2014 CANDIDATE STATEMENTS

2014 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, 2015. The election will be conducted online from October 28 through November 14, 2014. 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:     Kim Hughes    |    Pam Soltis

Candidates for Secretary:     Cynthia Weinig

Candidates for Council:     Andrea Case     |    Susan Dudley    |    Bret Payseur    |    Kristi Montooth

 

BALLOT     « vote here

 

 

Kimberly A. Hughes, Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306

My CV

 

It is a profound honor to be asked to run for President of SSE.  Evolutionary biology has never been more vibrant, more interdisciplinary, or more central to understanding how the world works.  Nevertheless, I believe the SSE still has great need and great potential to engage with its members and society.  If elected, I will focus on a few issues that I think are most pressing: outreach, career development, and recruitment and retention young researchers with diverse backgrounds and experience. 

Supporting the next generation of evolutionary biologists.  Although the community of evolutionary biologists is larger and more diverse than ever, the currently bleak state of research funding limits the potential for this trend to continue. The SSE can address this problem in several ways. Funding can be addressed directly, as illustrated by the Rosemary Grant Awards for Graduate Student Research, which provide some money (and a lot of encouragement) for beginning graduate students. I would like to find additional opportunities to fund young investigators by seeking new sponsors for grants and awards. I am also keenly interested in encouraging young people from diverse backgrounds to enter our field. Supporting increased undergraduate participation in the SSE and at regional and national meetings is one strategy, but other efforts would require little, if any additional funds. The "Women in Science" Lunch at the annual meeting, founded by former SSE and ASN Council members, has become wildly popular, and other diversity activities could be equally dynamic. The SSE web site and social media outlets could also become more useful for young evolutionary biologists by developing a database of research opportunities for undergraduates and funding opportunities for graduate and postdoctoral researchers. I think these goals are achievable, and will have an outsize impact on the future of evolutionary biology and of the SSE. 

Career development.  Many SSE student members seek non-academic careers, and this is another area where the society can become even more useful. The current SSE President established a "Diverse Careers" Committee to begin this process.  If elected, I will support the work of this committee and support expansion of SSE efforts in this area.  

Outreach.  The SSE already engages in outreach and educational activities, and I believe strongly that these efforts should continue and expand.  One way to increase outreach beyond formal educational settings is to raise the visibility of evolutionary biology to the general public.  A strong bias against the idea of evolution persists in many parts of the world, including North America.  At the same time, media outlets, including some very prominent ones, deliver scientific and technical news to their readers and recognize that stories about nature have universal appeal. Some of our sister journals take advantage of this situation by actively engaging the media by producing or providing press releases for noteworthy articles.  I believe we can do the same for Evolution, and for our new sister journal Evolution Letters, with some coordination with the publisher. 

The President of the SSE works together with the Council and other officers to implement initiatives.  I have found that the SSE Council is an amazing source of good ideas—most of them better than my own.  So, while I've listed several issues that keenly interest me, I will work together with the Council to develop and implement inititatives to keep our society relevant, forward-looking, and useful to its members.


 

 

 

Pamela S. Soltis, Distinguished Professor and Curator, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611

My CV

 

I am honored to be a candidate for President of the Society for the Study of Evolution.  As a plant phylogeneticist with interests in both the patterns and processes of evolution, I am particularly drawn to the Society because of its comprehensive appreciation for the many facets of evolutionary biology.  I began my service to SSE as a volunteer proofreader for Evolution while I was a graduate student at the University of Kansas.  I have since served the Society as both a member of the Council and as an Associate Editor for Evolution.
           

As professional societies struggle to develop identities beyond that of publishing a flagship journal and find relevance in a changing professional landscape, a world of opportunities is emerging to engage students and the public in science.  If elected President, I would draw on my experiences as President of both the Botanical Society of America and the Society of Systematic Biologists to develop and implement programs to increase and serve our membership.  In the BSA and SSB, we established committees and programs to broaden the participation of under-represented groups, increased financial support for student research and attendance at meetings, revised and streamlined by-laws to enable more flexible governance structures, implemented strategic planning to develop roadmaps for future programs and financial growth, worked to increase scientific literacy, and helped found a second journal for the BSA.  Certainly SSE faces some of the same issues that confront these other societies.  As President of SSE, my top priorities would be to continue and expand efforts to increase the participation of under-represented groups, support our students, and improve public understanding of evolution.  Although such initiatives rely on financial support, I would explore the role of mentoring in attracting and maintaining a diverse membership of engaged evolutionary biologists.  These goals can also be addressed through enhanced and coordinated social media activities and through collaborations with other societies with shared membership, vision, and challenges.  I would also investigate the role that SSE can play in promoting citizen science as a mechanism for public education and engagement.  We must also ensure that both our annual meeting and our journal are responsive to the needs of our members, and to this end, I would suggest that we poll our membership on key issues to develop Societal priorities.       

