2013 SSE ELECTION OF OFFICERS
The Society for the Study of Evolution announces the election of officers and council members to be in place on January 1, 2014. The election will be conducted online from October 14 through October 31, 2013. SSE members will be contacted by email and directed to a balloting link. Members who do not have an email address will be sent a paper ballot.
Review the candidate information using the Quicklinks below, note your choices and cast your vote by clicking on the "BALLOT" link below. Thank you for your participation!
Candidate for Executive Vice-President: Butch Brodie
Daphne Fairbairn, Department of Biology and Graduate Program in Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology, University of California, Riverside
It is an honor to have been nominated for the presidency of the Society for the Study of Evolution. The SSE has been a major part of my life for much of the past 19 years and I am deeply committed to its continued advancement. I believe that the SSE should serve its members by providing services and activities that benefit them directly, and also by promoting evolutionary biology both as a scientific discipline and as a way of knowing. As president I would remain strongly committed to these goals.
In a formal capacity, I have served the SSE as Associate Editor (1994-6), as Secretary (1997-99), as program organizer for an annual meeting (1998), as a member of the International Affairs Committee (2007-9), and most recently, as Editor-in-Chief of Evolution (2010-13). In addition, while I was North American Editor for JEB, I organized an international symposium sponsored by the ESEB and JEB for the SSE annual meeting (2006), thus launching what has become an ongoing collaboration between the two societies. Through these experiences, I have gained in depth knowledge of the constitution, bylaws and finances of the SSE. I appreciate our key relationship with Wiley-Blackwell (the publisher of Evolution), the daunting logistics of organizing our annual meetings and the challenges facing our flagship journal. I also have a deep appreciation of the services that we provide for our members. As president, I would continue my efforts to advance the publishing enterprise of the Society, ensure the success of our annual meetings and further develop our mentoring and outreach activities.
Publishing: Evolution, serves the field of evolutionary biology by providing a very high quality but low cost publishing venue. As the main source of revenue for the SSE, the success of the journal is critical for the success of the Society as a whole. However, our current publishing model in which revenue comes primarily from publishing licenses and library subscriptions is threatened by major changes in academic publishing. As president, I would be committed to developing a more contemporary publishing model for Evolution that would ensure its continued high impact and profitability while at the same time increasing accessibility to authors and readers. I would also advocate creation of a second journal, with a different mandate, to accommodate the increasing number and diversity of top quality papers in evolutionary biology.
The annual meeting: In addition to providing a key forum for disseminating research, our annual meetings offer a variety of professional development and outreach activities that are particularly important for early-career evolutionary biologists. As president, I would work to make the meetings increasingly attractive to younger members while at the same time ensuring that they are affordable and accessible. To foster international networking, I would support periodic joint meetings with the ESEB and with evolution societies from other regions, but I would work to ensure that the costs of attending such meetings did not become prohibitive for members based in the USA.
Other activities promoting evolutionary biology: The SSE promotes evolutionary biology through diverse activities in addition to the journal and the annual meetings. Our International Affairs Committee supports evolutionary biology in less developed countries and promotes collaborations with scholarly societies in other regions; our Education and Outreach Committee fosters education and public understanding of evolution; our website and Facebook pages provide resources for students, researchers and teachers; and our program of awards and grants increases the career prestige of evolutionary biologists by formally recognizing excellence in research and outreach. As president, I would support all of these activities. One of my main priorities would be expansion of our web resources and presence in social media, as these are increasingly the portals through which the Society reaches its members and the public at large. I would also work with Council to develop a mechanism by which the SSE could more effectively interface with funding agencies to promote research in evolutionary biology, an area that has received relatively little attention in the past.
Kerry L Shaw. Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University
I am honored to run for president of the Society for the Study of Evolution this election year. The influence of the society in advancing our study of evolution continues to grow and the society’s constituency has much of which to be proud. The journal holds a premier position in the publishing of evolutionary research, while the society as a whole benefits from valuable mentoring and outreach networks, currently in place or being actively developed through the efforts of many dedicated scientists.
