Division of Animal Behavior (DAB): 1999 Spring Newsletter
This Newsletter by Section
Message from the Chair
Last fall, in my capacity as DAB chair, I had the opportunity to work with Meredith West, president of the Animal Behavior Society, and Steve Emlen, president of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology, in drafting a letter to Dr. Mary Clutter, assistant director of the NSF's Directorate for Biological Sciences, and Dr. Bruce Umminger, director of the Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience. The point of this letter was to outline the mission and importance of animal behavior research, and to begin a discussion with the NSF on issues of support for work in animal behavior and behavioral ecology. We followed this letter with a visit to the NSF during which we met in person with Drs. Clutter and Umminger, and also Dr. James Edwards from the BIO directorate. During this meeting, we emphasized both the important role to be played by the NSF in the further growth and development of our field, as well as the importance of animal behavior as an integrative discipline, providing connections among other areas of science. This latter theme is one I've trumpeted several times, as those of you who are regular readers of this newsletter will recognize, and one that I think is particularly appropriate for the DAB as a division in SICB. Although our meeting was just the beginning of what we hope will become an ongoing dialogue, all of us felt that it was a productive start. As always, I look forward to your comments and ideas!
Letter to NSF
Dear Drs. Clutter and Umminger:
We are writing as representatives of the Animal Behavior Society, International Society for Behavioral Ecology and Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. We hope to meet with you soon in Arlington to discuss the Animal Behavior Program within the IBN Division. Before such a meeting, we want to call your attention to the significance of the research and educational missions of animal behavior and behavioral ecology. We believe that our field has a special role to play over the next decade in setting the research agenda for the biological sciences and in attracting students to careers in science.
The broad objectives of the modern discipline of animal behavior and behavioral ecology are to discover and disseminate basic information on the ecological and evolutionary significance of behavior including genetic, neurobiological and experiential mechanisms. The field has a long history of discoveries about the nature of behavior itself and its diversity of form and function (discoveries leading to a Nobel Prize in 1973 to three of the founders: Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen and Karl von Frisch). The scope of the field has diversified since the 1970s to capture the seminal role of behavior at many levels of biological organization from predicting behavioral strategies and exploring the dynamics of animal populations to illuminating the microgenesis of brain structure.
The growth of animal behavior and behavioral ecology as a scientific discipline stems from its inherently integrative nature, as it gathers together questions and methodologies across levels of analysis (e.g., from molecules to ecosystems), across levels of explanation (from proximate mechanism to ultimate evolutionary causation), and across diverse taxa including our own species. The cross-cutting nature of such behavioral studies challenges established boundaries in science (such as ecology, evolution, genetics, neurobiology, psychology and physiology) and in so doing, promotes and sustains the development of new conceptual approaches in biology overall. We believe that by exposing students to research rooted at the outset in integration, we have begun to train a generation of scientists who are less inhibited by traditional disciplinary boundaries in science regardless of the area they ultimately pursue.
The over arching commitment to an integrative approach is one of the major reasons that animal behavior/behavioral ecology is one of the most rapidly growing areas within biology. Such growth is attested to (1) by the proliferation of new behavioral journals and the expanded frequency of publication of established ones, (2) by swelling numbers of new investigators joining professional behavioral societies, (3) by very large enrollments in animal behavior classes at universities throughout the country, (4) by continued strength in numbers and quality of applicants to animal behavior graduate programs (including significant numbers of women), (5) by the NSF's 1995 designation of animal behavior as a separate field of graduate study and (6) by continued, strong interest in the field by educators and by the general public. That such growth is occurring at a time when other sciences are having difficulty attracting and retaining good students is an external sign of the power of our field to act as a magnet for science.
The robust state of our field also bears on the potential health of many other areas within the biological sciences. Behavior is the obligatory gateway for a growing number of scientists seeking to understand biological entities such as the brain or genome. The quality of such neurobiological or genetic work rests squarely on the quality of knowledge about behavior, a fact with important implications for science and society. Our field now carries an increasingly significant burden of discovery and scrutiny to enable interdisciplinary work to be guided by the most relevant and up-to-date knowledge about the nature of behavioral systems and mechanisms. For example, some of the most exciting work in quantitative mapping of genes is emerging from work with social insects such as honeybees where it is possible to specify behavioral traits with ecologically known properties (such as specific details of foraging). So too, our knowledge of the brain begins and ends with knowledge of behavior. The contributions of animal behaviorists have made possible some of the most detailed studies of the crucial dynamic between brain growth and individual experience: young animals that do more grow brains with different characteristics than animals in less stimulating circumstances. Moreover, the specific nature of the animal's activity matters: motor learning, as opposed to spatial learning, has different neural consequences. An interdisciplinary dependency is also emerging between animal behavior/behavioral ecology and new approaches in computer science and bioinformatics. Such investigators are looking to us to learn about natural perception-action systems and animate instances of distributed intelligence. Behavior-based robotics, computational modeling and situated cognition demand studies of naturally occurring organism-environment interactions to model and simulate neural, genetic and evolutionary mechanisms.
