Division of Ecology and Evolution

Fall Newsletter 2019

Alice C. Gibb
Nov 1 · 14 min read

Message from the Chair, Cameron Ghalambor, Chair.DEE@sicb.org

Dear DEE Members, We’re just a few months away from the 2020 SICB meetings in Austin, Texas and I wanted to give you a quick rundown on some new DEE developments. First, in case you missed it, Christine Miller is our new Secretary Elect. Thanks for serving, Christine!!! Second, scroll down in the newsletter and check out the inaugural profiles of some DEE graduate students. This idea was initiated by Secretary Martha Muñoz and something we would like to have as a regular feature in future newsletters. The goal is to highlight the diversity of research being done by DEE graduate students. So, whether you are just starting out, or getting ready to finish please email one of the DEE officers if you’d like to share your profile. Don’t be shy, we want to hear from you!!! Also, don’t be surprised if one of us approaches you at the poster session or after your talk.

Chair Cameron Ghalambor

As for the upcoming Austin meetings, I’m sure those of you who are regular attendees are already looking forward to five days of cutting-edge science and the opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues. However, if you are new to SICB, or haven’t attended the meetings in a while, I want to let you know about the many events DEE will be sponsoring during the Austin meetings. Here is a quick rundown of DEE events.

  1. Check out one of the seven DEE sponsored symposia. From marine biology to neurobiology, from owl flight to animal teeth, and from genomes to conservation, check out all the ways DEE provides the ecological and evolutionary “glue” that holds SICB divisions together. See Program Officer Michele “Nish” Nishiguchi’s post below for more details about the symposia.
  2. Speaking of symposia, don’t miss the DEE Huey Award Session for best student presentation on January 4th from 8–10am. The symposium will feature talks by 8 finalists selected from a very competitive pool. You can count on some of the best talks of the meetings being in this symposium.
  3. Try and attend the 7th annual DEE Beer & Brains event at the Easy Tiger the night of Sunday, January 5. The first Beer & Brains was held in Austin, so we are back in the city where it all started. Remember this is an opportunity for DEE graduate students to spend time with faculty in a casual environment. This will be the hottest ticket in town. Students: look for an email in December to reserve your spot. These spots fill up quickly, so make sure you respond as soon as possible. Faculty: email me if you are interested in participating as a “Brain.” See Graduate Student Representative Craig Marshall’s post below for more details.
  4. I know the DEE Members Meeting doesn’t sound that exciting, but plan on attending on January4th from 5:45pm-6:30pm. We’ve got some surprises in store this year that we want to share with you, and we want you to meet some of the other DEE members and learn about what’s new within the Division. Also, Beer & Brains attendees will have to show up to the Members Meeting to pick up their tickets, so we’re expecting a good turnout.
  5. What do you consider cutting-edge science? What topics do you think need attention and synthesis? The 2022 SICB meeting in Phoenix, Arizona will soon be soliciting proposals for symposia. It’s not too early to start thinking about symposium ideas and people who could participate. The Austin meetings will be a good opportunity to pitch your ideas with DEE officers and to plan a proposal with colleagues.

Lastly, remember to renew your membership and take advantage of early registration to get the most value for attending the Austin meeting. See you in Austin! — Cameron

Nominating Committee Information: The 2020 nominating committee for DEE consists of Cameron Ghalambor (DEE Chair) and Michele (Nish) Nishiguchi (DEE Program Officer). In spring 2020 we will be holding an election for Program Officer Elect. If you would like to nominate someone (including yourself!) for this position please feel free to email Cam (Chair.DEE@sicb.org) or Nish (DPO.DEE@sicb.org).