Partnerships and collaboration are vital to all of these efforts, and I envision working with other organizations, such as AIBS and others, on issues of public understanding of evolution, with NSF to ensure that our science will move forward, and international societies, such as the European Society for Evolutionary Biology, to foster new initiatives.
           

Service – to my profession, my university, and my community – is very important to me, and I would be honored, if not a bit daunted, to serve as your President.  I look forward to the opportunity!


 

 

 

Cynthia Weinig, Departments of Botany and Molecular Biology, Program in Ecology University of Wyoming, Laramie WY 820701

My CV

 

SSE provides an organizing principle for evolutionary research, by its support of the top-tier journal, Evolution, and an annual society meeting. Beyond its decades-long mission of furthering the study of evolution, I believe the society also plays an increasingly important role as a clearinghouse on evolutionary information for teachers and students within the US, which is particularly relevant as biology curricula and the merits of teaching evolution are debated; the EvoED portal makes a tangible contribution to this role.  Not surprisingly, the original (research) and emerging (outreach) foci of the society are reflected in the society’s awards, including the Dobzhansky prize recognizing outstanding young researchers within evolutionary biology for 30+ yrs and the more recent Stephen J. Gould award recognizing efforts to advance public understanding of evolution.

From my professional perspective, I am interested in contributing to SSE because I have benefited intellectually from the meetings and from reading and publishing in Evolution. I am also increasingly interested in outreach at the K12 levels because I would like to see enriched science curricula in general and because the WY state legislature recently reviewed and opted out of the Next-Generation Science Standards in part due to the evolutionary content. Finally, as others before me have noted in their statements, I am concerned about the opportunity for funding in evolutionary biology.  

I am interested in furthering the mission of the society, in sustaining the study of evolutionary research through the society’s publications, meetings, and funding initiatives. I am also interested in promoting the next generation of evolutionary biologists, as accomplished via funding for student research and travel to meetings as well as via the award competitions that recognize research excellence. The secretary contributes to day to day operations within the society in conjunction with the Executive VP and assists in running the diverse award competitions; in serving as secretary, I would thus envision contributing to the overall vitality of the society and the next generation of evolutionary biologists, and am honored to be considered for this position.


 

 

 

Andrea Lynn Case, Department of Biological Sciences, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, USA 44242

My CV

 

I am honored by the nomination to run for council. I have benefited both personally and professionally from my engagement with the society over the years. I would be happy to add council service to ways I can give back. I enthusiastically support the society's continuing efforts to improve public perception of evolution, provide tools for teachers and educators, and recognize both achievement and potential in research and outreach. These efforts are integral to the SSE’s mission.
           

I am particularly interested in two issues: facilitation of networking / mentoring opportunities to encourage young scientists to stay in the field, and implementation of additional strategies to promote diversity. 
           

Networking/mentoring. The shortage of science funding is challenging all of us to adopt new success strategies. Limited funding hampers our ability to maintain established research and to attract and support future generations of evolutionary biologists (the future of the society!).  Working to improve public support for scientific research and efforts to increase funding is a critical long-term goal.  But in the nearer term, I believe that targeted networking and mentoring efforts could help us all come up with better ways of managing fiscal austerity at all career stages, but especially early ones: collaborating to pool resources, identifying alternative sources of funding, making better use of established collections, endorsing and promoting projects on crowd-sourcing sites... I would be interested in discussing options with the council and SSE leadership to promote attraction, retention and continued success of scientists in our field.
           

Addressing diversity. I commend the society’s activities to promote participation of underrepresented groups at the annual meetings, including the undergraduate diversity program, on-site childcare, and Women in Science events (WiSe). The Evolution 2014 WiSe on implicit bias was extremely well attended and constructive. I was pleased to help facilitate small-group discussion. We recognized that professional societies have an important responsibility to address any implicit bias that may affect the process or outcomes of competitions for awards, grants, etc. Much of the effort in STEM has been focused on women, although strategies for addressing gender bias apply broadly across underrepresented groups.  The society is actively increasing female representation in its leadership in order to help address this. It makes a tremendous difference to see members of underrepresented groups serving in leadership roles and being recognized for their achievements. The diversity of nominees, applicants, awardees, authors, editors, officers, symposium organizers and speakers should reflect the diversity present in our membership. On council, I would encourage us to compare all slates of candidates and nominees against any available demographic data on the SSE membership, and address any discrepancies.

I would be honored to serve on the council, and contribute in any way that I can.