The strong commitment of animal behavior and behavioral ecology to studying animals in appropriate evolutionary and ecological contexts has allowed the fast translation of basic knowledge into other fields of science and engineering. Our field has also shown a sustained ability to contribute to relevant issues in society today. Research in animal behavior and behavioral ecology has led to advancements in: (1) conservation biology and wildlife management, by identifying social and ecological conditions under which the behaviors of target species maximize reproduction and survival; (2) Darwinian medicine, by illuminating possible adaptiveness of behavioral responses to disease and manipulation of such responses by disease organisms, discovering chemical compounds used in communication or protection that also have potential medicinal value, and identifying the genetic predispositions underlying behavioral disorders in animals and humans; (3) social cooperation in animals including humans, by identifying contexts in which natural selection promotes cooperation and minimizes conflict; and (4) human development, by articulating the comparative rules for learning, communication and cognition.
We must also emphasize the central role of our field in science education. The "magnet" and "gateway" properties of our field mentioned above are conspicuously apparent to educators. To begin with, people find animal behavior fascinating, as evidenced by the enormous and growing popularity of nature shows on television. This interest may be only superficial, but it provides a "hook" to bring students and the public into a deeper understanding of science as a process. There is a growing trend in introductory biology courses to begin exposing students to biology on the level of the whole organism -- which typically involves animal behavior -- and then moving from this point to lower and higher levels of biological organization. Duke University's "Science of Life" project, funded in part by an NSF RAIRE award, provides one example of this approach to innovation in the introductory biology curriculum. Our professional societies now find themselves devoting significant resources to accommodate requests for help in designing appropriate science curricula. Our members have enthusiastically responded to the call. For example, the ABS web site (www.cisab.indiana.edu/ABS) provides examples of classroom exercises in animal behavior provided by our members for K-12 educators and provides information on where teachers can obtain additional exercises. Professor Bob Matthews of the University of Georgia has shared one of his highly touted Wowbug exercises (starring pint-sized insects with 17-day life cycles, startling behaviors and strange morphologies) for the ABS web page. Professor James Gould has developed computer interactive behavioral exercises for his animal behavior and general biology classes at Princeton, and professor Susan Riechert, in cooperation with two colleagues at the University of Tennessee, is adding a computational component to behavioral exercises in an NSF-sponsored effort to obtain quantitative literacy in the life sciences.
It goes without saying that the accomplishments noted above would not have been possible without the vision and support of institutions such as the NSF. The NSF is the major source of funding for our field and the structure of the IBN division and the BIO directorate has directly facilitated the integrative efforts we have stressed throughout this letter. We are convinced that investment in the future of animal behavior and behavioral ecology will have a disproportionate positive impact on the nature of basic, biological research, as well as on science education. We hope to work with you to insure a healthy future for our science and its links to future scientists.
We look forward to talking with you in person about some of these issues. Several of us plan to visit your offices at your earliest convenience. We will communicate with your secretaries to coordinate such as visit. We thank you for your time and for this and future opportunities to discuss the mutual goals of our societies and the NSF.
Stephen T. Emlen
Message from the Program Officer
Thanks to all those who participated in the Denver meetings, and congratulations to the Student Paper Award winners. We look forward to a similar high level of participation at the SICB Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Jan. 4-8, 2000. DAB is co-sponsoring an Atlanta symposium, organized by Randi Weinstein and Bob Full, entitled "Intermittent Locomotion: Integrating the Physiology, Biomechanics and Behavior of Repeated Activity." It is also possible that we will play a role in sponsoring at least two others.
The DAB naturally lends itself to integrative and comparative studies that make it an easy match for symposia in other divisions, but I am hoping for DAB to sponsor at least one set of talks each in Chicago and succeeding meetings. The deadline for proposals for the Chicago meeting (Jan. 3-7, 2001) is June 7, 1999, and so the time to begin that planning is now. I can always implement my own ideas, but I would prefer input from the membership!
