2018 Candidate Statements

2017 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, 2018. The election will be conducted online from November 1 through November 21, 2017. SSE members will be contacted by email and directed to a balloting link. 

Review the candidate information using the links below, note your choices and cast your vote by clicking on the "BALLOT" link below. Thank you for your participation!


Candidates for President Elect: Wayne Maddison | Mark Rausher

Candidates for Non-North American Vice President: Tracey Chapman | Anna-Liisa Laine

Candidate for Secretary: John Stinchcombe

Candidates for Council: Amy Angert | Anne S. Leonard | Andrea Sweigart | Stephen Wright

 

SPECIAL VOTE

Members will also be asked to vote on a proposed amendment to the SSE Constitution to add two GSAC members to the Council as voting members.

Jump to Proposed Amendment.

 

BALLOT     « vote here

 

 

President Elect


Wayne Maddison,
Zoology, Botany, and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia

View Curriculum Vitae here: PDF

Statement:

I am honoured (and surprised) to have been asked to run for President of SSE, a society that for many decades has played a major role in supporting a field central to all of our knowledge of the living world. I was also hesitant, as I don't picture myself in such leadership roles. What led me to say "yes" is the chance to help SSE nurture the impressive energy and creativity of young evolutionary biologists.

Fostering Diversity

As evolutionary biologists we know that creative processes thrive when they are based on diversity; as members of a community we know it thrives when we see and respect each other. It's not enough simply to open the door of evolutionary biology. The positive feedback loops of limited role models and past privilege need to be undone, and so we need to give a boost to those excluded or hindered ever since Darwin (and before), including women and people of different sexual, gender, genetic and cultural identities and backgrounds. We should continue and expand the Society's efforts to offer voice, participation, and self-determination to all those who can contribute. This is not just to right past wrongs, but also to ensure the richest and most productive evolutionary biology we can have.  We should seek diversity just as we should explore alternative hypotheses. In that light, it also matters to me that we support diverse research approaches, from the newest methods for data gathering and analysis to answer questions that are the buzz of the field, to traditional methods applied to the fundamental questions that we have been working on for decades (this is the taxonomist in me speaking).  

Communicating Evolution

A scientific society exists in large part to facilitate communication. Our traditional vehicles of journals and conferences are strong, and now the Internet's many opportunities are helping our voices be heard more immediately and broadly. I'd like to see the Society continue to build the latter, emphasizing vehicles that will help young evolutionary biologists collaborate, make their work known, and add to their CVs. Especially important is the need to communicate beyond those already on-board as evolutionary biologists — to students, policy makers, the general public — to express the importance of evolutionary biology, the beauty of evolutionary processes and their products, and how surprising, cool, and rewarding evolutionary biology can be. We want each curious child to be able to imagine themselves as an evolutionary biologist, and each citizen to know that our future depends on evolutionary biology.

Honesty is usually best, and so I'll say that I'm not sure if my asynchronous mind will be good enough with schedules, and I'm not sure I'm as combative as needed in these times of discord. But, I'll contribute my idealism and put my skills into working with the council in supporting our field.




Mark Rausher,
Department of Biology, Duke University

View Curriculum Vitae here: PDF

Statement:

I am honored to be considered for the office of President for the Society for the Study of Evolution.  I have been active in the society throughout my (almost 40-year) scientific career and have had the privilege to serve on the editorial board, as Editor-in-Chief, and as a member of the Council.  This work has provided me with a perspective on the Society and on the field of evolutionary biology that would inform my activities as leader of the Society.

In my opinion, the Society is functioning well in several major areas.  Our journal continues to be one of the premier outlets for studies that advance our understanding of evolutionary processes.  Over the past decade, the Society has begun to become more inclusive, with a strong and successful initiative to increase the representation of women in all activities of the Society.  Efforts at educational outreach have been successful, as attested to by the well-attended SSE Education symposium at the annual meetings.  Politically, we’ve been active through letters to Congress and the White House stating the Society’s position on topics as diverse as Plant Conservation, the Endangered Species Act, and keeping government-sponsored scientific activity open to the public.  As President, I would continue to support these and our other useful Society activities.

In addition, though, my goal is to address two particular issues.  The first is broadening ethnic and racial diversity among our members.  While we have made great strides in promoting the involvement of women, we have a long way to go in increasing the participation of other underrepresented communities in the workings of the Society.  Part of the reason for such under-representation is the paucity of people from these communities in science in general.  In my own experience, programs at Duke have helped us bring underrepresented undergrads into our lab as interns, where they have learned that they can succeed at a higher level.  But there is much more than this type of individual action that we as a Society can do to become more inclusive.  A first step in this direction is the recent creation of a Diversity Committee by the Society.  I look forward to working closely with this committee in brainstorming and formulating policies that will both facilitate greater attendance at our annual meeting by members of these communities and, importantly, encourage participation in Society governance.