 

 

 

Susan Aline Dudley, Department of Biology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4K1

My CV

It is an honor to be asked to run for council. As a graduate student, I realized that the field of evolution was my intellectual home, where I could ask the questions that interested me. The Society for the Study of Evolution is a "scientific home".  The SSE is great, and as a council member, I would ask how to maintain and even increase its quality.  The journal Evolution and the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution are the main value of the society for member. As a council member, my first priorities would be maintaining the quality of the journal and the meeting. Beyond that, I see three goals for the SSE: enhancing the meeting experience, encouraging diversity, and providing resources for members.

The annual meeting has greatly increased in size in the past couple of decades, but in many ways still has the feel of the smaller meeting that people value. While having many talks of high value at the same time indicates the quality of the meeting, it does increase the stress on participants. I propose to support structures that provide the small meeting experience, whether this means trying out technology to make talks more available, investigating organization of sessions under key words, or providing opportunities for working groups in a field to socialize.

The SSE strives to welcome everyone interested in the study of evolution, helping to create an inclusive community, promote a diversity-friendly environment and a welcoming space for all people.  This is an active process, which may mean outreach early in the pipeline, but can also include identifying barriers and providing resources for people later in the pipeline.  Many of us are invested in being good mentors for students from groups who have not traditionally been part of academia, and would benefit from resources that help us improve our mentorship.

Increasing demands and less time is the theme of scientists. Evolutionary biologists are likely not only doing research. Among other tasks, we are teaching, applying for grants, and doing outreach in the community. Many are looking for non-academic jobs. The annual meeting already does a great job in providing talks and workshops related to diversity, teaching, and career advancement. However, having these resources in an online format will make them more available to people who need them and were unable to attend the meeting, or subject to conflicting demands on meeting times.


 

 

 

Bret A. Payseur, Associate Professor, Laboratory of Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706

My CV

 

I am honored to be considered as a candidate for the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE) Council. As the imprint of evolutionary biology continues to expand, so does the significance of SSE. Here, I mention just a few of the exciting opportunities I see.

I view the Evolution journal and the annual SSE meetings as the best in the field. But SSE competes with other societies that have overlapping goals. As one example, many leaders in population genetics, molecular evolution, and evolutionary genomics who regularly attended the SSE conference now instead frequent meetings of other societies, including the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. How can we ensure that SSE hosts the premier conference for all areas of evolutionary biology? How can we maintain the integrity and strong historical foundation of SSE while simultaneously embracing the future of evolutionary biology? I would like to foster inclusive discussion along these lines.

Evolutionary research and education are driven primarily by graduate students. Current funding trends present serious challenges to graduate student training. I believe SSE can help. In addition to continuing to provide financial support for graduate students, I would like SSE to shape the conversation about how best to train the next generation of evolutionary biologists. How should we balance the importance of intellectual freedom and creativity with the pragmatics of funding constraints? How should we prepare students for their future careers in an ever-shifting landscape?

I look forward to working on these and other issues of importance to SSE if I am granted the opportunity to serve on the Council.


 

 

 

Kristi Montooth, Associate Professor of Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln NE, 68588-0118

My CV

 

I am excited by the prospect of serving the membership of SSE as a council member. SSE unifies a research community that is diverse in membership and research approach, and I am committed to further broadening participation in SSE and its contributions to evolution education. I recently participated in an NSF-funded working group on grand challenges in organismal biology that highlighted the need to promote the historically fruitful intersection between evolutionary biology and the study of organismal form and function. If elected, I would like to act as a liaison between SSE and societies such as the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) to promote increased membership in SSE, the sponsoring of symposia at each other’s annual meetings, and the publication of manuscripts at this research intersection in both societies’ journals.

Conferences provide opportunities for students to find their home within a research community and identify role models. This was certainly true for me when I attended my first Evolution meeting as an undergraduate. I would like to help SSE do even more to engage undergraduate students at the Evolution meetings and at regional meetings through establishing travel awards, and to foster events that encourage student-PI interactions, such as making funds available for graduate students to take PIs to a meal or for structured socials where PIs rotate among groups of students to answer questions about science and career. By ensuring a diversity of invited speakers and providing structure for these PIs to interact with students, SSE can do much to retain promising students from underrepresented groups in evolutionary biology.

Lastly, I would like to encourage scientists who publish in Evolution to create case study teaching modules based on their study systems. In teaching intro biology, I have used Evolution papers to develop case study modules that teach skills in the life sciences and concepts in evolution. The NSF-funded National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science serves as a repository for case study modules, and I would like to provide ways for SSE members to easily contribute new modules that further the educational goals of SSE and NSF.

In addition to attending Evolution meetings and reviewing for Evolution, I am an Associate Editor for Proc Roy Soc B, have served as a guest editor for PNAS, have organized regional meetings of the Midwest Drosophila community, and have developed new tools for teaching evolution. These experiences provide me with skills needed to serve on the SSE council and to develop new programs that broaden participation in and further the contributions of SSE.


 


Back to top