Division of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology (DSEB): 1999 Fall Newsletter
This Newsletter by Section
Message from the Chair
Paula M. Mabee
Greetings to members of the Division of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology! I look forward to seeing you all at the Y2K meeting in Atlanta, January 4-8, 2000. Our division is co- sponsoring three symposia, and all promise to be cutting-edge and foundational. The first is entitled "Beyond Reconstruction: Using Phylogenies to Test Hypotheses About Vertebrate Evolution." It is being organized by Don Swiderski and is co-sponsored with the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists. A correction from our Spring '99 newsletter: The entire Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists will not be meeting with us in January; instead they will be participating with us in this symposium.
We are also co-sponsoring a symposium entitled "Evolutionary Developmental Biology: Paradigms, Problems and Prospects," organized by Richard Burian (history), Scott Gilbert (development) and myself. This symposium is organized to inaugurate the formation of the new Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (known to insiders and outsiders as "evo/devo"). The talks are meant to provide an intellectually exciting overview of the new interdisciplinary area and to ask probing foundational questions. The history and outlook for evo/devo will be examined by presenters Burian, Hall, Glibert, Dietrich, Gayon and Donoghue; general concepts will be presented in talks by Bolker, Laubichler, Carroll, Mabee, Roth and Arthur. The day will be capped by talks by Raff and Wagner on "Where We Are" and a general discussion will follow. This promises to be an excellent series of talks, and I highly encourage you to send your students so that they can put these disciplines in context.
We are also sponsoring a new mini-workshop entitled "Phylogenetics for Dummies." The emphasis will not be on how to reconstruct phylogenies, but rather on how to trace character evolution on a phylogeny. We expect this to be fun, informative and integrative.
We still need more DSEB activity. Our division is a perfect forum for systematists and other evolutionary biologists to generate and address questions concerning the interplay between developmental, paleontological, morphological, ecological, functional and molecular data sets. I encourage you all to bring in new members, particularly graduate and postdoctoral students. Sponsor their membership for a year or fund their trip to an SICB meeting. Pick one of your more difficult and integrative systematic questions, and organize a symposium around it. I look forward to seeing you all in Atlanta!
Message from the Program Officer
To all you tree-peepers and to those of you who ought to be (because you are testing hypotheses of morphological and ecological character evolution): the Division of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology has shown over the last several meetings a steadily increasing quantity and quality of oral and poster presentations. Student participation in Denver was outstanding. I am optimistic that the relevance of our focus will become even more evident this year, with the Society's new topic-based approach to the meeting. However, I know that not everyone agrees. So, please stay alert for problems and make a point of letting me know about them (I need specifics).
The most important thing you can do at the SICB Annual Meeting in Atlanta, January 4-8, 2000, in addition to attending DSEB presentations, is to get involved in the program. We need you to show up at the divisional meeting and give us your thoughts on programming. Let us know if there is an area of systematics for which you would like to see a tutorial or refresher course. Even better, we would like to help you organize workshops and symposia that demonstrate systematics in action.
The DSEB symposium "Beyond Reconstruction: Using Phylogenies to Test Hypotheses About Vertebrate Evolution" covers an area not seen at SICB or ASZ for many years. It has an outstanding list of speakers and topics of obvious interest to vertebrate biologists. For others interested in methods, there will be plenty of meat to pick off the bones. Everyone will find something interesting in "Evolutionary Developmental Biology: Paradigms, Problems and Prospects." And last, but first in appearance, is the Millenial Symposium talk by John Avise entitled "The Genetic Gods," which should provide some grist for anyone interested in phylogenetics. I look forward to seeing you all in Atlanta!
Message from the Secretary
Miriam L. Zelditch
I too am excited about our symposium, "Beyond Reconstruction: Using Phylogenies to Test Hypotheses About Vertebrate Evolution" (organized by Donald Swiderski) and the accompanying workshop. The symposium should demonstrate that phylogenetic analysis is central to evolutionary studies, and the workshop (coordinated and led by Donald Swiderski and Anne Maglia) should provide an opportunity for everyone to learn the basic techniques for tracing character evolution. Tree-based thinking is the foundation for evolutionary studies, as members of DSEB know. Through our symposia and workshops, we can show the value of this approach, and we can also provide hands-on experience with the tools to apply it. The workshop will provide a brief introduction on the how and why of character optimization, combining informal presentations on theory, and more tutorials, demonstrations (and handouts) on practice. We hope to sponsor more of such coordinated symposia and workshops in the future. You can help by thinking of themes, speakers and techniques that would interest SICB as a whole.
The restructuring of our meetings around general themes will have a profound impact on all the divisions. While it might integrate artificially divided subjects, it could also create a new set of artificial divisions. I suspect it will do both. If you find that you must run from room to room, up and down escalators, to preserve an integrated view of your subject (even more so than you did in the past), make sure to let us know. In light of the new program structure, it may take serious efforts to keep divisions active and strong. Whether the divisional structure is useful remains an open question; one that may be answered by your participation. To keep the divisions a vital part of SICB, we need that participation, which means coming to the annual meetings, the business meetings (which are neither bureaucratic or boring, at least not in our division), speaking up when you have something to say, taking charge of symposia and workshops, evaluating student papers and allowing yourself to be nominated for office.
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