The second issue that I want to devote my attention to is graduate research funding.  As many know, NSF recently discontinued its highly successful Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant program.  This program had been in place for more than 40 years—I was lucky to be the recipient of a DDIG when I was a graduate student—and has been incredibly helpful in allowing graduate students to pursue research  independent of their mentor’s research program.  It also provided excellent training for students in conceiving their own research topic and in writing grant proposals, a tremendous asset when being considered for academic jobs.    Because I believe the discontinuation of this program constitutes a great loss for graduate training, I would like to see the Society explore mechanisms that could serve to at least partially restore some of the opportunities and benefits the program provided our graduate students.  In particular, I would like to discuss with NSF representatives the possibility of a smaller program that would take much of the administrative burden off NSF and place it in the hands of SSE, MBE, AGA and other Societies.  Another possibility would be for SSE and other Societies to pool some of their resources to make available a significant number of competitive graduate research fellowships that would provide substantial funds to promising projects (e.g. $10,000).  Either option would require mechanisms that limit the burden of selecting awardees, and I would work with our members to develop such mechanisms.  

I look forward to working with our members to continue to keep science education in Congress’s and the public’s focus; to strengthen our efforts to be more inclusive on all fronts; and to find a way to help current grad students succeed in moving forward with their research.  Given the scope of these tasks, I welcome all input.




Non-North American Vice-President


Tracey Chapman
University of East Anglia

View Curriculum Vitae here: PDF

Statement:

I am pleased and really honoured to be considered for nomination for the post of Non North American VP of the SSE.

I am fascinated by the study of evolution as it is clear it can provide profound insights into understanding how the world comes to be as it is. It is really pleasing to see the extent to which an evolutionary understanding is being increasingly adopted in the study of medicine and the control of crop pests and diseases. In this, evolutionary biology is enabling novel routes for tackling grand challenges in global health and development. Evolutionary biology is adapting well to the incorporation of rapid developments in new ‘omics technologies. The ability to look further and deeper than before can be incredibly illuminating. However, the potential to use new methods to tackle questions that we don’t even know about yet represents, to me, the most exciting and challenging prospect for the future.

Set against the health and vitality of evolutionary biology as a research field, is that it’s teaching can be a somewhat sidelined, or even threatened, part of pre-university education. Nevertheless, there is huge public interest in it. This must be tackled. It is a knotty problem but maintaining and increasing our engagement with diverse audiences is surely a key part of the solution. I strongly endorse the SSE’s clarity in its statement on evolution and support the work of the SSE to promote education, their educational resources (much used by me and my students), outreach and the small grants for outreach programme. Increasing the visibility and uptake of small grants and the TH Huxley award are also of great importance. Being from outside the US, I’d also like to promote internationalism, links with partner societies and increase awareness of SSE activities in Europe.  

I genuinely believe the SSE does great work. The flagship journal, Evolution, is held in great respect due to the quality and veracity of its published papers: this must always be protected and maintained. The journal is the leader in the field, in stimulating new research and bringing together the result of studies of organic evolution in an accessible manner. Having been an Associate Editor twice I have seen the strength and rigor of the editorial process. Continuing the invaluable support for students and scientists via travel awards to annual meetings and maintaining the affordability of society membership is also crucial and can be important in widening participation.

I believe that a particular current focus should be to leverage what support we can for early career researchers. With tight budgetary squeezes in place across the globe, the career options for the research leaders of tomorrow are under real pressure. The work of the SSE’s Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) and SSE Graduate membership is key here. Continued support for, and awareness raising of, the Dobzhansky, Fisher prizes and Grant awards is also vital.

I believe it is fundamentally important to increase equality and diversity. I recently led a successful bid for Athena SWAN Silver status awarded to our School and have observed first hand that tangible advances towards ensuring equality of opportunity can be achieved through awareness raising, and sometimes even relatively easy to implement checks, to minimise the expression of unconscious biases that we all carry.

To conclude, I am committed to knowledge generation and to the core aims of the SSE. Whether or not I am elected it has been an honour to be nominated, so thank you.