The society’s stated mission, “the integration of the various fields of science concerned with evolution” has never been more exciting, or challenging. For example, we are all generally familiar with the rapid pace of biotechnology and analysis developments and the exciting insights they offer into both “new” and “old” evolutionary questions. However, high price tags on cutting edge research approaches, and gaps in the training of evolutionary biologists in capitalizing on these approaches, are nearly universal. I believe an undesirable consequence of failing to meet this integration challenge is a splintered body of knowledge falling under the rubric of the evolutionary process. I am strongly in favor of confronting this issue and developing positive strategies to foster “cross-fertilization” among sub-disciplines. Multidisciplinary intersections fertilize new ideas on the one hand, and reveal opportunities for unified understanding on the other. We, as a society, will benefit from staying focused on our stated mission, by fostering such integration. We can begin within our own society by addressing the degree to which our own constituency is splintered, and identifying inadvertent ways in which we have encouraged this. I am motivated to launch discussion on how to develop and pool training and mentoring resources that would both encourage and assist young and old evolutionary biologists to span the emerging and growing gaps in their research interests and scholarship. These developments could be generated de novo, or be injected into existing structures that the society supports, such as are found currently on the society’s homepage. I believe that ultimately, such efforts will lead to a deeper evolutionary vision, reduce subdisciplinary chauvinisms and strengthen collegialities.
On a biographical note, I have a long history of multidisciplinary research having studied the processes and patterns of speciation for many years. I have a strong interest in the relationship between phenotype and genotype, in order to understand fundamental aspects of microevolutionary processes and how divergent evolution leads to the origins of new species. My research uses tools from microscopy, genetics, quantitative trait locus mapping, behavioral observation and experimentation, chemical ecology, phylogenetic analyses, field studies and a variety of molecular techniques to inform all of these investigations. My interest in evolutionary biology was formalized in my undergraduate degree in biology at Princeton. I received my PhD in 1993 from Washington University in St. Louis, where I began studies on the ecology, behavior, evolutionary genetics and phylogenetics of native Hawaiian insects. Following a brief post doc at Cornell, I was on the faculty at Harvard, the University of Maryland, and in 2007 returned to the faculty at Cornell. I have served as North American Vice President for SSE (2004) as well as Associate Editor for the journal Evolution (2001-2005). I am eager to lead the society in its many goals while bringing increased focus on its stated mission and thereby guide the society to the next generation of researchers.
Laura Galloway. Department of Biology, University of Virginia
As an evolutionary biologist, SSE is my community. Over the years, I have met most of my professional colleagues and friends at Evolution meetings. This community is the aspect of SSE that I value the most. I will work to enhance the community and the benefits SSE provides us as North American Vice President.
Earlier this fall, an article in BioScience reviewed the results of AIBS’s survey of current challenges to scientific societies. The survey reports that professional organizations exist to create networking opportunities for members, enhance research, provide journals to disseminate that research, and to educate the public about the discipline. I think this summary is spot on. SSE does all these things and does them well. It runs a terrific meeting that showcases cutting-edge evolution research and is a gathering place for the evolution community to share work and ideas. The Society publishes Evolution, a strong journal reporting the newest research in the field. SSE also supports people just starting research careers with the Rosemary Grant Graduate Research Awards. Finally, the Society has an active outreach and education committee, supporting the dissemination of evolutionary ideas in all sorts of settings. As such, SSE is a society that works for its members.
I have been honored to be a member of the SSE Council for the past three years. During that time I worked to strengthen each of these goals. We have broadened the community by increasing student membership and adding students to the council. We also increased financial support for symposia to make it easier to bring in terrific speakers, planned future Evolution meetings to expand the global reach of the Society, instituted longer term planners and professional staff to reduce the burden of organizing meetings, developed ideas for a possible new journal that would enable more rapid publication of research, planned for streamlining and increasing transparency of the Rosemary Grant Graduate Student Award process, and supported a number of educational initiatives. I am proud to have helped develop these initiatives that enable SSE to better serve its members and would love the opportunity to continue the work.
I want SSE to be a society that provides an exciting and vital community for evolutionary biologists as well as a society that works to enhance the success of its members and the visibility of the field. As North American Vice President, I will continue to be a champion for programs that better the Society, including furthering society sponsored outlets for publication, enhancing the Rosemary Grant awards, and working on initiatives to ensure dynamic and high quality annual meetings.
