
- "Evolutionary Relationships of Metazoan Phyla: Advances, Problems and
Approaches" (McHugh & Halanych), 38(6).
- "Coral Reefs and Environmental Change: Adaptation, Acclimation or Extinction"
(Buddemeier and Lasker), 39(1).
- "Developmental and Evolutionary Perspectives on Major Transformations in Body
Organization" (Olsson and Hall).
- "Aquatic Organisms, Terrestrial Eggs: Early Development at the Water's Edge"
(Martin and Strathmann), 39(2).
Journal Web Site/Home Page
Re-design of the American Zoologist World Wide Web site has been completed by webmaster
(and associate editor) Beth Brainerd and submitted for posting by the electronics mavens
at SICB's Business Office in Chicago. Hopefully, it will be on line by the time you read
this column. Please send comments and suggestions regarding the site to Beth
(firstname.lastname@example.org) or me (email@example.com).
This December will mark the end of the line (so to speak) for four associate editors whose
three-year terms will expire at that time -- Beth Brainerd, Todd Gleeson, Dave Norris and
Gary Packard. All four came to the journal during my first year as editor, and I owe much
of the credit for the journal's subsequent success to their considerable and ongoing
efforts. One of the first jobs of my successor will be to fill these vacant slots from
among the ranks of Society members in time for them to oversee processing of manuscripts
from next winter's Denver meeting. Look for their names in the journal's masthead
beginning in 1999 and in this column next spring.
Search for New Editor
The search for the next editor of American Zoologist began in earnest early last spring
with a Call for Nominations posted to the Society's membership e-mail distribution list.
As stipulated in the Society's Constitution, the Executive Committee appoints the editor
after consultation with the Editorial Board. Consequently, the board has spent much time
over the last few months reviewing nominations and preparing a set of recommendations for
the Executive Committee. Several excellent candidates emerged as finalists, and for many
of us the deliberations have been difficult, even agonizing. The search has entered its
final stages and I expect that a final decision will be made within the next few weeks.
Advance preparations for the move of the Editorial Office will be completed this fall,
with the "official" and public announcement of the new editor planned for the
Denver meeting in January.
For much of the last three years I have ruthlessly badgered authors to trim the
acknowledgments section (among others) of their manuscripts in the eternal struggle to cut
article length. Does that mean that I can break my own rules in this instance? Hopefully
so, because I need to acknowledge the enormous contributions to the journal made by
several people during my tenure as editor. All of the associate editors, the many members
of the Editorial Board (present and past), and especially assistant editors Claudia deGruy
and Kristin Lopez have served tirelessly and unselfishly in executing the many tasks
assigned to them. Successfully operating even what is a relatively moderate-size
professional journal such as American Zoologist requires far more time and energy than
many people realize, and this was possible only because of the dedicated efforts of the
entire editorial staff. Thank you all.