2019 Candidate Statements


The Society for the Study of Evolution announces the election of officers and council members to be in place on January 1, 2019. The election will be conducted online from November 5 through November 25, 2018. 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!

President Elect: Loren Rieseberg | Ruth Shaw
North American Vice President: Aneil Agrawal | Carol Lee
Council: Suzanne Edmands | Richard Kliman | Stacey Smith | Mario Vallejo-Marín

BALLOT← vote here!

Loren Rieseberg, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia

Curriculum Vitae: PDF


I am honored to be nominated for President of the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE). The SSE has been my home society since I was a graduate student, and one my proudest moments was the publication of the main chapter of my dissertation in Evolution in 1988.  In my view, the SSE is doing essentially everything right, including our focus on supporting students, increasing the gender and racial diversity of our members and leaders, influencing science policy both nationally and internationally, electing capable leaders, enhancing global participation in the SSE, and successfully managing the SSE’s journals in a challenging publishing climate. As President, I would work with the SEE Council to ensure continued implementation of these priorities, and I have several ideas for how we can build on these successes.

The SSE contributes a substantial proportion of its income to student research grants, but we need to do more, especially given the recent end of the U.S. NSF dissertation improvement grants. And funding for graduate student research has long been a challenge in other countries.  A potential way to fund more student research would be to raise membership fees for regular members. I suspect that this would be acceptable to most members if they were assured that the funds would go directly to student research grants (and if members who could not afford such an increase could opt out). With this commitment from our members, it should be straightforward to obtain matching funds from private donors, foundations, and the publishers of evolution journals.

A second priority would be to work more closely with other evolution societies worldwide. The SSE has benefited from long-term collaborations and joint meetings with the ESEB, ASN, and SSB. Extending these strong ties to other evolution societies (e.g., the Australasian Evolution Society, the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution, the Indian Society of Evolutionary Biologists, The Society of Evolutionary Studies, Japan, and so forth) would enrich future international evolution meetings and increase communication and collaboration among evolutionary biologists across the globe.

Lastly, I have a special interest in scientific publishing. I would work with our editors and publisher to ensure that we are well placed to capture papers from new and exciting research areas in evolutionary biology. Also, given increased competition for papers, greater involvement of our young researchers in the editorial process is critical, not only to benefit from their insights, but also to gain their loyalty. One possibility would be to create a junior editorial board for our journals that could offer advice on changing research needs, ideas for special issues, and perhaps serve as guest editors.

Ruth Shaw, Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota

Curriculum Vitae: PDF


I am deeply honored to have been nominated as candidate for President of the SSE. Having joined the SSE in my first year as a graduate student, I have ever since considered it my intellectual and professional home. I've served the SSE in various roles, most recently as Editor in Chief of Evolution (2013-2016), and I would value the opportunity to serve as its president, informed by my experience within the society and my perspective as an evolutionary biologist.

As a society, we have been fortunate to have had wise and committed stewardship.  In recent years, our leaders have advanced a number of initiatives toward making our society more inclusive, as well as more responsive to the membership. Among these are establishment of the Graduate Student Advisory Council, with representation on the SSE Council, as well as committees focusing on expanding diversity of participants within our field, on increasing awareness of the diversity of careers available to evolutionary biologists, and on numerous dimensions of public policy related to evolution. These efforts, though still in early stages, are already enhancing the society's vitality and vibrancy. If elected, I would strive to support and energize them to ensure that they continue to build momentum. As others in SSE leadership have advocated, I would also commit to exploring and advancing new ways to augment resources available to evolutionists at early career stages, a particularly critical need.

