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Vertebrate Morphology

Division of Vertebrate Morphology (DVM): 1999 Fall Newsletter

This Newsletter by Section

Message from the Chair

Andrew Biewener

I am very much looking forward to the SICB Annual Meeting in Atlanta, January 4-8, 2000, and seeing many fellow vertebrate morphologists there. Be sure to join us for the new millennium! (What Y2K worries?) I am expecting this to be an excellent meeting and look forward to seeing how the thematically organized paper sessions work out. SICB president, Martin Feder, and the Executive Committee have been busy introducing new topics, legislating and planning for the continued strength and vitalization of SICB for the next millennium. Many thanks to Mark Westneat for attending the strategic planning meeting in Chicago this summer on my behalf. The following are a few highlights of the meeting: (1) the society is in fiscally sound shape (allowing for reduced membership costs and the opportunity to invest in programs that will benefit SICB); (2) abstracts will be electronically published, freeing up an additional volume of American Zoologist for publication of symposia papers; (3) plans are underway to identify new "hot" areas of science (such as 'evo-devo') and (4) improvements are planned for the SICB Web site. There will be many programmatic issues for the society and the role the division will have within the society to discuss at our annual business meeting. In addition, I am certain that the scientific communications in the paper and poster sessions, as well as informal conversations, will be stimulating and rewarding as usual.

DVM is cosponsoring two symposia this year. One symposium, "Intermittent Locomotion," is being organized by Randi Weinstein. It has a slate of excellent speakers from North America and Europe, in addition to our own Bret Tobalske. The other symposium, entitled "Beyond Reconstruction: Using Phylogenies to Test Hypotheses About Vertebrate Evolution," is being organized by Don Swiderski in conjunction with the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, which, please remember, will be meeting with us in Atlanta. This symposium has strong DVM representation. I have also offered some DVM support for a society-wide symposium that Dianna Padilla is organizing on "New Approaches to Studies of Marine Plant-Animal Interactions." These are exciting topics that I expect will have broad interest to DVM. Finally, let me take this opportunity to urge you to consider organizing and planning for future symposia now. One of the best ways to strengthen DVM's identity and mission is through the symposia that our division sponsors. Let's take the lead.

As promised, Kurt Schwenk and I are planning to include a special DVM social that will follow one of the late afternoon paper sessions. We are hoping to have two of our colleagues present opposing 10-minute viewpoints on the topic of "Evolutionary Conservation of Motor Programs: What Is the Evidence and Why Should Motor Programs Be Conserved?" If you wish to nominate yourself (or someone else) as a debater, please pass on your suggestion to Kurt and myself.

Before closing, I want to thank John Long and Kurt Schwenk for their valued and diligent service as DVM secretary and program officer during the past two years. As I've learned, they do most of the work for the division, making my job as chair much easier. Thanks also to Dave Carrier, Sharon Swartz and Bret Tobalske for agreeing to serve as our Nominating Committee. They've come up with a great slate of candidates to replace John and Kurt. So, with best wishes for a productive fall (and hoping that many of you had better luck than I did with your electronic abstract submission), I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta to kick off an exciting new century of science!

Message from the Program Officer

Kurt Schwenk

It is hard to believe that summer is nearly over and another fall semester has begun. The leaves have already begun to turn here in southern New England. These statements really have no relevance - worse, they are insipid - but it is increasingly difficult to know how to begin these program officer messages. Let's face it, as program officer, I don't exactly deal with the most exciting material. The president and the secretary get all the good stuff. I do what I can.

The next meeting in Atlanta marks the first time the society has gone to topic-based paper sessions and centralized scheduling. This issue was discussed in depth at last year's DVM business meeting and promises to remain controversial. There is concern that the divisions will lose their identity in the process. Therefore, it is important that meeting attendees keep an open mind and see how they like the new system. My prediction is that enough of the topics are within the purview of DVM that it will not feel much different. However you feel about it, be sure to communicate your opinion to the division officers or directly to SICB officers.

Centralized scheduling means that all scheduling is being handled by the SICB program officer, John Pearse. As divisional program officer, I am supposed to have input into the final distribution of DVM papers. It has never been done this way, so we are feeling our way along (and I just figured out how to do it the old way - damn!).

