DVM: 1997 Spring Newsleter
This Newsletter by Section
Message from the Chair
Peter C. Wainwright
As the SICB 1996 Annual Meeting in Albuquerque eases into the past, I hope that the
memory is as sweet for all of you as it is for me. It never fails to invigorate me to get
together with so many people who share common interests. And this was a particularly good
year for seeing old friends and colleagues.
DVM was a strong force at the Albuquerque meeting. We co-sponsored the fabulous
symposium on skeletal muscle that was organized by John Bertram and Rich Marsh. Our
members spoke in special sessions in honor of Steve Wainwright's retirement, as well as in
the very successful combined sessions on locomotion and feeding. Of course, we had our
usual series of excellent DVM paper sessions, and there were an impressive slate of fine
I would like to offer special congratulations to A. Kristopher Lappin and John Golden,
who won the Dwight D. Davis Prize and Honorable Mention for their talks, respectively. As
always, it was great to see the excellent student presentations at the meeting.
As we all know, SICB has undergone something of a metamorphosis over the past several
years. A new name, a refined mission, and a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people
have come together in the new SICB. In the area of programming, I have been very impressed
with the new ideas being implemented by Willy Bemis (a DVM member), including the success
of the interdivisional sessions. There are some exciting programming ideas being
considered for the future, including a night-time poster session and an effort to try to
meet with other societies that might expand our interdisciplinary nature. Jim Hanken
(another of our own DVM stars!) is instituting a number of changes as the new editor of American
Zoologist. For example, the journal will invite the winners of student paper prizes to
submit papers on their prize-winning work, page limits for papers are being extended, and
new design formats for the cover are being considered.
Please note that there is a terrific new slate of candidates for several DVM elected
positions. I would like to offer a personal thanks to John Bertram and the rest of the
Nominating Committee for working diligently to put together this group of candidates.
Looking ahead to the upcoming SICB 1998 Annual Meeting in Boston, there
is much to look forward to for DVM members. For some of the planned symposia, see the
message of the DVM Program Officer. Boston promises to be an outstanding site for our
meeting. In addition, I hope to see many of you at the International Congress of
Vertebrate Morphology in Bristol this July. That will be an outstanding opportunity for us
to see and interact with many European colleagues who are not often seen on this side of
the Atlantic. As the months go by, and as we find the Boston meeting rapidly approaching,
I hope that you will give some thought to how you would like to see DVM and SICB grow.
Pass your ideas and thoughts along to me or any of the Division's representatives. This is
a lively and forward-looking time in SICB. Don't let the chance to participate pass you
There is an overwhelming interest in oral presentations, which is consistent with a
long-standing tradition of such papers in our Society's history.
Okay, so I thought I might be grumbling about piles of abstracts and scheduling
conflicts when the abstracts arrived last September. This proved to be an unwarranted fear
since I had only to deal with abstracts for 31 oral presentations and 21 poster
presentations under the banner of Vertebrate Morphology. There is an overwhelming interest
in oral presentations, which is consistent with a long-standing tradition of such papers
in our Society's history. I was thankful for the opportunity for flexibility when 19
people submitted abstracts for poster sessions. Four people provided me with a voluntary
option of assigning the abstract to an oral paper session or to a poster session. Many
other oral papers by DVM members were presented in either the Wainwright symposium or in
the new interdivisional sessions, which were organized and scheduled by Willy Bemis and
If I follow through on my assessment from a year ago of how many DVM members
participated in the meeting, we had a strong showing. I counted 13 DVM members who
participated in the Wainwright symposium and 25 who participated in the interdivisional
sessions (13 in the sessions on locomotion and 12 in the sessions on feeding). These
numbers represent a rather unscientific survey, undertaken early in the morning before the
coffee pot had kicked into action. Looking back at my notes from the Washington meeting,
these numbers represent an improvement from last year's situation in which the Division of
Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry hosted a session on locomotion concurrently with a
DVM session on lizard and mammalian locomotion and breathing mechanics.
The jury is still out on how everyone feels about the program arrangement in
Albuquerque, so please let me know your thoughts before the next programming season is
upon us. Most people who spoke with me indicated a satisfaction with the sessions that
they were able to attend. I had concerns about the conflicts that continued to exist, but
realize that we are bound to have some conflicting, concurrent sessions at a meeting of
the size of the SICB.