Aneil Agrawal, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

Curriculum Vitae: PDF


I feel honoured to be considered for the position of VP for SSE. The SSE is my primary scientific home. My research interests have covered a range of topics—including social evolution, sexual interactions, host-parasite coevolution, alternative reproductive modes, theoretical population genetics and experimental evolution—and all of these topics have deep roots as well as active tendrils within SSE. Consequently, I have regularly attended the Evolution Meetings and published my research in Evolution since I was a graduate student. My first formal involvement with the SSE came in 2011 when I started as an Associate Editor for Evolution. However, I learned much more about SSE as an organization when I began a term as a member of SSE Council in 2012. I have been actively involved in SSE ever since. As a Council member, I played a significant role in restructuring how the Evolution Meetings are organized, leading to the current system that is more stable, has longer-term oversight, and has much better capacity to make improvements. After my term as a member at large on Council, I remained as SSE’s representative on the Joint Meeting Committee (along with members from ASN and SSB). In this capacity, I have continued to serve as an ex-officio member of SSE Council and, thus, have stayed abreast of SSEs past discussions and current activities in a variety of areas.

First and foremost, SSE exists to advance the study of evolution. The ongoing challenge is how best to direct our time and money in doing so (e.g., the journals, the meetings, grants for research and workshops, education and outreach). Thanks to the work of past officers, SSE is a healthy and well-run society. Thus, we are in the enviable position of carefully managing what we do well already, while looking for opportunities to make improvements and try new initiatives without spreading ourselves too thin. I have been inspired over the past six years to see SSE make significant strides in several key areas. There has been a real push to make the governance more inclusive and diverse, and the effect has been noticeable and positive. There is now a major emphasis on ensuring the Evolution Meetings are a safe and inclusive environment for all our members and attendees; we are moving in a positive direction. SSE has also become more engaged in public policy as well as education and outreach. SSE has increased financial support for graduate student research and meeting attendance. These changes have been made possible, in part, by careful consideration of SSE’s financial situation in relation to the Society’s goals.

In the near future, SSE faces additional challenges and opportunities.  As the publishing landscape continues to change, SSE will need to make thoughtful decisions about its journals, Evolution and Evolution Letters (joint with ESEB). For example, Evolution is the primary source of income for the Society (financing many of SSE’s activities), yet members have concerns about publication fees and the relationship with publishers. There are growing communities of evolutionary biologists outside our current core demographic, especially in South America and Asia. How best can we support these communities and what is financially feasible?

I would be happy to contribute to SSE’s governance in thinking carefully about such issues. My guiding principles are (i) to foster opportunity, (ii) to recognize and support research excellence and (iii) to leave SSE in as good or better shape for the future. It has been a pleasure to work with the SSE in the past, and I would be happy to do so again.

Carol Lee, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Curriculum Vitae: PDF


Since my first years as a graduate student, participation in SSE conferences and reading the journal Evolution have had important impacts on my intellectual growth and development as a scientist. As such, I am truly honored by this nomination to serve as North American Vice President of the Society for the Study of Evolution.

My research integrates comparative physiology and evolutionary genetics & genomics to explore rapid evolutionary responses to environmental change, including biological invasions, climate change, and pollution. My current work examines genomic signatures of natural selection in invasive species in response to both habitat shifts and climate change. My lab is also exploring the evolution of genome architecture across the phylum Arthropoda. Given my strong interests in applied evolution, much of my service has involved public outreach and talks to disseminate information and awareness on evolutionary ecological and environmental issues.

Public Outreach

Like many of you, I have been witnessing what is happening in this country with distress. As a flagship society representing evolutionary biology in this country, we are well-positioned to make official statements on evolution education, science policy, and environmental issues where an evolutionary understanding is critically important, such as climate change. Thus, I feel that a major mission of our society should include raising scientific awareness of the public and promoting K-12 education in Evolutionary Biology, and science as a whole. I feel that the socio-political culture wars taking place in this country arise in part from gaps in education access and alienation of much of the general population from educational institutions.

We could make an impact. For instance, we could utilize social media more assertively to reach the public and make Evolutionary Biology more accessible. We do have effective SSE Facebook and Twitter pages that serve the Evolution community. But, we could use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, to reach out to the general public. Overall, we could occupy a much larger online footprint that has a greater impact in broadcasting information on Evolution to the public. I would welcome extensive discussion on other strategies we could apply to accomplish the mission of public outreach.