Anna-Liisa Laine,
Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki

View Curriculum Vitae here: PDF

Statement:

I am extremely honored to be running for the non-North American vice-president of SSE. The society and its journal have always represented an intellectual home for me, and I’ve had the pleasure of attending Evolution meetings in the past and serving as an associate editor for the journal. In addition to the listed duties of this position, there are two areas in particular that I would like to work towards during my term.

Building a coherent network of evolutionary biologists globally. There is a surprisingly strong divide between continents in the scientists we interact with and even whose work we cite. I believe that we will become stronger as a community and our science will only benefit by having active interactions that go well beyond country borders. The joint meetings between SSE and European Society of Evolutionary biology (ESEB) are an important step towards this. In my current position as Vice-president of ESEB I would continue developing this link between the societies. One possible venue for developing such interactions would be to have the PhD student run EMPSEB meetings be a joint meeting between ESEB and SSE for example every third year. The EMPSEB meetings have been extremely successful, entirely run by the European community of PhD student in evolutionary biology and I could well imagine that there would be wonderful opportunities for networking at this career stage more internationally. I would also want to participate in considering how we can develop an active network of evolutionary biologists beyond North America and Europe.

Making evolutionary biology accessible to decision makers. Many pressing problems – e.g. antibiotic resistance, pathogen emergence and adaptive responses to ongoing climate change – are evolutionary. Yet evolution as a discipline is not used to its full potential to provide solutions. This is by no means a trivial task, even among academics the term evolution has very different meanings. A goal that I would like to work towards is how we can actively develop strategies to make evolution as a science more accessible and useful to decision makers.

In conclusion, I would aim to contribute to further developing SSE as an international and inclusive community that would thrive scientifically, and make evolution a recognized discipline beyond the borders of academia.



Secretary


John Stinchcombe, 
University of Toronto

View Curriculum Vitae here: PDF

Statement:

“I love evolutionary biology and want to serve our society.”

I wrote those words in an email to my friend Cynthia Weinig when we were discussing serving as secretary of our main professional society. The Society for the Study of Evolution is my “home” society: it is the main meeting that I try to attend every year, and it is the benchmark journal we think about when evaluating our science in my lab: is this work good enough to send to Evolution ? I’ve benefited enormously from our society. Not only have I learned a tremendous amount from seeing talks and posters at our meetings and reading papers in our journals, but I’ve also made great friends over the years. One of the main reasons I’m interested in serving in the society is to preserve and enhance those intellectual and social benefits for the next generation of evolutionary biologists.

I am interested in supporting and extending the society’s efforts to make conference attendance more affordable for junior scientists and students, and in recognizing research and outreach excellence through its awards. Attending a meeting, receiving encouragement after a talk or poster, or meeting established scientists whose work we admire can be transformative and inspirational. We need to continue supporting student attendance at meetings, and think of new ways that we can enhance the experience of undergraduates, graduate students, and junior scientists. We should also not be afraid to adopt ideas or approaches we have seen successfully implemented by other societies.

I am concerned about funding opportunities for evolutionary biology and graduate research. I am also deeply troubled by trends in public life that are dismissive of the very bedrocks of science— data, evidence, logical and mathematical analysis, peer review, the very existence of facts—as fictions. As a consequence, I support the society’s efforts to be an advocate for both evolutionary biology and science in general. In addition to the capacity of the society to act on all of our behalf, we also have the amazing the talent, drive, and creativity of our membership.  I’m interested in working with council on ways that we can act as advocates for evolutionary biology and for science, both collectively and individually.

I’m honored to be considered for this position, and to potentially serve our society.



Council


Amy Angert, 
University of British Colombia

View Curriculum Vitae: PDF

Statement:

With advances in genomic and computing tools, digitization of natural history collections, and growing appreciation for the insights that evolutionary biology can bring to other fields like medicine and conservation, it is an incredible time to be an evolutionary biologist. It is also a daunting time, with drastic funding shortfalls and public hostility towards science in general and evolution in particular. The society plays a critical role in promoting evolution education, outreach and advocacy, and I would be honored to help support its mission as a member of the council.