From the Program Officer, Michele Nishiguchi (Nish), DPO.DEE@sicb.org

Program Officer Michele Nishiguchi

Welcome to the beginning of the academic year and planning for the upcoming SICB meeting in Austin. The program officers met October 5–7 to organize over 1900 abstracts into the various Symposia, oral sessions, and poster sessions, with a total of 140 contributed sessions! This year’s abstracts came from a wide variety of members, including graduate and undergraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, as well as many from investigators that normally do not attend the SICB annual meetings. This year we revisit the central Texas meeting site in Austin where the conference will be held at the JW Marriott Hotel, in downtown Austin. This is a new hotel (it was built since our last Austin conference visit) with meeting rooms dispersed between 3 levels. The location has convenient access to various restaurants, nightlife, live music venues, and of course, the river (2 blocks).

Here are a few highlights of the upcoming meeting. The meeting will start off with the plenary lecture by Dr. Sheila Patek from Duke University. This year there will be eleven symposia throughout the week, including seven that are sponsored by DEE. These include:

  • “New Frontiers in Antarctic Marine Biology”
  • “Biology at the Cusp: Teeth as a Model Phenotype for Integrating Developmental Genomics, Biomechanics, and Ecology”
  • “Reproduction: the Female Perspective from an Integrative and Comparative Framework”
  • “Bio-inspiration of silent flight of owls and other flying animals: recent advances and unanswered questions”
  • “Building Bridges from Genome to Phenome: Molecules, Methods and Models
  • Applied Functional Biology: linking ecological morphology to conservation and management”
  • “Integrative comparative cognition: can neurobiology and neurogenomics inform comparative analyses of cognitive phenotype?”

There are also multiple workshops being offered on the 3rd of January prior to the start of the meeting, as well as throughout the week.

Last, and certainly not least, please come to the full morning session on January 4th devoted to the Huey Best Student Presentation Award. Eight students will be presenting their research, with a poster session of five presentations during the afternoon as well. There were many great abstracts submitted for the competition this year, and I expect the judges will have a difficult time choosing the winner!

This year, we will also have several opportunities to meet and talk to other DEE members. First, please make an effort to attend the DEE Members Meeting on Saturday January 4th from 5:45–6:30 after the poster sessions. DEE will be offering Starbucks gift cards to students and postdocs who attend the meeting (so please attend!). Second, the DEE social and reception will be held jointly with DEDB, DIZ, DPCB, and DEDB at the JW Marriott on January 6th — so come mingle with friends from the other divisions. Finally, the 7th annual Beer and Brains social event will continue the tradition of giving DEE graduate students the opportunity to pick the Brains of a selection of some of our established members in a small, informal setting. This year the B&B will be held on January 5th at the Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden. Please make sure you reserve your spot early so you can chat with a scientist in this casual setting.

Message from the Secretary, Martha Muñoz, Secretary.DEE@sicb.org

The fall semester means only one thing for me — SICB is coming! For the Division of Ecology and Evolution, this means you can anticipate a few major things. First, we’ll be hosting our 8th annual Raymond B. Huey best student presentation award symposium. As a reminder, the Huey award features top student presentations in both oral and poster categories. I encourage everyone to attend — this award session is really a highlight of the SICB meeting. And, do remember to attend the Huey poster session, as well! Second, we’ll be hosting Beer and Brains again. This event allows students and postdocs to meet with faculty in an informal setting. Given the fabulous beer scene of Austin, get ready for a truly excellent event!

Secretary Martha Muñoz

One of my main goals as Secretary is to increase the visibility of graduate students in the Division. This fall, we’re starting a new initiative in the Division newsletter: DEE Student Profiles (see below). We’ve reached out to several of our student/ECR members and asked them to share a bit about themselves, including their research, hobbies, SICB experiences, and advice to fellow students. Our hope is to increase communication among the members of our division, and to provide a spotlight for our incredibly talented student members. We’re accepting nominations for future student spotlights, and self nominations are welcome! Whether you’re an undergraduate, a postgraduate researcher, a graduate student, a post-doc, or any kind of early career researcher, we want to hear from you!