Student Support and Diversity

With the tragic elimination of the NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, relatively few graduate fellowships currently promote and enable independent research by graduate students. I would encourage us to explore means to fundraise and help fund graduate research. One idea to increase the online footprint of Evolutionary Biology is that, in addition to submitting a short research proposal, the students could upload a YouTube video on their research (accessible to the public) to receive an award.

With respect to diversity in our field, a serious problem is the inadequate pipeline. I have been involved in several diversity initiatives at the graduate and faculty levels and have recruited into my lab many students from underserved backgrounds. Several of these students have participated in the excellent SSE Undergraduate Diversity Program at the annual meetings. This SSE program did help launch the career of my several of my students, one of whom was later was nominated for an SMBE Walter Fitch Award and has remained in the field. I feel that these diversity initiatives do have positive impacts and would push for their continued support, if not expansion.

International Engagement

I have been a long term active member of ESEB and also involved in several Evolution conferences in Asia, especially in China and Taiwan. I feel that the joint meetings with ESEB have been productive. I think that we should also reach out to our colleagues in Asia. Giant leaps and advances have been taking place in China in recent years, with great increases in both quantity and quality of research. The scale of their research has been mind-blowing, unfettered by lack of funding. Joint conferences with our partners in Asia would be mutually beneficial and keep lines of communication and intellectual exchange open. I would also encourage more exchange with our colleagues in our sister society SMBE, perhaps with joint conferences, as it appears that our fields have been diverging over the past few decades.

Prior Service

In terms of prior service, I have served as Associate Editor for the journals Evolution, Evolutionary Applications, and on the editorial board for Journal of Evolutionary Biology. I organized seven symposia and workshops (e.g. for the Society for the Study of Evolution, American Physiology Association), three of which resulted in special symposium volumes. I have served on the NSF review panels seven times. I also served on advisory boards for the EU funded Baltic Sea research (BIO-3C, involving eight countries), NSF NEON, EPA’s Ecological Exposure Research Division, and on the NSF committee for Global Change in the Oceans (to develop future NSF funding initiatives).

In summary, I would be honored to serve the Evolution community and listen to concerns and ideas on how to make our society more effective, active, and inclusive. Thank you for your consideration.

Suzanne Edmands, Biological Sciences, University of Southern California

Curriculum Vitae: PDF


From my first SSE meeting (Hilo 1991, where the power went out in my poster session) to my 19th (Portland 2017), SSE has been my academic home. It's the conference where I found my first postdoc job, and where I now recruit postdocs. Its flagship journal, Evolution, is still the standard of excellence for my lab group, and I learned quite a bit about the publishing process from my three years as an AE for the journal. It would be an honor to serve the society in a new capacity.

If elected to the Council, one area I'd like to focus on is support for early career scientists. I have always appreciated the egalitarian spirit of the annual SSE conference, where graduate students are welcome to give talks, not just posters. I would like to contribute to efforts to keep conference costs for students and postdocs low, and to continue to expand the travel grant program. I am also particularly enthusiastic about SSE's recent GREG program to fund graduate student research, an important step toward filling the hole left by the loss of the NSF DDIGs. As a current council member of AGA, I have been involved in reviewing grad student proposals, and feel this is among the most important uses of society funds.

I would also hope to contribute to the society's recent efforts, through the Public Policy Committee, to address governmental policies and laws related to science in general and evolution in particular. Despite all the exciting recent advances in evolutionary biology, and all the successes of SSE programs, we are surely losing the battle over public opinion.  I would like to work with the society on issues such as promoting evolution education, preserving funding for basic science, demanding credible environmental assessments, and compelling political candidates to state their positions on scientific issues.

SSE has been an important part of my career, and it would be a privilege to serve on its Council.

