HomeVolume Fall 2008

Division of Vertebrate Morphology (DVM): 2008 Fall Newsletter

In this newsletter:

Message from the Chair

Kurt Schwenk

The really big news, of course, is the economy-or lack thereof. The Division has its own money woes, as I will discuss further, below. As part of an 'emergency rescue plan' to bail out DVM-and in my capacity as Chair (and, you will recall, Commander)-I took the unprecedented step of firing the entire DVM Executive Committee. I figured that this would not only save money for critical divisional needs (e.g., more canapes at socials), but would make the decision-making process more streamlined (no more pesky 'disagreements'). However, Secretary Gillis pointed out that none of the Executive Committee is actually paid anything for all the time and effort they put into society business. Thus, against my better judgment, I reinstated them (they would say that they never actually went anywhere, but that is typical of people in denial).

The second really big event since I last wrote, is that I bought a new and improved motorcycle. As divisional Chair I feel compelled to represent our interests even while on the road, so I've adopted a DVM theme for my bike (see photo). There is no sacrifice too great.

DVM Bylaws: Change We Need or Change We Can Be Proud Of?

If the title doesn't ring a bell, you need to bone-up on presidential politics… Regardless, I am forced to be serious and consider some DVM business that is, in fact, important. Specifically, I wish to alert the membership to upcoming proposed changes in the DVM bylaws. The first two of these are unlikely to be controversial, however the last is something we need to discuss as a division: (i) small changes to language suggested by SICB Secretary, Lou Burnett, to make it consistent with current society structure, etc.; (ii) changes to update the language related to the divisional Executive Committee, the election schedule and the tenure of the Chair-Elect; and (iii) changes in the bylaws that permit us to charge ‘divisional dues' of $5. The rationale for this last change is discussed below. Note that each of these sets of bylaw changes will be voted on separately by the membership in the spring after ample time for discussion/comment.

The Need for DVM Membership Dues

This topic was broached at the last business meeting in San Antonio, but the situation has become critical and needs to be acted on now. As most members will recall, SICB has changed the way it budgets money for individual divisions-back in the day, money was apportioned according to division size, whereas now, divisional budgets are the same across the board (presently $3100 total). This resulted in a significant decline in the funds DVM has available to support its activities. At the desire of the membership attending the business meeting, I made a motion at the SICB Executive Committee meeting last winter to return to a proportional method of divisional funding, but the motion was resoundingly defeated (only one other person voted with me). Regardless, society officers feel strongly that the flat-rate budgets have big advantages for the society, as a whole, and they may be right. From a self-serving perspective, given the fractioning of DVM into daughter divisions, we are no longer the largest division and our budgets would never return to what they were in the past, in any case. Thus, we must deal with what we have now. Of the $3100 total DVM budget, $2000 is earmarked for DVM-sponsored symposia. There is no budget category for regional meetings, so we are now forced to use the symposium budget to support these also. Consequently, in a year like this one, in which we had five symposia to sponsor and two regional meetings (southeast and northeast), there's not much money to go around. In fact, what we were able to give to each of these worthy recipients was a pittance! The issue was discussed extensively among DVM Executive Committee members and there was unanimous support for the principle of giving some money to regional meetings, in addition to our sponsored symposia (at the national meeting). Indeed, without divisional/SICB support, it would not be possible to have a regional meeting in most cases. I personally, am strongly in favor of regional meeting support and I therefore made the final decision to give a substantial part of our budget to the regional meetings this year. But there was no optimal solution to this problem and the issue obviously needs to be considered by the entire membership.

The Solution

With the crashing economy, the fiscal state of SICB is less solid than it was a year ago. We are likely to see more red ink in the near future. Thus, we are very unlikely to see an increase in our divisional budget anytime soon. Indeed, we may have to cut back. I am therefore urging the membership to support the institution of a small divisional fee (dues) to supplement our budget and give it the flexibility it needs to support vital regional meetings, as well as other initiatives. I am proposing a nominal fee of $5 across the board to be added to annual SICB membership fees. This dues structure is already practiced by two other divisions (Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry; and Comparative Endocrinology) and is therefore not without precedent. To be completely direct, without divisional dues, we will be unable to have regional meetings in the future (unless hosts are able to obtain institutional or external funding) and we will continue to have frugal socials, poorly funded national symposia and limited student support. The money generated by dues could be spent according to the discretion of the membership and the DVM Executive Committee (within bounds, of course) and would therefore provide much greater flexibility in the activities we can fund.

Given the importance of these fiscal matters, please make an effort to attend the DVM business meeting at the SICB annual meeting in Boston. Encourage your students, postdocs and other DVM members to attend, as well. After discussion of this and other issues at the business meeting, the modified bylaws will be posted on the web for member feedback and then the three proposed sets of modifications to the bylaws (including language related to divisional dues) will be voted on in the spring 2009. I hope you will support the dues initiative, but come to Boston with your questions, concerns and comments in any case. We need to consider every option.

