2015 CANDIDATE STATEMENTS

2015 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, 2016. The election will be conducted online from October 19 through November 6, 2015. 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!

    Quicklinks
Candidates for President-elect:      Sally Otto     |     Richard Harrison

Candidates for NON-American Vice President:      Isabel Gordo     |     Allen Gerard Rodrigo

Candidates for Council:    Susan Alberts     |     Esther Betran     |     Rebecca (Becky) Fuller     |     Amanda Moehring

SPECIAL VOTE:      Constitutional Amendment

 

BALLOT     « vote here

 

Candidate for President-elect

Sally Otto, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia

My CV

Evolution provides central insight into all aspects of biology. From the evolution of viral diseases to adaptation in the face of climate change, members of the Society for the Study of Evolution apply evolutionary principles to understand and better our world – past, present, and future. It is an honour to run for President of SSE.  As President I promise to continue to solidify SSE’s role as a voice for the field, to ensure that evolution is taught and understood, that our science is communicated and accessible, and that members have improved access to the training and mentorship needed to reach their career aspirations.

My own research is motivated by a desire to understand how one common process – evolution – has led to the remarkable diversity of life. I use mathematical models to determine which evolutionary transitions are plausible, which are probable, and which are inaccessible.  Analyzing such models and exploring the insights that they yield forms the core of my research.  I am particularly interested in exploring how the biological system itself evolves, how genes are transmitted from generation to generation and the context in which those genes are expressed. I have explored models to address the evolution of the mode of reproduction (sexual/asexual), the nature of mating systems, and the structure of the genome. To ‘ground truth’ evolutionary theory, my lab group uses a number of experimental systems, particularly the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to test evolutionary hypotheses. We also develop and use phylogenetic approaches to explore the footprints that past evolutionary processes have left in the tree of life. This research program provides me with an appreciation of the breadth of SSE.

I am proud to have served SSE as an editorial board member, council member, and Vice President.  I am also proud to have co-founded the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution and to have served for several of our sister societies, including the American Society of Naturalists (editorial board, council member, Vice President), the European Society of Evolutionary Biology (council member, Vice President), and the American Genetics Association (council member).  These connections will help me work with other societies to meet the goals of SSE.  I have also recently directed two training programs, one at the University of British Columbia (Training Program in Biodiversity Research; http://www.biodiversity.ubc.ca/BRITE/) and one across Canada (Liber Ero post-doctoral fellowship program; http://liberero.ca).  These experiences provide me with a strong sense of training opportunities that might benefit SSE members.

If elected, I would work with SSE’s Council, as well as its various committees, to ensure that the Society for the Study of Evolution continues to lead as an engaged Society that improves research and training opportunities for its members and connects our collective knowledge with the wider community.


 

Candidate for President-elect

Richard Harrison, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University

My CV

 

I have had a long and strong association with SSE, beginning 40 years ago when I attended my first SSE meeting at UC Davis.  As an untenured faculty member, I served as Secretary of the Society (1985-87), and more recently (2003-2006) I served as Editor-in-Chief of Evolution.  I have broad interests in evolutionary biology and have mentored students and postdocs who have worked on >30 different organisms (mostly animals). Harrison lab members have been encouraged to bring new systems into the lab, but the primary research focus has been on hybrid zones and speciation and more broadly on evolutionary genetics and molecular evolution.  The tools and approaches used to address questions in evolutionary genetics have changed dramatically in recent years, making this an extraordinarily exciting time in evolutionary biology. It would be a great privilege to serve as President of the flagship society that represents our discipline.

As a society, SSE appears to be doing very well; recent meetings have been well attended, programs and participants have become more diverse, interactions with the European Society (ESEB) have increased, and the journal (Evolution) continues to publish important contributions from a broad range of sub-disciplines within evolutionary biology.  However, evolutionary biologists in North America currently face a number of challenges, including remarkably low funding rates from NSF and a cadre of influential politicians who question both the basic science that we do and the teaching of evolution in schools.  As President of SSE, I would promote discussion of alternative strategies in a climate of limited research funding – focusing on a range of issues, from getting started (as a grad student) to getting tenure (as a faculty member) to choosing non-academic careers. I would certainly emphasize continued investment in our annual meeting, in the Society journal, and in the Teaching and Outreach Committee.  I would attempt to promote broader participation in outreach, encouraging individual SSE members to work at the local level (through collaboration with schools or local science museums) to provide education about evolution as science and the importance of evolutionary thinking in everyday affairs.  I currently teach a non-majors course in evolutionary biology and have been struck with how important (and easy) it is to link evolutionary theory and data to questions about conservation, medical practice (including personalized genomics), forensics, agriculture, climate change, etc.  As a Society, we must be concerned with the direction and quality of our basic science; at the same time we must convince the general population that our science is relevant to understanding the natural world and the substantial modifications of that world that humans impose.