Richard Kliman, Department of Biological Sciences, Cedar Crest College

Curriculum Vitae: PDF


I joined SSE in 1988, about midway through my graduate studies, and gave my second conference talk at that year's Evolution meeting in Asilomar. (For those with fond memories of regional society acronyms, the first talk was at a PBONE meeting.) Something that struck me then, and continues to stand out, is how welcoming SSE is to students. However, we recognized that there's more to supporting the future of evolutionary biology than creating a friendly environment for those entering field. With directed effort and financial support over the past couple decades, the Society has deliberately encouraged full participation of students at the annual meeting and drawn attention to their work. Since being piloted in 2001, the program now called "Undergraduate Diversity at Evolution" has covered all meeting-related expenses for a couple hundred students, all of whom have been mentored at the meetings by members of our community. It's especially gratifying to have participants volunteer later as mentors. My own undergraduate research students' experiences at Evolution meetings have been uniformly positive. One of my priorities as a member of the Council would be to advocate for continued growth and refinement of initiatives aimed at supporting undergraduate and graduate research and conference participation.

Another priority would be to expand the Society's efforts in pedagogy. Many of the Society's members have developed creative, impactful teaching tools---in particular, laboratory exercises, computer simulations, and curated data sets---and we should find ways to more broadly disseminate these. With improvements to its infrastructure, and the ability to assign DOIs going forward, the peer-reviewed EvoEd Digital Library is positioned to become a go-to resource for K-12 and undergraduate educators. The Society might also play a role in the development of distributed undergraduate research projects (including CUREs), not by managing these projects, but by identifying projects with high potential to involve several institutions and supporting the initial coordination efforts.

Like many of my colleagues, I have been a member of various scientific societies over the course of my career. To me, however, membership in SSE has special meaning, and I've been grateful for the opportunities that have arisen to contribute to its mission. The nomination for membership on the Council came as a complete surprise, and regardless of the outcome of the election, I'm honored to be considered.

Stacey Smith, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado-Boulder

Curriculum Vitae: PDF


I’m honored to be nominated to serve on the SSE council. I’ve been a member of SSE since 2004 when I attended the Evolution meeting in Fort Collins. I remember being thrilled to meet so many of the people whose work had shaped my thesis, and I still feel this excitement every time I go to Evolution. I’ve also gotten to know the society better through my involvement with the journal, where I have published several papers and now serve as an Associate Editor. As a council member, I would look forward to contributing the positive momentum built by the outstanding leadership of the society as well as pushing new initiatives.

Supporting early career scientists. In recent years, SSE has expanded the mechanisms for supporting undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral research, involvement in the society, and career development, and I will work to ensure the continued success of these efforts. For example, I would like to increase the promotion of these opportunities by widening advertising through social media and networking at other meetings (e.g., funding and staffing an exhibition booth at the SACNAS conference). I also believe it is important that applicants for grants and awards receive constructive feedback from reviewers to enhance their research and encourage them to apply again in the future. Beyond funding, I think the SSE has additional opportunities to support early career scientists by leveraging its network of evolutionary biologists. For instance, I recently tweeted a call to other PIs asking for open positions that I could share with prospective students who contact me. Sixty-nine PIs responded, and the tweet has been viewed 60,000 times (not to mention the number of views across the individual responses). This tells me that there is a great need for better mechanisms to connect early career scientists with opportunities, and I’m excited to look for new ways to help, whether through social media or other venues.

Advocacy for increasing diversity and inclusion. One of the most important goals for our society should be to actively work towards expanding participation across multiple axes of diversity. This can be achieved in part by considering diversity and inclusion in all of our activities. For example, we can consider how we advertise and structure the call for symposia to demonstrate that diversity is a priority for our society and reach the broadest audience. We can also continue working to improve the annual meeting to ensure that the venue is accessible and that attendees feel welcome and safe. The society has made great advances through Safe Evolution, and I think we should continue to solicit attendee feedback and seek suggestions for improvement. I would also like to see members (and especially those in leadership positions) trained in bystander intervention so that they can intervene. Finally, considering how the field of evolution has grown (particularly in computational, genomic, and developmental areas), I would like to find ways to better reflect this diversity of foci and reach out to cross-disciplinary researchers (e.g. evo-devo, evolutionary systems biology, etc.).