There were several sessions with student presentations that clearly had low numbers of
attendees. For these students to represent the future of our group, we need to ensure the
presence of an audience that includes our most distinguished members as well as a good
cross-section of biologists.
I was pleased with the content of the symposium on muscle organized by John Bertram and
Rich Marsh. The level of discussion was both entertaining and enlightening, right up until
the convention center staff started dragging out our projectors and seats. It was nice to
see a number of persons on the dais who do not normally attend our meetings, as well as a
few more familiar co-conspirators.
For next year at the SICB 1998 Annual Meeting in Boston, we have agreed to sponsor the
symposium organized by Lennart Olsson and Brian Hall on the evolution and development of
body plans, with contributions on invertebrates and vertebrates. This proposal was
well-received by myself and the other divisional Program Officers. At the time of our
business meeting in Albuquerque, DVM decided tentatively to co-sponsor this proposal, but
this has been revised to indicate DVM's interest in this topic. We will also be involved
with a symposium on myogenesis organized for Boston by Judith Venuti. This shapes up to be
an interesting complement to the body plan symposium, and will be of great interest to
people interested in muscle.
We are now looking into developing symposia proposals for the SICB 1999 Annual Meeting
to be held in Denver. The process of organizing and gaining approval for symposia has been
undergoing revision during the past two years. Because of the financial and scholarly
implications of providing symposia of great interest to the Society, as well as to the
readership of American Zoologist, symposia proposals must be developed in advance. The
deadline for proposals for the Denver meeting to reach the SICB Business Office is April
15, 1997. This will give all divisional Program Officers enough time to discuss the
content of proposals, to suggest revisions of some proposals, and to make decisions on the
acceptance and scheduling of symposia.
We also draw upon the Editorial Office of the American Zoologist for comments
and suggestions. There are no hard and fast rules for the acceptance of a proposal.
Subjective decisions may come into play, including recentness of similar symposia,
competition or conflict with symposia being presented by other scientific societies, or
the opinions of the SICB officers regarding the estimated interest a particular symposium
is likely to engender. Application materials for symposium proposals can be obtained from
the Business Office. Call me if I can be of assistance or if you want to explore an idea
for a proposal.
I will be on sabbatical for the calendar year 1997, but can be reached
daily via e-mail at email@example.com. I shall be happy to try to answer questions or
assist in planning for the upcoming meeting.
Announcement of Available Publication
Carl Gans indicates that the supplement to the Israel Journal of Zoology
including the symposium on Lancelets held at the Fourth International Congress of
Vertebrate Morphology in Chicago has been published and is now available. The volume
contains about 446 pages and chapters on most important issues concerning the animals from
molecular biology to systematics. It includes a 2,600-plus set of references to the
beasts. To obtain a postage-paid copy, send a check for $60 to Branta Books, 2501 Slow
Turtle Cove, Austin, TX 78746. A quantity discount is available.
Report of the 1996 D. Dwight Davis Award Committee
Frank Fish, Rebecca German, and Kurt Schwenk, ChairThe 1996 D. Dwight Davis Award for
the Best Student Oral Presentation was won this year by A. Kristopher Lappin of the
University of California, Berkeley, for his presentation "Feeding Ecomorphology of
Crotaphytid Lizards" given at the SICB 1996 Annual Meeting in Albuquerque. Kris'
study nicely integrated morphometric and anatomical data with feeding behavior,
experimental analysis of biting function, and phylogeny to provide a cogent picture of
feeding evolution in crotaphytids.
In addition, the excellent paper presented by John Golden of the J. W. Goethe
University in Frankfurt, Germany, was recognized with an Honorable Mention. John's
presentation "An Analysis of the Developing Visceral Arches in Some Rodents"
questions the long-held dogma regarding the homologies of the first and second visceral
arches in the vertebrate head.
Congratulations to Kris and John! There were a total of 15 student papers competing for
the D. Dwight Davis Prize at the Albuquerque meeting and, as usual, the papers were of
outstanding interest and quality, making the judges' job difficult. Thanks to all students
who competed this year. We hope to see you again in Boston.