Patricia J. Wittkopp. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan
With new avenues opening for addressing long-standing questions about natural history and the evolutionary process, and evolutionary perspectives being incorporated more explicitly into many areas of basic and applied research, this is an exciting time to be an evolutionary biologist. It is also a critical time for conveying the importance of evolutionary research to the general public, recruiting and training a talented and diverse group of future evolutionary biologists, and working with funding agencies to increase support for evolution research. As a nominee for Vice-President of the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), I welcome the opportunity to work with the SSE in these areas.
In addition to supporting the society’s activities that members are likely most familiar with (i.e., the journal and annual meeting), I would be an advocate for outreach efforts directed toward undergraduate and K-12 students, where I think there is the greatest opportunity to shape perspectives of evolutionary biology and science in general. I would also be an advocate for programs designed to increase the participation of members of underrepresented groups in evolutionary research. This includes supporting existing programs as well as investigating the feasibility of a program for evolutionary biology similar to the Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) program run by the Ecological Society of America that provides hands-on activities for undergraduate students to get involved in research, education, and community outreach. Such a program might be best run jointly by SSE and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). I believe that improving the visibility of contemporary evolutionary biology among a diverse group of younger students is the best way to foster a broad pool of future researchers as well as a more informed public audience.
The experience and perspective I would bring to this position have been developed though (i) 18 years of research in evolutionary biology (especially evolutionary genetics and genomics, evolution and development, and the evolution of gene regulation); (ii) service on the editorial board for Evolution as well as Molecular Biology and Evolution, Genome Biology and Evolution, Heredity, and Proceedings of the Royal Academy of Sciences B; (iii) participation as an advisor, member and chair of departmental Diversity committee and programs at University of Michigan, and (iv) member of the educational committee for the Genetics Society of America. I am excited about the possibility of working with SSE to maintain and expand the vibrant community of evolutionary biologists it serves.
Rhonda R Snook. University of Sheffield
Let’s face it – sometimes “service” is a dirty word. In this case, however, I would be hono[u]red to serve the Society for the Study of Evolution in capacity as non-North American Vice President.
There are two general reasons why this is the case. First is sentimental. As with many of you, SSE was my first meeting home. One of the amazing, and I think unique, aspects of this large meeting is that students have equal opportunity for talks. And so I cut my teeth at SSE. While I may have paid my dues by serving as Associate Editor of Evolution, I still feel that the society, especially the meetings, were critical to my intellectual development and would like to repay the debt. Now that I’m long in the tooth, I also call the European Society of Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) my meeting home. Those meetings have a different flavor than SSE but I’m encouraged to see the development of joint meetings between the societies. I have served as Deciding Editor for the Journal of Evolutionary Biology and know that both societies have similar issues: ensuring the relevance of the society to grow the membership while embracing the digital world, the possibilities and challenges of Open Access, and fighting the onslaught of opposition to the teaching and understanding of evolution. So the second reason to serve is more practical – experience in both North American and non-North American universities related to these issues.
As an editor and author, I think that developing viable Open Access policies is critical but still really in infancy. The UK Research Councils have recently imposed Open Access requirements but its implementation across journals has much to be desired and my experience could be useful to SSE. Likewise, as part of my CAREER award, I developed a Master’s course for secondary teachers on Teaching Evolution, in collaboration with an education professor. This development arose from my passion for teaching Evolution to undergraduates and the lack of support for teaching evolution earlier in a student’s academic career. SSE is much more vested in evolution outreach and really lead the way, but ESEB recently funded evolution outreach activities to several countries such as Ethiopia, Madagascar and Croatia. It’s reassuring to see that both societies have programmes to foster evolutionary teaching and is something that potentially could grow through collaboration.