 

Candidate for NON-American Vice President

Isabel Gordo, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal

My CV

 

I am honored to be a candidate for the non-US Vice President of Society for the Study of Evolution.

As an evolutionary geneticist with a strong interest in the evolution of microbial populations I have a great appreciation for this outstanding Society. I have had the opportunity to help the Society as an Associate Editor for its journal Evolution.

Being one of the principal societies continuously promoting the study of evolution, the dissemination of a broad range of results in evolutionary biology and the recognition of great work done in the field (through the prizes it awards), I am particularly drawn to the integration of evolutionary thinking and evolutionary theory in other fields of science, across the world.

I have engaged, together with other researchers in my country, in the foundation of the Portuguese Society of Evolutionary Biology, which runs annual national meetings where the research findings on the field are presented and discussed. Through this society Portuguese PhD students are encouraged to communicate with more senior researchers working across the world. Its members have organized a great working group with the aim of improving the teaching of Evolution at schools. Other members of the society are involved in disseminating important concepts of Evolutionary Biology at Medical Universities in the country.

I believe that the study of evolution should occur all over the world and evolutionary biologists from the different countries would profit from engaging in collaborations and exchange of ideas to achieve that goal. I also believe the teaching of evolution in the curricula of undergraduate students at the universities across the world should be improved and I fully support the wonderful work of the society in its education and outreach activities.

The study of evolution has never been so exciting as it is today: we have a solid theory, great tools and the ability to conduct outstanding experiments to understand biological variation in many different systems and scales.    


 

Candidate for NON-American Vice President

Allen Gerard Rodrigo, Research School of Biology, ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment RN Robertson Building, 46 Sullivans Creek Road, The Australian National University, Acton ACT 2601 Australia

My CV

 

As the past Director of NESCent, I had the good fortune to meet many of you in the evolutionary science community.  It is a community of energetic, enthusiastic and creative people, and I am honored to be nominated for the post as the International Vice-President of the Society for the Study of Evolution. 

Presently, I am writing this from my desk at the Research School of Biology of the Australian National University.  Amongst its varied disciplinary strengths, the RSB has expertise in evolutionary research, including biodiversity, behavioral and evolutionary ecology, molecular evolution and phylogenetics. And this situation is not unique to the RSB or the ANU – we are part of an international community of evolutionary scientists and our community can only be strengthened if we recognise that science does not respect geographical boundaries.

And so, while our immediate collaborators may be our colleagues down the corridor, or a few miles down the road, the SSE has the opportunity – no, the obligation – to ensure that proximity alone does not confine our thinking or constrain our work.  The Society can do this by ensuring that it remains relevant to international researchers, particularly new and emerging scientists. The Society already has some mechanisms to do this – travel funds for the Evolution meetings, for instance – but it can do more. Perhaps, simultaneous satellite evolution meetings in different countries, that coincide with the larger annual Evolution meeting? Real-time streaming of (some) meeting presentations? Travel awards for short visits to labs in other countries?

I am certain that my fellow nominees will represent the international community very well if they are elected to be VP (International).  If I am chosen for the position, my focus will be this: to make sure that the SSE is relevant and accessible to the wider international community of established and emerging scientists.


 

Candidate for Council

Susan Alberts, Department of Biology Duke University, Durham NC

My CV

 

I’m delighted by the honor of being asked to run for SSE Council. The study of evolution is one of the most important scientific endeavors of our time, and the SSE is one of the leading societies promoting this endeavor. As the Associate Director of NESCent (the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center) for the past 5 ½ years, I’ve had the privilege of being exposed to scientists doing leading edge work in evolutionary science, informatics, and education/outreach. With NESCent coming to a close in November 2015, I’m hoping to use my NESCent experiences to help support the efforts of the SSE.

One of the two highest priorities for the society, in my view, is ensuring that the society’s current strengths in supporting evolutionary science are maintained at the highest level. These strengths include the vibrancy of the annual meetings and the high quality of the journal, as well as the society’s strong relationships with its sister societies (e.g., American Society of Naturalist, Society for Systematic Biology, European Society for Evolutionary Biology, Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, and Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution).