With regard to DVM identity, Andy Biewener and I are arranging a special DVM function in Atlanta (see the president's message). We will continue to explore other ideas for getting DVMers together and welcome your input. As a reminder, one of the best ways to do this is to attend the business meeting. It is usually scheduled early in the meetings and is open to all. Students are encouraged to attend. Check the schedule. If you want to see a bunch of morphologists get hot under the collar, maybe even raise their voices, it's the place to be.

DVM is cosponsoring two symposia at the Atlanta meetings that should be of interest to a large segment of the division. The first is "Beyond Reconstruction: Using Phylogenies to Understand Histories of Vertebrate Evolution," which has been organized by Don Swiderski. The second is "Intermittent Locomotion: Integrating the Physiology, Biomechanics and Behavior of Repeated Activity," which has been organized by Randi Weinstein. Apparently members have heard the plea for more symposia proposals because we have several outstanding symposia to consider for the Chicago meetings and beyond. There is much to look forward to.

The eastern regional meeting of DVM will take place at Brown University this year. Contact Sharon Swartz for information. For information about the Midwestern regional meeting, contact Steve Reilly.

Message from the Secretary

John Long

With its flexible interdisciplinary sessions, reduced registration fees and electronic newsletter, the society is showing itself capable of positive, thoughtful change. What remains to be done, one DVM member (I'll call him JW) recently argued, is to convert our journal, American Zoologist, into a peer-reviewed zoological journal with an open submission policy. Gone, he said, should be our closed-door, symposium-only format that creates a picture of good old boys inviting their buddies to publish. I countered that the symposium format gives the journal a special niche and, for example, some issues become well-thumbed citation classics when the symposium captures a field's Zeitgeist. Furthermore, the work of the up-and-coming may get a read just because it is sandwiched between papers by a Kurt Schwenk and an Andy Biewener. In response, JW explained that good zoological journals are few and far between, and that American Zoologist could better fill the needs of the integrative biology community by opening its doors to submissions by individuals.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Please e-mail me if you wish to express your support for the status quo or for JW's open submission journal (e-mail address: If enough of us respond to make for a statistically meaningful sample, I'll ask Andy to put this issue on the agenda for the DVM business meeting in Atlanta.

As Kurt mentioned in his message, The Morphology Group of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University is hosting the 1999 SICB Division of Vertebrate Morphology Northeast Regional Meeting. The meeting will be held at Brown University, November 6th, 1999, in the new MacMillan Hall Environmental Sciences Building. The registration fee is $20 for students and $30 for everyone else, and includes a light breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday, coffee/tea breaks, and a pizza dinner on Saturday evening. To register, please e-mail the following information by October 15 to (1) your name, (2) your institutional affiliation and (3) your e-mail address. If you would like to present a talk, please provide a tentative title and let Sharon know whether you would like to offer a regular (15-minute) or one-slider (five-minute) presentation. Information concerning the meeting and travel to Providence can be found at the meeting's Web site:

Division of Vertebrate Morphology Election

Candidates For Program Officer

David Carrier

Current Position: Professor of Biology, Northern Arizona University.

Education: B.A., University of Utah, Salt Lake City (Biology & Geology); M.A., University of Utah, Salt Lake City (Biology); Ph.D. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Biology).

Professional Experience: Associate Professor, Department of Biology, University of Utah. Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Utah and Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown University. N.I.H. Post Doctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley. Teaching Fellow, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley.

SICB Activities:

1986-1988 Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Committee.
1991-1998 Judge, Best Student Paper Committee, DVM (three separate times).
1993 Host for Northeast Regional Meeting.

Research Interests: Vertebrate locomotion.

Goals Statement: My goals as program officer would be to monitor the conversion to topic-based sessions and help people understand what we may be giving up as a result of the conversion. I am concerned that the new policy of organizing sessions solely around topics, rather than divisions, may have an adverse effect on the Division of Vertebrate Morphology and the field of vertebrate morphology in this country. Topic sessions make a lot of sense in terms of the actual biology and in terms of integration. Nevertheless, topic sessions may not be a good thing for the different approaches to science that the different divisions represent. There are a lot of overlapping interests among members of Comparative Physiology and Vertebrate Morphology, but I still see the two groups as being fairly distinct in the questions they ask and how they approach those questions. The conversion to topic sessions may lead to a gradual loss of intellectual diversity. I don't have a solution to this perceived problem, but it is an issue I want people to keep in mind for the next few years.

Kiisa Nishikawa

Current Position: Professor of Biology, Northern Arizona University.