Making membership more relevant is difficult. It’s also difficult when evolutionary biologists may be leaving academia, particular women and minorities. The so-called leaky pipeline has been much in the news on both sides of the Atlantic, but frankly, the EU is kilometers ahead in formally addressing this. Of note, however, is the SSE’s investment in Women in Science, as evidenced in the last meeting. As Chair of the Women’s Network for academics at the University of Sheffield, which aims to support women in their career development, providing informal mentoring and networking opportunities, access to a range of role models, a forum for discussion and a unified voice to help raise issues and thus address the career challenges women face, I can share good practice with SSE to help continue to develop SSE’s equality and diversity presence.
Hamish G. Spencer. Department of Zoology, University of Otago, New Zealand
I am honoured to be nominated to serve as Vice-president (non-North American) for the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE). I have been a member of SSE since I was a graduate student and have actively participated in over half the annual meetings since that time. I view these meetings as the academic highlight of the year and I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing my students and postdocs to share in this excitement.
One of the features of the annual meetings that makes them so engaging is how international they are. Not only do we get to see and hear about an exciting range of study organisms, we benefit from a wider variety of ideas. I am pleased that SSE has invested significant effort in encouraging scientists from all over the world to contribute to these meetings, doing some simple but critical things, such as trying to keep the cost down, to the more complicated, such as holding the meetings outside North America. If elected, part of my role would be to investigate ways of increasing the levels of international participation. Some recent suggestions of video-recording some of the talks and making them available online seem worth exploring further.
The Society is far more than the annual meetings, of course. One very important role that SSE has played in recent years has been in countering the wave of creationist propaganda that undermines not just the study of evolution but all scientific enquiry. This aspect of the society’s work, however, remains rather North-American focussed and, sadly, it is becoming apparent that there is now a need for scientific advocacy in other parts of the world. Scientists in places with nascent creationist movements can learn much from those in North America about how to ensure that science is adequately defended. Again, I see an opportunity for the non-North American VP here.
It is important, too, that the SSE’s flagship journal, Evolution, preserves its pre-eminent position as the place to publish one’s best work in evolutionary biology. We need our journal to retain its traditional strengths, but we also need to ensure that it is equally attractive to international researchers, especially those who work on organisms and ecosystems that are less well understood, but which, nevertheless, may provide extraordinary exemplars of evolution in action.
I am currently the director of the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology & Evolution, a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence with researchers throughout New Zealand, and a professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, in the far south of New Zealand. I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2009. Finally, my background as a New-Zealand born and resident biologist, but with a North-American PhD, gives me a unique insight into the possibilities of the job of the non-North American VP. I welcome the chance to help the Society and bring more international input into its already exciting culture.
Edmund D. Brodie III. Mountain Lake Biological Station and Department of Biology, University of Virginia
The primary mission of The Society for the Study of Evolution is promote evolutionary biology though the support of its membership and the discipline at large. SSE has been able to undertake a number of initiatives in recent years due to its strong financial and intellectual position, which have resulted directly from the careful management and direction of past Councils. The Executive Vice President’s job is to ensure this forward momentum, facilitate proposals in progress, and continue the healthy business trajectory of the Society. Success in this area requires consistent communication with the Council and the Publisher, coordination of exciting and inviting annual meetings, and active investment in growing the reach of the journal Evolution.
I am keen to continue serving SSE in this role because I think the Society is doing some great things for its membership right now and I would like to see these initiatives through. The Society is currently in the midst of several major projects whose completion will be facilitated with continuity in the EVP office. These include a move toward more professional meeting organization and management, responses to external changes in the publishing environment, and the evaluation and initiation of new publishing opportunities for the Society. The Council has worked actively to expand member benefits include defrayment of publishing and open access costs, reduced data archiving costs at Dryad, increased financial support for sponsored symposia at annual meetings, and growing opportunities to support student research and travel to meetings. A student representative to Council is now providing critical voice from a group that constitutes roughly a third of our membership. I look forward to continuing to serve SSE with the kind of creative and proactive Councils that have led these efforts in recent years.
Kelly Dyer. Department of Genetics, University of Georgia
I am honored to be asked to run for council of the Society for the Study of Evolution. There is no doubt that scientifically this is an exciting time to be an evolutionary biologist. Yet we face continued challenges, such as funding limitations and negative public perceptions of evolution. SSE has been a key player in promoting the science of evolutionary biology and in advocating evolutionary thinking in K-12 classrooms and beyond. However, we can do more.