Message from the Secretary
Peter D. Smallwood
Best Student Paper Awards! Eun-Jin Yang of the University of Texas at Austin won the Best Student Poster Award from DAB. The title of her poster was, "Priming of Aggressive Responses in Anoles Lizards." Renae J. Brodie from the University of Washington won the Best Student Paper Award for her presentation titled: "Megalopal Age Affects the Success of Water-to-Land Transistion by the Terrestrial Hermit Crab, Coenobita Compressus." Congratulations to Eun-Jin and Renae, and thanks to the judges, and all who participated.
All graduate students are encouraged to compete for these awards at the Atlanta SICB Annual Meeting. There are actually three separate awards, each with its own cash prize: the Best Student Poster Award, Best Student Paper Award and the A.M. Wenner Strong Inference Award (for the paper best exemplifying the use of strong inference in their experimental design). To be eligible for the DAB student paper awards, the applicant must be a member of SICB and our division. The student must indicate their intention to compete on the abstract transmittal form. Eligible papers must be original research by a graduate student or a Ph.D. whose degree was awarded no more than one year prior to the time of the meeting. Further information about support for graduate student attendance of the meeting can be found on the SICB Annual Meeting abstract form to be mailed this spring. Check it out: SICB can usually provide for your lodging in exchange for a frac12;day of help (e.g., running the slide projector for an afternoon).
Symposia Matt Cartmill and Irene Loftstrom from the Division of Integrative and Comparative Issues organized a very successful symposium on "Animal Consciousness: Historical, Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives" for this past meeting in Denver. There were 14 speakers, addressing the complete range of perspectives on animal consciousness. The symposium volume will surely be a well-cited, valuable resource for many years.
DAB Candidate for Election
The ballot for this election will arrive via mail the week of April 19. Please show your support of your officers by voting.
Candidate for Secretary
Peter D. Smallwood
Current Position: Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Richmond.
Education: B.S., Ohio State University, 1983; M.S., University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) 1985; Ph.D., University of Arizona, 1992.
Professional Experience: Postdoctoral Fellow, 1992-94, Visiting Assistant Professor, 1994-95, Bryn Mawr College; Professorial Lecturer in Philosophy, 1995, Georgetown University; Visiting Assistant Professor, 1995-97, University of Pennsylvania; Assistant Professor of Biology, 1997-present, University of Richmond.
SICB Activities: Graduate Student/Postdoctoral Affairs representative, 1987-93. Organizer for DAB symposium, Risk-Sensitive Behavior, 1995; Secretary for Division of Animal Behavior, 1997-2000; Program Affairs Committee, 1998-present.
Other Memberships: Animal Behavior Society, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, Ecological Society of America, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Research Interests: I am a behavioral ecologist by training. My work extends from studies of the behavior of individual organisms to plant-animal interactions and their community-wide effects. In the past few years, most of my research efforts have focused on the interactions between small mammals and the oaks, with a particular focus on seed dispersal. I have also worked on the foraging strategies of spiders, and on aspects of the reproductive strategies of Kestrels.
Goals Statement: My single highest goal for SICB is to increase graduate student membership and participation at our Annual Meetings. DAB has long been an unusual division in SICB. We are one of the smallest divisions, yet often bring in important, well-attended symposia. High quality symposia increase graduate student participation; if the symposia are promoted well, students will want to attend our meetings to hear the speakers. Therefore, I will help our program officer (Peggy Hill) in continuing the tradition of strong symposia. I will continue direct e-mail notification of non-member faculty and graduate students of our symposia. I will also promote contributed paper sessions in coordination with symposia. Finally, in collaboration with DEE, I hope to persuade other organizations to hold a winter meeting with us. Ecologists and animal behaviorists often have trouble attending their summer meetings, because summer is often their field season. A winter meeting could be very attractive to them, and advantageous to us. My single highest goal for SICB is to increase graduate student membership and participation at our Annual Meetings. DAB has long been an unusual division in SICB. We are one of the smallest divisions, yet often bring in important, well-attended symposia. High quality symposia increase graduate student participation; if the symposia are promoted well, students will want to attend our meetings to hear the speakers. Therefore, I will help our program officer (Peggy Hill) in continuing the tradition of strong symposia. I will continue direct e-mail notification of non-member faculty and graduate students of our symposia. I will also promote contributed paper sessions in coordination with symposia. Finally, in collaboration with DEE, I hope to persuade other organizations to hold a winter meeting with us. Ecologists and animal behaviorists often have trouble attending their summer meetings, because summer is often their field season. A winter meeting could be very attractive to them, and advantageous to us.
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