A Reminder: As per a previous DVM decision, multi-authored papers cannot be considered
for the D. Dwight Davis Prize, even if the senior author is a student. Multiple authorship
makes it impossible for judges to assess the student's contribution to the project and
creates inequity in comparing papers.
An Observation and Helpful Hint: In the course of attending numerous oral
presentations, the Awards Committee made one general observation, which I present here in
the spirit of education and feedback for improvement of future presentations. For those
who stand to benefit most from improvement and who remain phenotypically plastic enough to
actually change (unlike the committee itself), we offer the following advice: Put your
work into context. Begin your talk with the broadest possible context, and then narrow the
context to your particular sub-discipline. This need take only a minute in a short talk,
somewhat longer for an hour-long seminar.
Try to realize that, when speaking to an audience at a DVM paper session, you are
probably addressing the most narrowly specialized audience possible; most of the time,
your audience will be far more general, such as at a job interview in a biology department
where there may not be a single other vertebrate morphologist - perhaps not even another
vertebrate biologist! You must, therefore, prepare for each talk by asking yourself:
"Why is this work interesting and important? What is the big picture, and where does
my work fit into it? How would I explain it to the person on the street or to a high
school student?" Presumably there is a reason for why you are pursuing the kind of
study you are. Do not assume that your audience is sufficiently educated to know
implicitly what this reason is or why your research is worth being done at all. Recall
that, when it comes to arcane research specialties, biologists are as ruthlessly critical
of each other as the National Enquirer.
My colleagues, who study frog croaks, have no trouble understanding the
general importance of their own work, but find my work on lizard tongues to be a
never-ending source of humor! Needless to say, I find the opposite to be true. So take the
time, for every presentation - and for that matter, for every publication - to explain at
the beginning where your work fits into the grand scheme of things. Those few introductory
minutes can completely change the way an audience perceives the significance of your work,
your quality as a biologist and your desirability as a colleague.
Report from the Secretary
Minutes of the 1996 DVM Business Meeting
The DVM Business Meeting was called to order on December 27, 1996 in Albuquerque. It
was chaired by Sharon Emerson, and the minutes were recorded by Dominique Homberger.
The minutes of the last DVM Business Meeting in Washington, D.C., on December 27, 1995,
John Hermanson, DVM Program Officer, reported on the number of oral and poster papers
at the 1996 meeting and on the symposia that have been proposed for future meetings. He
expressed concern that the success of the interdivisional symposia and oral paper sessions
might reduce the size and interest of the divisional oral paper sessions. Carl Gans and
David Wake concurred with this concern, especially since divisional oral paper sessions
are of special value to graduate students. Various voices suggested that symposia may need
to be limited to one-day each. Jim Hanken mentioned that the American Zoologist can
publish only six to seven one-day long symposia per year and that the Journal of
Morphology does not publish symposia. John Hermanson asked whether DVM would like to limit
the total number of symposia for a particular Division and meeting. He received a
unanimous positive vote.
Sharon Emerson mentioned that DVM's budget consists of $2,300 it receives from SICB.
Sue Herring asked that $463 be used to support the Fifth International Congress of
Vertebrate Morphologists. Her request was approved. Funds were also assigned to co-sponsor
a SICB symposium.
Brian D. Clark was recognized as the DVM representative to the SICB Public Affairs
Rick Harrison, Editor of the Journal of Morphology, thanked the many
reviewers of manuscripts submitted to his publication.
DVM Candidates for Election
The DVM Nominating Committee, John Bertram, Chair, George Lauder and Sharon Emerson,
submit the following names of candidates for open positions.
Candidates for Chair-Elect
Current Position: Professor and Chair of Organismal Biology and Anatomy,
University of Chicago.
Education: B.S., Zoology, Duke University, 1974; M.A., Biology, Harvard
University, 1981; Ph.D., Biology, Harvard University, 1982.
Professional Experience: Research Associate, Museum of Comparative Zoology,
Harvard University, 1982-present; Instructor of Anatomy, 1982-84, Assistant Professor,
Committee on Evolutionary Biology, 1985-90, Assistant Professor of Organismal Biology
& Anatomy, 1984-90, Associate Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and the
Committee on Evolutionary Biology, 1990-95, Professor, Committee on Evolutionary Biology,
1995-present, Professor and Chairman of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, 1995-present.