If elected to the SSE council, I will focus on initiatives that benefit and diversify our membership and promote our outreach goals. For instance, the Evolution meeting is an important venue to communicate our results, and we can expand travel awards, continue to provide childcare and subsidize this service for graduate students, and develop mentoring opportunities and workshops on topics such as non-academic careers and funding opportunities. I support dedicating resources toward increasing diversity at smaller regional conferences; these venues must not be underestimated in their ability to forge local collaborations, to provide a student with a first opportunity to present his/her work, or to establish outreach connections with K-12 educators. I am also strongly in favor of increasing funding mechanisms for beginning researchers. For instance, the Rosemary Grant Awards are an excellent way for a graduate student to get an idea off the ground, and this program could be expanded to include other stages of new investigators.
Another important way to promote our members and outreach goals is to continue to develop our presence in the media. For example, a society or journal blog can bring increased media attention to papers that are published in Evolution. We can also include lay summaries of selected papers to make them more accessible to a broad audience. Increasing the use of social media will serve our members, it will bring attention to our journal, and it will promote evolutionary biology in the broader public eye.
I believe strongly in the core missions of SSE, and I am active in the society and have served as an associate editor for Evolution. I am excited for the opportunity to contribute to and develop efforts that will achieve our community’s goals.
Mollie K. Manier, Biological Sciences, The George Washington University
I am incredibly honored to be nominated for a Council position in the governing body of the Society for the Study of Evolution. SSE members filling these positions have historically been great scientists and rising stars in our field, and I am truly flabbergasted to be counted among them. If given the opportunity to serve as a Council member, I will use the position as a platform from which to directly and indirectly address my own personal concern about the state of the U.S. public’s understanding of evolutionary biology. I will approach this problem from three different perspectives that all focus on increasing available resources and developing and strengthening programmatic infrastructure for outreach.
First, I will promote an increased online presence for SSE, including a regular Twitter feed, increased participation on the SSE Facebook page, and resources for advising graduate students and postdocs on navigating the challenges of academia and beyond. This last resource will compliment the existing link on the SSE website announcing Postdoc, Fellowship and Career Opportunities by also including advice on framing and structuring grant applications, participating in phone and campus interviews, as well as designing and presenting effective posters and talks. Resources that point to non-academic job searches and interview strategies would also be useful to many SSE members. Additional topics will cover skills such as time management, work-life balance, reading and writing peer-reviewed literature, and communicating science to the public (a skill that may be applied below). A brief survey submitted to SSE members will help pinpoint areas of need and receive suggestions for other support topics.
Second, I propose to develop a format for generating short, targeted lectures on various topics in evolutionary biology that can be used by K12 teachers and introductory biology undergraduate instructors. These short lectures will compliment teaching resources already posted on the SSE website. They will be around 20 minutes long and feature prominent members of our field, as well as rising postdocs and graduate students, to be freely available to the public. My inspiration for this idea comes from the Khan Academy, and some examples of those lectures can be found at khanacademy.org. I will survey SSE members for input on developing a curriculum, ages and levels to target, topics to include, and methods for recording and editing lectures on our own.
Finally, I want to start a conversation about how we can generate infrastructure to facilitate communication between SSE and legislators on Capitol Hill. The most recent uproar over frivolous government spending hit especially close to our intellectual homes, with targeted focus of the conservative press on, among other projects, our colleague Patricia Brennan’s work on duck penis evolution. At a recent international conference, Dr. Brennan made a plea for greater engagement between scientists and the public about the value of government funding for basic research. The all-too-frequent recurrence of attention on “frivolous spending” underscores the need for investigators of basic science to communicate with our lawmakers about the importance
of our research. My office at GW lies four blocks from the White House and a short bike or metro ride from Capitol Hill, making me well-situated to spearhead such efforts.
All of these proposed actions will strengthen the overall outreach infrastructure of SSE and provide a framework within which members can participate in, develop and expand programs toward satisfaction of Broader Impacts statements for NSF grants as well as service and outreach requirements for their departments. I anticipate tackling one set of tasks during each year of my three-year service, and I look forward to serving the SSE community.
