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Vertebrate Morphology

Division of Vertebrate Morphology (DVM): 1999 Spring Newsletter

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Message from the Chair

Andrew Biewener

Friends and colleagues, following an eventful and stimulating SICB meeting in Denver, we now can look forward to the coming year and the approach of a new millennium. How exciting! Times are changing, and my sense is that SICB is still working to define its identity for the future. I ask that you think about how you would like DVM and the Society to grow, and what you most want to remain the same. Your input to me and our collective input as a division are important to shaping the future of SICB.

It is always great to see and hear from old friends and colleagues about their work and to meet the many new young scientists in our midst. DVM is an exciting group with a great future, and the Denver meeting very much demonstrated our dynamism. Despite the increasing number of interdivisional paper sessions, with plans next year for the Atlanta meeting program to be organized entirely by theme, DVM had a strong presence at the Denver meeting, sponsoring two symposia. Both symposia, "Evolution of Feathers" organized by Dominique Homberger and Paul Maderson and "Function and Evolution of the Vertebrate Axis" organized by John Long and Tom Koob, were well-attended, interesting and informative. While certain issues concerning the evolution and roles of these two important vertebrate structures may have remained unresolved, the symposia certainly generated intriguing questions for us to ponder and address in future work.

Because of a tie vote for DVM chair-elect going into the meeting, the Executive Committee decided that it was best to seek a re-vote. This was held successfully, and I am pleased to congratulate Kathleen Smith as our new chair-elect with her two year term to begin in 2001. We had two excellent candidates (thanks to our Nominating Committee Beth Brainerd and Mark Westneat). Obviously, both Frank Fish and Kathleen have considerable support in the division and have had a long history of outstanding service. I look forward to their continued involvement and leadership. At the business meeting, the membership voted to resolve future tie votes by a majority vote of the existing DVM Executive Committee; a procedure followed by other divisions.

In other announcements, Mike McCay (integrative biology, Berkeley) won the D. Dwight Davis Award for best student paper for his talk "A Comparison of the Aerodynamic Stability of Three Species of Neotropical Tree Frog: How does Stability Change with Gliding Ability?" Special thanks goes to our Awards Committee members (Alice Gibb, Frank Fish, Jeanette Wyneken and Lara Ferry) for their diligent efforts to attend and evaluate all of the student papers presented at the meeting. In addition to Mike's talk, there were many other fine research presentations by students. It bodes well for the future of vertebrate morphological research!

At the business meeting, there was also clear concern expressed about the threat to divisional identity posed by the change to interdivisional thematic paper sessions. Although personally in favor of such an organization, as I believe it reduces conflict among sessions of overlapping topics and strengthens an integrative approach to biology, I think that this concern is justified and that we need to devise new ways to interact as a division. Consequently, Kurt Schwenk and I plan to organize an evening social for DVM members at next year's meeting, together with a late afternoon or early evening session designed to air a debate of one or two key issues of current importance in our various fields of vertebrate morphology. While the details for such a session are yet to be worked out, I think that having one or two individuals present (possibly opposing) "positions" on an issue would facilitate engaging discussion and debate among those attending. This would draw us together intellectually and enhance our interaction as a group. If anyone has suggestions for such a session and/or topics that might be debated/discussed, please contact Kurt or me.

Finally, in response to many complaints by DVM members and others in SICB, the SICB Executive Committee has changed how it will handle future symposium invitees with respect to abstract and registration fees (both of which will be waived for all non-SICB members).

As another means for strengthening our divisional identity, we will be supporting two regional DVM meetings during the coming year. In addition to the New England meeting that will be held at Brown University (Sharon Swartz, organizer), Steve Reilly and Audrone Biknevicius are organizing the first Midwestern Regional Meeting to be held at Ohio University in October. See the SICB web site for more details to follow for both of these meetings.

In anticipation of the Atlanta meeting, DVM will be co-sponsoring a symposium being organized by Randi Weinstein on "The Physiology and Biomechanics of Intermittent Locomotion."

In closing, I look forward to working with you to make DVM and SICB a rewarding academic experience (we already know that it's a great social experience!). I want to thank Peter Wainwright for his prior leadership of the division. He's left it in excellent shape and headed in exciting directions. So, on to 2000 and Atlanta. See ya'll there!

P.S. Please let Kurt or me know if any of you have Y2K concerns about the Atlanta meeting.

Message from the Program Officer

Kurt Schwenk

Assuming the nation has not been plunged into Y2K anarchy, the Annual Meeting will take place in Atlanta, Jan. 4-8, 2000. It is not too late to propose a DVM symposium for Atlanta, though it may be difficult to secure funding. Otherwise, start planning now for Chicago, 2001. The deadline for symposium proposals is June 7. You can get a symposium proposal form from Wilma Salvatore at the SICB Business Office (, and feel free to contact me in the planning stages for help or input (

DVM will be co-sponsoring two symposia in Atlanta: The first is tentatively titled, "Beyond Reconstruction: Using Phylogenies to Understand Histories of Vertebrate Evolution." It is being organized by Donald Swiderski for DSEB and will be co-sponsored by DVM and the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology. The second is "The Physiology and Biomechanics of Intermittent Locomotion, organized by Randi Weinstein.

Several items of importance were discussed at the DVM business meeting in Denver. I will review some programming issues here, but first let me urge ALL members to attend future business meetings, particularly students. The business meeting is the most direct way for members to communicate their concerns to the division officers, who in turn, pass the information on to SICB committees and officers. Whatever democracy there is in SICB, begins at the business meeting. Most importantly, starting with Atlanta, the Society is eliminating division-based paper sessions and moving to all topic-based sessions, comparable to the present interdivisional sessions. This was a high-level decision not entirely supported by the program officers. If unsuccessful, we could move back to divisional sessions, but this is unlikely.

When you submit your next abstract, you will check off three topics in order of preference. The list of topics will be compiled by the divisional program officers (if you have suggestions, now is the time to make them). Obviously, many topics will fall directly within the purview of DVM, but others will cut across divisions. Second, all actual scheduling will be handled by the SICB program officer (presently John Pearse) and not the divisional program officers. Divisional program officers will contribute suggestions for logically connected groupings within a session and will scan for conflicts. This should eliminate some of the more egregious scheduling conflicts that presently occur because too many people are involved in the process. Third, the DVM officers are considering ways to enhance DVM identity and solidarity (e.g., a social). Ideas are welcome.

DVM Regional Meeting

Announcing a Midwest Regional Meeting of the Division of Vertebrate Morphology, Oct. 9-10, 1999, at Ohio University in Athens Ohio. The meeting will consist of 10 minute, two-slide talks all day Saturday and on Sunday morning. Dr. Ted Goslow of Brown University will be the keynote speaker Saturday evening. The registration fee will be affordable and will include socials Friday and Saturday evening, and all meals on Saturday and Sunday morning. Some inexpensive rooms have been reserved on campus for students.

Further details and registration information will be available in April ( or from Steve Reilly (, Department of Biological Sciences (740/593-0424), or Audrone Biknevicius (, Department of Biomedical Sciences (740/593-0487), Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701.

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