University of Chicago.
SICB Activities: Member since 1980.
Other Memberships: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American
Society of Biomechanics, American Physiological Society, International Society of
Vertebrate Morphologists, Orthopaedic Research Society, Society for Experimental Biology.
Research Interests: The study of musculoskeletal design and vertebrate locomotor
function: most work has concerned studies of mammals and birds, but students have also
investigated the biomechanics and functional morphology of reptiles and amphibians. My
research involves the use of experimental, biomechanical and physiological approaches to
analyze mechanical design and function of the musculoskeletal system.
Goals Statement: My main goal will be to continue to encourage broad
interdisciplinary involvement of student and professional members in the Division and
within SICB generally. Recent jointly sponsored symposia and contributed paper sessions
have been extremely successful in this regard. These interactions help all of us to be
exposed to new people, approaches, and ideas relevant to the field of vertebrate
morphology. As vertebrate morphologists, the future growth, vitality, and success of our
Division depends on building ties across the Society. This can only help to expose and
train our students in a truly interdisciplinary fashion. The many young, often first-time
student presenters at each Annual Meeting are always a source of satisfaction, being
critically important to our Division's future well-being. I want to support this by
encouraging students' sense of identity and belonging to the DVM. One way to help this
along might be to initiate a regular student contribution to the DVM newsletter.
Current Position: Associate Professor of Anatomy and Zoology, Duke University.
Education: B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz; Ph.D., Harvard
Professional Experience: At Duke since Ph.D.
SICB Activities: Nominating Committee; Divisional Representative to Public
Affairs Committee; Dwight D. Davis Prize Committee.
Other Memberships: Society for the Study of Evolution, Sigma Xi, Society for
Developmental Biology, American Society of Mammalogists.
Research Interests: My general interests center on the determinants of form in
vertebrates, in particular in the head. In the past, I have worked on functional
morphology and biomechanics, in recent years on development. I am currently focusing on
comparisons of marsupial and placental mammals, as these animals take different pathways
to the construction of the head. I am also looking at interactions between various cranial
systems - nervous, skeletal and muscular - to see how they influence one another during
development. Finally, I am beginning work that looks at the actual effects of gene
knockout experiments on morphogenesis, rather than simply looking at an end phenotype.
Goals Statement: The Division of Vertebrate Morphology has been important to me
since I was a graduate student. It is an organization that allows students to gain
experience in professional interaction in an atmosphere that is generally supportive, but
is also critical, and demands high quality. Now, when I attend the meeting, I am
continually impressed by the quality and enthusiasm of the students. Promoting the
contributed paper sessions is obviously an important way to keep the strong focus on
graduate students. Symposia have always been an important component of the meetings, and I
believe we must continue to promote them, but also make sure that the topics are of
Candidates for Secretary
John Long, Jr.
Current Position: Assistant Professor, Vassar College.
Education: B.A., College of the Atlantic, 1986; Ph.D., Zoology, Duke University,
Professional Experience: Secretary of the Faculty, Vassar College, 1994-96;
Board of Advisors, BioDesign Studio, Duke University, 1995-present; Board of Directors,
Hudson River Aquarium, 1994-present.
SICB Activities: Chaired Best Student Paper Committee, Division of Vertebrate
Morphology, 1995; Co-organizer, Symposium on Aquatic Locomotion, 1995; Panelist,
"Research Relevance," 1995; I have also participated in symposia and have
chaired contributed sessions.
Other Memberships: American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists,
Council for Undergraduate Research, International Society of Vertebrate Morphologists.
Research Interests: The morphology, mechanics and evolution of undulatory
Goals Statement: My primary goal is to increase the usefulness, for DVM members,
of our newsletter on the World Wide Web (our SICB home page address is
http://www.sicb.org). In addition to sending out our usual hard-copy updates, I will
encourage our officers to electronically update our web page as events occur and as
information becomes available. Also useful would be links to the following resources: (1)
job postings, (2) electronic journals, (3) reference databases, (4) research engines, and
(5) the web sites of individual DVM members (on a voluntary basis).