Karin S. Pfennig. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
I am honored to run for council member for the Society for the Study of Evolution. Evolutionary Biology represents the most integrative and vibrant field in all of Biology. As a council member, I would aim to promote activities by the SSE that would bring this fact home to students, the general public, and policy makers. My specific goals would be three-fold.
First, I would work to strengthen the SSE's role in public outreach and K-12 education. As do many SSE members, I often visit schools as part of my outreach activities. However, as parents and teachers know, teachers are increasingly pressed for time in their need to meet specific curricular requirements and end-of-year goals. As much as teachers value ad hoc visits to their classrooms, they need more formalized materials upon which they can rely to work with their required curriculum. The SSE could continue enhancing K-12 education by leading coordinated efforts to get consistent sets of materials (e.g., activity books, course ideas with specific lesson plans, and media such as podcasts, mini-films, and even lectures) into more classrooms. These materials can be designed to satisfy, complement, and enhance curricular requirements.
My second goal would be to foster the SSE's involvement in broadening research funding and opportunities for evolutionary biologists at all levels: from students to professionals. The climate for research funding seems bleak, and we risk losing a generation of young researchers who might see no future in our field. Yet, the SSE can play a powerful role in enhancing funding support for evolutionary biology. Activities such as action statements aimed at rolling back policies that stifle or cut-off research funding; forging links between evolutionary biologists and alternative sources of funding, including private donors and foundations; and the support and development of direct connections between researchers and policy-makers are all means by which the SSE can continue to promote research funding for evolutionary biology. Importantly, the SSE could increase activities that emphasize to policy makers how research in evolutionary biology can help to solve many of our most pressing societal problems such as human health, global change, emerging diseases, and depletion of resources.
Related to the above, my third goal would be to promote policies and activities by the SSE that would continue to forge stronger connections between evolutionary biologists and the general public. The SSE could continue to enhance the public visibility of evolutionary biology by strengthening contacts with journalists and contributing to the development of media such as short films or regular podcasts that are designed for broad public consumption. I would particularly seek to enhance partnerships between the SSE and organizations such as HHMI to further the production and dissemination of such materials. Together, such initiatives by the SSE could actively promote the research contributions of SSE members to the general public.
Taken together, I see these combined activities as a means of enhancing SSE's profile in the public realm to the betterment of both evolutionary biologists and the communities of which we are a part.
Lisa Schwanz, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
I am honored and delighted to run for the SSE Council. SSE is a major contributor to the excellence of research in evolutionary biology, through its journal publications, co-hosting the annual Evolution meeting and sponsoring the most acclaimed research awards in the field. As many evolutionary biologists, I was first exposed to the journal Evolution through undergraduate courses, reading articles that represented major advances and syntheses in the field of evolutionary biology. The journal continues to lead and inspire through the science it publishes. Similarly, the quality of science presented at the annual Evolution conference is superlative. It is clear that all presenters, from established academics to new graduate students, bring their highest-calibre research to the meeting, surely the largest compliment a group of scientists can pay a society. As a council member, one of my main goals will be to uphold this classical strength of the society, while enhancing the breadth of research represented to include interdisciplinary approaches and less-represented fields, such as evolutionary and functional ecology.
One of the most important roles SSE plays is in community-building and career-development. Through conference workshops and research awards for early-career researchers, the Evolution meeting fosters a culture of mentoring, inclusion and respect. I believe that workshops, including topics such as career advancement (at all stages), networking, publishing, and grantsmanship, can provide invaluable insight for scientists in a diverse array of career stages. I would additionally push for more formal mentoring opportunities at the conference, and to involve post-doctoral researchers as both mentees and mentors. The postdoctoral phase is one of the most vulnerable career stages, with young scientists struggling to find positions and tackling issues of work-life trade-offs.
Undoubtedly, this stage represents a brain drain for evolutionary biology. As a society, we can provide mentoring and networking opportunities for post-docs, as well as actively engage post-docs as mentors for PhD students. By maintaining the Society’s leadership in research and nurturing the next generation’s stars, the SSE will continue to inspire and advance future research in evolutionary biology.