Education: B.S. (Biology), State University of New York at Albany; Ph.D. (Zoology), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Professional Experience: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Dalhousie University. Miller Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley. Visiting Professor at the Brain Research Institute, University of Bremen, Germany. The Department of Physiology, University of Minnesota. The Department of Zoology, Duke University.

SICB Activities:

1989 Judge, Best Student Paper Committee, Comp. Biochem. & Physiol..
1990 Chair, Best Student Paper Committee, Division of Vertebrate Morphology.
1992 Symposium Organizer, "The Evolution of Neural Ontogenies: Mechanisms of Evolutionary Change in Neural Systems," 1992 Annual Meeting.
1992-93 Membership Committee.
1995 Best Student Paper Committee, Division of Vertebrate Morphology.
1995-98 Secretary, Division of Neurobiology.

Other Memberships: American Society of Ichthyologists & Herpetologists, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, International Society of Vertebrate Morphologists, International Society for Neuroethology, The J.B. Johnston Club, Neural Control of Movement, Organization for Tropical Studies, Sigma Xi, Society for Neuroscience.

Goals Statement: My goal is to continue the tradition in the Division of Vertebrate Morphology of excellent and interdisciplinary paper sessions and symposia at the annual meetings.

Research Interests: Evolution of brain and behavior; biomechanics and motor control of prey capture in frogs.

Candidates for Secretary

Audrone Biknevicius

Current Position: Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ohio University.

Education: B.S. (Biology), State University of New York, Stony Brook; M.A. (Biology), State University of New York, Stony Brook; Ph.D. (Cell Biology and Anatomy), The Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine.

Professional Experience: Research Associate, Department of Mammalogy, American Museum of Natural History. Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ohio University. Research Instructor, Department of Anatomical Sciences, School of Medicine, SUNY, Stony Brook. Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Anatomical Sciences, School of Medicine, SUNY, Stony Brook.

Research Interests: Postnatal development of locomotor and feeding functions in terrestrial quadrupeds; evolution of locomotor posture in terrestrial quadrupeds.

Goals Statement: I'd encourage the development of additional regional meetings (similar to those already in place in the northeast and Midwest regions) as a recruitment tool for graduate students and faculty members alike. These regional meetings help nurture the concept of SICB-DVM membership as a community of scientists who are willing and able to provide ongoing scholarly discussions, rather than a once-per-year extravaganza that our annual meetings currently portray.

Bruce Jayne

Current Position: Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati.

Education: (Ecology, Ethology & Evolution), University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana; M.A. (Zoology), University of South Florida, Tampa; Ph.D. (Zoology), Michigan State University.

Professional Experience: Editorial board for the American Zoologist. Chair, contributed papers in DVM (1993) and on locomotion and movement. Chair, DVM Student Paper (1991) and Student Poster (1995) Judging Committees. Assistant Professor, University of Cincinnati. Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine. Postdoctoral Researcher, Division of Amphibians and Reptiles, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago.

Research Interests: My research attempts to understand the evolution of complex systems involving a combination of behavior, physiology and morphology, and I have studied diverse topics dealing mainly with the locomotion and muscle function of snakes, fishes and, most recently, lizards. I attempt to integrate comparative, functional and experimental approaches combined with an ecological perspective to gain insights into the adaptive value of organismal level traits.

Goals Statement: Serving a secretary for DVM would provide a welcome opportunity for me to contribute to a society that has benefited me considerably over the years. As secretary, I feel that my primary responsibilities will be the timely assembling and distribution of information rather than affecting policy. However, I do favor encouraging interdivisional contributed papers sessions with a balance that will still ensure that our division remains a strong an useful entity within the society.

Dale Ritter

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Heidelberg College.

Education: B.S. (Zoology), Auburn University; M.S. (Biology), Northern Arizona University; Ph.D. (Biology), Brown University.

Professional Experience: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Neurobiology, State University of New York, Stony Brook. Instructor, Wheaton College. Research Assistant, Brown University and Northern Arizona University. Teaching Assistant, Brown University and Auburn University.

Research Interests: Evolution and function of the vertebrate axial musculoskeletal system.

Goals Statement: I believe the most important role the society plays is in the development of young scientists, especially students. The annual meetings provide a friendly-yet-critical audience for students to present their research and ideas to. I would like to see the DVM continue and strengthen this commitment to aiding the development of student scientists.

DVM Election Ballot


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