Thomas D. White
Current Position: Assistant Professor of Biology, SUNY College at Buffalo,
Education: B.A., Biology, San Jose State University, 1971; M.A., Biology, San
Jose State University, 1975; Ph.D., Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, 1985.
Professional Experience: Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology, University of
California, Los Angeles, 1986-89; Postdoctoral Fellow, Brain Research Institute, UCLA
School of Medicine, 1987-89; Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biology, University of
California, Los Angeles, 1989-91; Lecturer of Biology, University of California, Los
Angeles, 1990-91; Faculty Research Participation, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory,
SICB Activities: Best Student Poster Committee, ASZ Division of Vertebrate
Other Memberships: Fulbright-Hays Scholar, Graduate Study in Australia, 1981;
Editorial Committee, International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology, 1994.
Research Interests: Functional and ecological morphology of locomotion and
feeding in vertebrates; Auditory function in frogs; Evolutionary morphology of mammals.
Goals Statement: To give something back to the SICB Division of Vertebrate
Morphology and its members.
Candidates for Program Officer
Current Position: Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Ohio University,
Education: B.A., Zoology, Southern Illinois University, 1973; M.A., Ecology and
Evolution, San Francisco State University, 1980; Ph.D., Zoology, Southern Illinois
Professional Experience: Research Associate, Departments of Herpetology,
California Academy of Sciences and Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas,
1980-present; Invited Participant, National Research Council workshop "Declining
Amphibian Populations," 1990; Instructor, National Science Foundation workshop on
Morphometrics in Systematic Biology, 1990; Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Ecology
and Evolution, University of California, Irvine, 1986-91; Ohio Coordinator IUCN Declining
Amphibian Populations Task Force, 1993-present; Instructor of Biological Sciences, Ohio
SICB Activities: Co-organizer of ASZ symposium "Integrative Approaches in
Organismal Biology," 1991; ASZ Division of Vertebrate Morphology Nominating
Committee, 1991; Dwight D. Davis Student Prize Committee, 1989, 1992 (Chair), 1994.
Other Memberships: American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists,
American Society of Integrative Biology, Herpetologists League, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa
Phi, Sigma Xi, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Society of Systematic
Research Interests: Functional morphology and the evolution of vertebrate
feeding and locomotion; morphometrics; ecological morphology; ontogeny; vertebrate
metamorphosis; phylogeny; and heterochrony.
Goals Statement: The last SICB meeting saw contributed papers organized into
interdivisional sessions on general topics such as feeding and locomotion. I would like to
continue with this improvement in DVM programming but strive to maintain the continuity of
talks within sessions and minimize conflicts of DVM sessions with other divisional
sessions and symposia of interest. I know this is a difficult task, but I have always
wanted to take a crack at it.
Current Position: Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology,
University of Connecticut.
Education: B.A., High Honors, Oberlin College, 1977; Ph.D., Zoology, University
of California, Berkeley, 1984.
Professional Experience: Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary
Biology, University of Connecticut, 1989-95; NIH Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer, Museum
of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 1987-89; Research Associate and Instructor,
Department of Oral Anatomy, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Dentistry,
1984-87. SICB Activities: Moderator of DVM contributed paper sessions, 1986-present;
Chair, D. Dwight Davis Award Committee, 1988, 1996; DVM Nominating Committee, 1989.
Other Memberships: International Society of Vertebrate Morphologists, Society of
Systematic Biologists, Society for the Study of Evolution, American Society of
Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.
Research Interests: Phenotypic evolution, especially the evolution of phenotypic
stability; evolutionary and functional morphology of feeding in tetrapod vertebrates;
evolutionary and functional morphology of chemoreception in squamate reptiles.
Goals Statement: As Program Officer of DVM, I would work to minimize the number
of concurrent divisional paper sessions and to reduce conflicts between DVM sessions and
other sessions of potential interest to Division members. At the Society level, I would
advocate the continued commitment of SICB to contributed paper sessions, working to ensure
that symposia do not expand at their expense. My feeling is that contributed paper
sessions are non-exclusionary and are the principal platform for student work, one of the
greatest strengths of DVM and the Society as a whole. Symposia should be kept high in
quality and relatively few in number.