In addition to the regular duties of council members, I am particularly interested in fostering inclusivity and reducing the sorts of obstacles that discourage participation by a diverse and representative community. Our ability to address any of the challenges described above will be enhanced by fostering a culture that seeks diverse viewpoints and promotes participation by people of all backgrounds. I embrace the mission of the newly formed diversity committee, and as a council member I would strive to support its initiatives and activities. At my home institution, I have organized activities to educate graduate students and faculty members about how to recognize implicit bias and develop strategies for overcoming it. I would hope to see the SSE sponsor workshops on this and other topics, as well as devising creative new ways to reach a broader (i.e. not solely self-selected) audience. I would also advocate making the code of conduct for meetings more visible. Along with that, updating and enhancing reporting procedures for incidents of harassment and discrimination are critical for making a code of conduct effective and transparent, so that avenues for reporting and sanctioning are clear and easily discovered. SSE has made important strides in recent years (e.g. the Women in Science initiative), but it is clear that much remains to be done to instill a culture of inclusivity and equip people with necessary skills for attaining it.

I first attended the Evolution meetings in 2004, and it was a stimulating, supportive and altogether inspiring experience at a pivotal time in my graduate career. As an evolutionary ecologist, I’m a bit chimeric in that I have usually roughly alternated between the annual meetings of the SSE and ESA, but I have always considered SSE to be my academic and professional home. I’ve been privileged to serve on the editorial board of Evolution for the past 3 years, and I would be honored to continue to serve the society in this new capacity.




Anne S. Leonard,
Department of Biology, University of Nevada, Reno

View Curriculum Vitae here: PDF

Statement:

Scientific societies not only connect us through scholarly meetings and journals, but also bring us together to improve the practice of our discipline and amplify our message to policymakers and the public. Support from scientific societies played an important role in my own development as a scientist, and I would be honored by the opportunity to serve as a SSE Council Member. If elected, I would build upon the excellent work that previous SSE councils have spearheaded on science advocacy, outreach, and diversity.

These are challenging times for scientists and science-minded citizens, with threats to federal support for research looming, and cuts to graduate fellowship programs already in place. In the U.S., our leadership discards scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, and suggests travel restrictions that affect both our students and prospects for international research. Likewise, ideas about about teaching creationism alongside (or instead of) evolution have been in recent headlines here as in other countries. SSE is a timely and critical resource for evolutionary biologists: it can act as an information hub, conveying our concerns to policymakers, as well as informing our community about developments likely to affect us.  I would work with the SSE to identify issues that are likely to impact our members, start conversations, and ultimately translate those conversations into actions.

In addition to communicating with policymakers, I believe that by communicating my science to as wide an audience as possible I am doing my part to explain why our science is worthy of supporting (and teaching in schools). As a council member, I would be excited to help continue SSE’s strong tradition of supporting creative outlets for sharing evolution broadly. At the University of Nevada, for example, I helped develop a program that brings high school Biology teachers-in-training into research labs, where they shadow grad students, gain hands-on experience and develop lesson plans based on their experience. These efforts dovetail with my commitment to supporting diversity in our field. By working closely with Women in Science and Engineering groups at three universities (first as an undergraduate peer mentor, then as a workshop organizer, and now finally as a frequent career panelist) I have seen how affirming and effective such groups can be at each stage of a research career. I would look forward to working with the SSE on its current efforts to create a more inclusive scientific society, for members at multiple career points.

Finally, I am shaped by my 1) research on evolutionary topics, including a dissertation on sexual selection, nine years of research on plant-pollinator interactions, and current role as associate editor for Evolutionary Ecology 2) experience as a mentor to undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs, including time as Darwin Fellow at UMass Amherst, where I led an “academic survival skills” seminar 3) a drive to share science broadly, manifest in my development of a non-majors evolution course, and relentless enthusiasm for giving public talks everywhere from senior centers to art museums to breweries.




Andrea Sweigart,
Department of Genetics, University of Georgia

View Curriculum Vitae here: PDF

Statement:

As it does for many of its members, the SSE holds personal significance for me. The Society had a strong impact on me as a graduate student, particularly the annual Evolution meeting, which introduced me to the intellectual community that has remained a source of inspiration throughout my career. Of course, beyond its importance in fostering so many of our individual careers, the SSE plays vital roles in promoting scientific excellence, in encouraging diversity and equity within our discipline, and in serving as a public advocate for evolution. I am eager to help with the Society’s ongoing work in all of these areas, and in particular on two of them: 1) outreach at the K-12 and undergraduate levels, and 2) advocacy to support independent graduate student research.

Outreach to K-12 and undergraduate students: Increasing participation of historically underrepresented minorities in evolutionary biology should be (and is) a major priority of the SSE. The importance of mentors in encouraging students from underrepresented communities to pursue careers in STEM fields is well known. If elected, I would work to support existing mentorship programs, such as the excellent Undergraduate Diversity at Evolution travel award, and to create new ones. Additionally, I would work to increase the SSE’s engagement with K-12 classrooms and teachers. Like many in the SSE community, my own lab has established individual connections with our local middle and high schools; we give greenhouse talks about evolutionary biology to ninth graders and have developed a “plant adaptation lab” that is being used in local classrooms. I would like to see the SSE help consolidate and strengthen such efforts by individual labs, potentially through a formal research mentoring program targeted at high school students from underrepresented communities.