A second high priority is thinking about new directions for education and outreach. A great strength of NESCent, one that was perhaps not well known to many scientists who visited there, was its Education and Outreach programs. SSE, as a learned society, is not in a position to implement the kinds of activities that a research center can implement. Nonetheless, I think an important goal for SSE is to look for gaps in evolutionary-­‐ focused education and outreach programs, and explicitly work with organizations on ways to fill these gaps.

Finally, I know that many members of SSE agree on the importance of addressing the issue of diversity among students of evolutionary biology. This important goal is one I share. In addition, it is tightly linked to education and outreach, because only by promoting evolutionary science in the larger community, and creating a sense of ownership of this science among the general public, will we see increased diversity at the end of the long pipeline that produces professional scientists.


 

Candidate for Council

Esther Betran, Department of Biology, University of Texas at Arlington

My CV

 

It is an honor to be nominated to run for the Council of the Society for the Study of Evolution. The Society for the Study of Evolution has been fulfilling its mission in many ways (the publication of the Evolution journal, the Evolution conference, and outreach and educational activities) for close to 70 years now. Wow! From my side, I see three areas where new developments could happen, expand or be more successful. I also see these three areas as interconnected.

SSE could enhance interactions between researchers by supporting the organization of small symposiums with focus on particular research areas. The first international meeting I attended was the meeting of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology in Debrecen, Hungary, in 1991. This was during my Ph.D. and the thing I remember the most is having met renowned scientists whose work I had read before. It was inspiring. I remember that John Maynard Smith attended that meeting along with many other renowned scientists. The major event organized by the SSE is the annual Evolution meeting that is a joint meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), the Society of Systematic Biologists and the American Society of Naturalists. I believe that the big meetings still fulfill the inspiring role they had on me (I see that in my students), and allow for the presentation and discussion of research. I have seen, however, how collaborations are more likely to emerge in smaller settings. The organization of smaller meetings on particular topics should increase interactions. These smaller meetings can attract people that might usually attend other meetings (SMBE meeting or other) to work together and even increase SSE membership. As Associate Editor of GBE and member of SMBE, I could help identify some of the focus areas that might have these synergistic effects.

All societies for the study of evolutionary biology, including SSE, should expand their outreach programs because what scientists learn from the world should transfer into societies. However, as much as evolutionary biologists have learnt from the organic world, it has not changed enough the way our societies think. Outreach should also have the additional benefit of translating into better funding because more interest from the society should translate into funding for the agencies to support evolutionary biology. SSE is already supporting small and local grants to promote outreach. The support for the Small Grants Program for Local and Regional Outreach Promoting the Understanding of Evolutionary Biology should grow. How else do we do this? Outreach should be expanded and facilitated by creating a repository of the outreach ideas and resources that have worked and can be reused by educators. I also think that as part of the resources for outreach, short films of current and high impact research or interviews could be made and circulated.

Undergraduate students are involved in research more and more these days. Most universities are increasing undergraduate research participation as a means to increase student retention and SSE should attract and support the undergraduate students that study Evolution to attend the SSE meetings.

As I mentioned above, these meetings are inspiring and I see this as having a role in the recruitment of new researchers but, also, since a big fraction of undergraduates do not stay in Academia, it would help outreach and increase membership. Undergraduates with good understanding of Evolution will end working in many areas in society and influence the way the society thinks. Undergraduate research and/or travel awards could be created.

If elected, I look forward to working hard with the rest of the Council on this or any other issues as we identify them.


 

Candidate for Council

Rebecca (Becky) FullerSchool of Integrative Biology, Department of Animal Biology, University of Illinois

My CV

 

I am honored to run for council for the Society for the Study of Evolution.  I joined SSE as a graduate student in 1996.  I served as an associate editor for the journal from 2011 to 2014, and I have served on the Hamilton Award Committee for many years.  I am eager to work on three main issues: continuing the high standard of our journal, continuing the high quality of our annual meeting, and developing resources for teaching evolution at the K-12 level that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

The Journal – I am committed to maintaining the tradition of high quality evolutionary research in Evolution. One challenge for the journal is maintaining our prominence in a field that is increasingly dominated by social/multi-media.  The journal has an active web page with a twitter feed, which is good. In my evolution course, I create audio files that accompany each lecture slide.  These are very popular with students who have English as a second language or who had trouble understanding the concept the first time through.  Something similar might work well for the journal. Online audio/video files could accompany papers appearing in the journal.  Readers would click on a file to hear explanations of the paper including explanations of figures and equations.