Cross-society initiatives. A great strength of SSE is its close ties to ASN and SSB, which are all centered on advancing understanding of the evolution of biological diversity. Although many SSE members are also members of these other societies and interact during our joint meetings, I’d like to explore ways to build lateral connections and better leverage our tri-society strengths. For example, program directors of the three societies could join forces on calls for symposia to align the timing and processing of symposium proposals and collectively brainstorm on how to increase the diversity of applications (see above). Many of our goals as a society, such as increasing diversity and inclusion, are likely to be shared among all three societies and by improving cross talk, we can find the best solutions for making progress. Moreover, some initiatives may be the most effective with the backing of all three societies and our combined resources, experiences, and membership.

Mario Vallejo-Marín, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling

Curriculum Vitae: PDF


The Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE) has been my academic home since I started graduate school, and I am excited and thankful for the opportunity to run for SSE Council. I started becoming an evolutionary biologist during my undergraduate studies in Mexico City, and became fascinated with seeing the world through the eyes of evolutionary biology as I continued my training in North Carolina, and later Toronto. Since 2008, I have been studying plant evolution and speciation in my lab at the University of Stirling, Scotland.

Throughout this time, SSE has been at the centre of my academic career through its journal as well as through the annual meetings where students and professors are given equal opportunity to present their work to a fantastic audience. Being part of the SSE is more than subscribing to a great journal or attending an inspiring conference. To me it feels like being a member of an international, open, and welcoming community of like-minded but diverse people. And if I am lucky enough to be elected for Council, I would like to continue pursuing the goals of the Society, particularly under two areas: (1) Diversity: Strengthening the connection of student and academic communities outside of North America and western Europe with SSE. (2) Professional development: Engaging and helping graduate students and early career researchers to explore and develop career paths beyond the tenure-track type of academic jobs.

(1) Diversity. Our Society already makes a fantastic job in being an open community where diverse people feel welcome, and the Society is actively engaged in pursuing ethnic and gender diversity among its members. However, one area where I feel we can build upon from previous successes, is in engaging with students and professionals in countries outside North America and Western Europe. Australia, Asia, Africa, and Latin America hold fantastic groups of evolutionary biologists, several of which are very active at a local level. But I feel that we can help establish more active links between the SSE and evolutionary biologists in these regions. I would like to work alongside SSE and its members to expand the strong presence that SSE already has in many countries to other places as well, and bring together a truly global community of evolutionary biologists. To achieve this, I think it will be particularly important to work with and inspire early career researchers and graduate students.

(2) Professional development. At a time when permanent academic jobs are a very rare commodity, I feel we have the responsibility to engage with and help budding scientists to explore and develop additional career paths. We need to be better in helping students to prepare and take advantage of job opportunities outside academia. Non-academic jobs can be wonderfully rewarding, but sometimes these additional career paths are not considered until too late. I think that as a community, SSE can actively help people prepare and connect with both academic and non-academic jobs, and I look forward to brainstorming with the rest of SSE members on how best we can do this.

In addition to the issues above, I am of course happy to continue pursuing all the goals of the Society, including keeping Evolution as the prime journal in our field, giving equal opportunities and support to all its members regardless of sexual orientation or ethnic background, eradicating bullying and harassment, fighting for funding opportunities for graduate students, engaging more actively in policy-relevant decisions, and promoting the teaching of evolution across all levels. I look forward to the opportunity to work together with you promoting the study of evolution, and supporting the amazing and diverse community of evolutionary biologists that form SSE.

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