Advocacy for graduate student research: Our field is distinguished by its strong tradition of independent graduate student research, which is actively supported by small grants like the SSE’s Rosemary Grant Award. However, NSF’s recent termination of one of the largest sources of such funding – the DDIG – is a major concern for all of us who value independent, student-led research. If elected, I would be a strong proponent of finding new ways to support and sustain graduate student research into the future.

In addition to these two areas, I would of course welcome the opportunity to work with other Council Members on projects that they have identified as priorities for the SSE. I have served as an Associate Editor for Evolution for nearly three years, and I would be thrilled to continue my involvement with the SSE as a Council Member. Thank you for your consideration.




Stephen Wright,
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

View Curriculum Vitae here: PDF

Statement:

My research focuses on studying evolution at the genome level; broadly speaking I aim to both use genomics to address long-standing questions in evolutionary biology as well as use evolutionary theory to understand the structure and evolution of genomes. As a researcher in population and evolutionary genomics, I am very aware of the increasing relevance of evolutionary biology to essentially all disciplines in biology, from conservation to cancer. This means it is an exciting time to be an evolutionary biologist, and it also means there are growing opportunities for the SSE to play a key role in public outreach and cross-disciplinary research. Given this, I am very happy to stand for election for SSE council. There are a number of areas to which I feel I could contribute:

1) Evolution of Evolution Journals:
From my own experience, Society-run journals provide the most rigorous, highest-quality editorial process, and they aim to not only act as a gateway for publishing high-quality science, but also enable crucial opportunities to mentor authors and reviewers, and to improve the science and its communication as part of the editorial process. At the same time, initiatives such as preprint archives should be embraced and encouraged as a means of communicating the latest research, and be integrated with journal publishing. Given the increased broadening of evolutionary research, and a strong movement towards revolutionizing the process of publishing, there is a growing need to consider how Evolution can best continue to position itself as the leading journal in the field, and how Evolution Letters can continue to carve a niche to attract some of the most exciting high-impact research. As a council member I would be very interested in being involved in such topics as a) finding strategies to continue to broaden the scope of Evolution to reflect the breadth and interdisciplinarity of research areas found at SSE meetings (such as genomics); b) enhancing reviewer mentorship programs for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows; c) as a council member alongside being an AE at Evolution Letters, I would be keen to act as a liason as the journal and the society aim to attract the very top research across the broad scope of evolutionary biological research. I have been an AE at Evolution Letters since its inception, as well as AE at GENETICS and Molecular Biology and Evolution, and a senior editor at G3. This has given me a perspective on the potential for future increased collaboration among the journals and the societies (GSA, SSE and SMBE) to promote society-led scientific publication.

2) Funding trainees
With the decline of graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, as well as the loss of Dissertation Improvement Grants (DIGs) in the US, there are fewer opportunities for trainees to begin to establish and experience research independence by obtaining their own research grants for projects they have developed and proposed. Development of a DIG-like grant competition through the SSE would be very exciting and have the potential to kick-start independent research careers at the senior graduate student and postdoctoral level.

3) Outreach
The SSE has done a stellar job with increasing outreach and education for evolution. Some further thoughts on extending these programs include: extending the Darwin Day Roadshow (or equivalent) to Canada, establishing a training program on ‘getting published as a popular science writer’, and establishing an ‘evolutionary biology speaker’s bureau’ program that matches local scientists with libraries and schools for outreach talks.

 

 

Proposed Constitutional Amendment

The SSE council proposes an amendment to Article 4 of the Society Constitution and Bylaws to 1) add two GSAC representatives to the Council as voting members with three-year terms and 2) conduct Council business via email.

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

Article 4 with proposed additions in gold:

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, six elected Councilors, and two representatives (Chair and Past Chair) of the SSE Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC). 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. GSAC representatives shall serve three-year terms on Council, and are selected by GSAC.

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.

The Council shall determine matters of publication policy, formulate and modify program rules, fill temporary vacancies among officers, appoint Editors and Associate Editors, authorize all expenditures, and conduct other business as required. Between meetings the Council may vote and transact its business by email through the office of the Secretary.




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