A Call for Student Paper/Poster Prize Judges

We have an urgent need for people to help judge the student papers competing for the DVM poster prize and the D. Dwight Davis award. We need enough people on the committee to make sure there are at least three judges at every student paper. I would LOVE to see wider participation in divisional business. Please email me right away if you are interested in joining us in this most important task (kurt.schwenk@uconn.edu). Postdocs and new faculty are urged to volunteer (sorry grads-not for this one). Please don't make me come find you-I have pictures.

Regional Meetings About to Hit the Fan!

As this newsletter goes to press, two DVM regional meetings are about to take place: a combined DVM/DCB southeast regional meeting at Clemson University on 11 October, organized by incoming DVM Program Officer, Rick Blob and grad student, Gabriel Rivera, and a DVM northeast regional meeting at the University of Connecticut on 25 October, organized by outgoing DVM Chair Kurt Schwenk and grad students Tobias Landberg and Diego Sustaita. These are fantastic meetings and anyone who can make one or both of them is urged to do so.

I've run-on enough... See you in Boston-and don't forget to attend the Business meeting!

Message from the Program Officer

Jeff Walker

Bring your appetite for clam chowdah and grilled haddock because the 2009 SICB meetings are on the waterfront in Boston, only a short walk from the docks and a high density of restaurants serving fresh seafood. All of the sessions will be held in the meeting hotel, but that is no excuse to fail to wake up early and get in an icy run along the Charles, a short skating session on the frog pond, or a few laps of xc skiing at the Weston ski track. But get back to the hotel by 8AM because we have a record number of abstracts for these meetings, and again, many, many sessions include DVM speakers. There are several symposia that DVM is co-sponsoring, including Hormonal Regulation of Whole-Animal Performance, Sensory Biomechanics, Biomaterials, and Genomics and Vertebrate Adaptive Radiation. In addition to the regular array of evening presentations, Sean B. Carroll will give the 1st annual Moore lecture and Ira Flatow will give the plenary presentation on the opening evening. There are two important notes on future symposia. First, there are important updates on symposium funding. Registration re-imbursement will be $100. SICB will continue to pay page charges ($135 per page) for up to 10 pages and the cost of one color plate ($600). Second, not a single DVM related symposium proposal was submitted for the 2010 meetings in Seattle. I accept most of the blame for this; it is my job to actively encourage DVMists to submit symposium proposals. But this conspicuous absence of DVM should plant a seed of guilt in all of us for not taking the initiative to develop good DVM related symposia. VM is not a languishing science, but it will be viewed that way and become one if we do not actively market our best stuff! I look forward to hearing about your symposium ideas for the 2011 meetings (Denver? Salt Lake? New Orleans?) this January in Boston.

Message from the Secretary

Gary Gillis

As I try to clear my head from haze that comes with getting little to no sleep for the past 8 months (here you can see me trying to share my enthusiasm for coffee with one of my twin sons), one thing that is clear is that I am extremely excited about the upcoming SICB meeting. There will be amazing talks, fabulous symposia, and the opportunity to re-connect with old friends and new colleagues, but from my perspective, I have to confess, nothing can surpass the fact that I'll have a hotel room to myself for at least two of the four nights!

On the topic of upcoming meetings, the success of the annual Northeast Regional DVM meeting has spread south and this year Gabe Rivera, Rick Blob and Ty Hedrick are hosting a jointly sponsored DVM/DCB southeast regional meeting at Clemson University on October 11. I expect it will be a great success and indeed look forward to hearing about it soon. I'm also looking forward to the Northeast regional meeting at our commander's very own institution, UConn, on October 25. These meetings are always great opportunities to practice for the upcoming SICB sessions and to share progress with the local DVM community.

I want to congratulate Rick Blob and Lara Ferry-Graham on being elected DVM Program Officer and Secretary, respectively. They will be in their elect position for 2009 and will transition into action at the Seattle meeting in 2010. I also want to say thanks to Alice Gibb and Kris Lappin for agreeing to run for these positions.

As a division, we've been relatively slow, in fact, inactive is probably a better descriptor, when it comes to highlighting our members online. A quick glance at the SICB website will reveal that many divisions are well on their way to compiling a "researcher database," in which a fancy picture (or compilation), along with some text about research interests, are used to describe various members within the division. Kurt, Jeff and I, as well as the newly elected officers-to-be, Mark Westneat, Rick Blob and Lara Ferry-Graham aim to get something up in the near future and we'll be asking you to do the same. I'll have more to say on this at the meeting in Boston. I look forward to sharing chowdah with some of you soon...

Link to officer list on DVM page