The Annual Joint Meeting –  I often refer to the Evolution Meetings as my scientific ‘home’.  I value these meetings for their high quality and high diversity. Ironically, the challenge facing the Evolution Meetings stems from their past success. The meeting has grown quite large – more than 2,000 attend when held in North America. Some scientists are opting to attend smaller meetings with a more intimate feel and a narrower focus.  I am committed to helping the joint Evolution meetings maintain their high quality and high diversity.  I suspect that this will require the creation of several ‘smaller meetings’ within the larger meeting to facilitate interactions that can move fields forward.

Outreach and the Next Generation Science Standards – Finally, I am committed to increasing the training of and resources available to teachers at the K-12 level in evolution.  I am working with science education faculty at the University of Illinois to create resources in evolution for teachers and their students that are aligned with the newly released Next Generation Science Standards. SSE has an active Education and Outreach group, and I am eager to work with this group to create materials that will help K-12 teachers teach evolution.  


 

Candidate for Council

Amanda Moehring, Department of Biology, Western University, Ontario, Canada.

My CV

 

It is an honor to be considered for the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE) council. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to give back to the cornerstone society for evolutionary biologists, from which I have personally and professionally gained so much.

I have been impressed with the recent activities within the society to improve the experience of historically marginalized groups, an aim that I have actively worked towards throughout my career. The Women in Science luncheons have facilitated important discussion on topics relevant to female scientists and people who mentor them, as well as networking opportunities. Their popularity indicates that members of the society find these discussions useful, as have I. I propose that these discussions are expanded to include how these same issues impact other marginalized groups (e.g. people of color, etc.) in order to increase awareness, the first step towards addressing these issues.

As a member of SSE council, I would propose that the society also expand their efforts in graduate and undergraduate student career development by including more discussion and information about career options, and actively facilitating connections with positions outside of the academic sector. There are currently opportunities for social interactions with PIs at the conferences, which are well-attended and allow for networking opportunities leading to an academic career. However, a large portion of our graduate students do not seek a position in academia, and the society can and should do more to provide opportunities for discussion and networking for these non-academia spheres.

I think the society can also continue to expand its interactions with other professional societies. In addition to attending the Evolution meetings, and sending my students to Evolution meetings, I am also an active member (and attend the meeting) of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution (CSEE). I am also an Assistant Editor for the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, and thus interact regularly with the European contingent of evolutionary biologists. I can participate in increasing interactions with both of these groups.

Lastly, while I think it is important to continually pursue additional ways SSE can benefit its members, we should ensure that we maintain the effective initiatives that SSE already has in place.


 

SPECIAL VOTE

PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO ARTICLE 4 OF THE CONSTITUTION

The SSE Council proposes the following amendment to Article 4 of the SSE Constitution. The amendment addresses the problem of filling positions on Council that become vacant prematurely and also stipulates that no person can hold two positions on Council simultaneously.

Amendments to the SSE Constitution require a majority vote by members.

Current Article:

Article 4, COUNCIL.  The Council shall be the governing body of the Society between the annual meetings.  It shall consist of the President, President-elect, Retiring President, Executive Vice-President, the two Vice- Presidents, Secretary, Editor-in-Chief, and six elected Councilors.  Two Councilors shall be elected each year to serve a three year term.  Former Councilors shall be again eligible for election one year after the expiration of their previous term.  Vacancies in the Council shall be filled at the annual business meeting by election for the unexpired term.

 

Proposed Article (changes are in italics):

Article 4, COUNCIL.  The Council shall be the governing body of the Society between the annual meetings.  It shall consist of the President, President-elect, Retiring President, Executive Vice-President, the two Vice- Presidents, Secretary, Editor-in-Chief, and six elected Councilors.  Two Councilors shall be elected each year to serve a three year term.  Former Councilors shall be again eligible for election one year after the expiration of their previous term.  

No individual shall simultaneously hold two positions on Council.  In the event that a sitting Council member is elected or appointed to a second position, their prior position will be considered vacant.  

In the event of a vacancy on Council, the nominating committee will be charged with nominating one or two candidates to fill the vacant position for the remainder of the term.  The interim appointment will then be made by majority vote of Council and will begin immediately following the election.  Vacancies of less than one year may remain vacant if so agreed by majority vote of the Council.


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