Our students really are the lifeblood of DEE. We believe the future of DEE is really bright because you’re here! If you’re an undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral member of DEE, I would like to especially encourage you to come to the DEE members meeting at the SICB meeting. This year, we’re offering some Starbucks gift cards to students/postdocs who attend the members meeting. At the members meeting, we will announce our Huey award winners. Then, we will discuss the present and the future of our division. We want to hear your opinions and ideas, and to have you contribute directly to the vision of the future of DEE!

If you’re a student who’s looking to get more involved in DEE, please let me know. I’m hoping to get some help managing the DEE Twitter. If you’re interested in contributing to this effort, please let me know. I look forward to a wonderful meeting at SICB and learning about all the amazing work being done by our DEE members (and beyond)!

Message from the Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee Representative, Craig Marshall, Craig.Marshall@colostate.edu

We are excited to announce that DEE will be hosting the 7th annual “Beer and Brains” event on the evening of January 5th at Easy Tiger on 6thStreet! We tried to host the event at Bangers, where the inaugural Beers and Brains was held, but it was cost prohibitive. Beers and Brains is an amazing networking opportunity for students seeking advice, perspective, or simply an opportunity to share their research with faculty and postdocs. Whether you’re finishing up your graduate program and looking for tips and guidance on what types of jobs might be most suitable given your experience or just starting out in graduate school and wondering what to expect as you progress forward in your academic career, this is your event! Please be on the lookout in your email for information regarding registration. Due to the popularity of this event in recent years, priority will be given to those who were not able to attend last year. However, we encourage everyone interested to apply as we hope to offer spots to all should space be available. Should any faculty or post-docs be interested in participating in the event as a “Brain,” please reach out to me and express your interest!

Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee Representative Craig Marshall

The Student-Postdoctoral Affairs Committee (SPDAC) will be hosting a booth with brochures pertaining to science communication, job application tips, how to best pitch your research in the form of an elevator talk, and many more exciting themes throughout the conference. The SPDAC will also be hosting a “Transitions in Science” workshop to provide resources and support for those of you upgrading your academic status (i.e., undergrad to Masters, Masters to PhD, PhD to postdoc, and PhD to academia). We are very excited for both of these prospects! For additional up-to-date information, check out the Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sicbspdac/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/SICB_SPDAC) accounts!

We are looking forward to SICB 2020! If you have any questions or are looking for additional information about DEE and ways that you can become more involved, please do not hesitate to reach out to the graduate student representative (Craig.Marshall@colostate.edu). We look forward to hearing from you!

We hope to see you at the Beer and Brains Event on January 5th. The event will be hosted at this lovely venue, Easy Tiger. Photo credit: Lost in Austin.

DEE Student Profiles

Starting Fall 2019, we are inviting DEE students and early career researchers to discuss their research, hobbies, SICB experiences, and any advice they may have for other students/ECRs. If you’d like to nominate a student for this series, feel free to contact the Division Chair (Cameron Ghalambor) or the Secretary (Martha Muñoz). Self nominations are welcome!

Name: Kwasi Wrensford

Position: PhD Candidate

Department: Integrative Biology; University of California, Berkeley

Personal Website: www.kwrensford.weebly.com

Kwasi Wrensford

Research Description: I’m broadly interested in the behavioral strategies organisms employ to cope with rapid environmental change. My current research focuses on the ecology of two chipmunk species in the Eastern Sierra Nevada of California, the lodgepole chipmunk (Tamias speciosus) and the alpine chipmunk (Tamias alpinus). These species co-occur in significant portions of their range, but over the past century, the alpine chipmunk has experienced significant upward contractions of its elevational range, while the lodgepole chipmunk’s distribution has remained relatively unchanged. There is evidence suggesting these ecologically similar species may differ in their capacity to cope with rapid environmental change, particularly the degree to which they are able to behaviorally adjust to novel stressors and stimuli. To address this, I’m using in-situ behavioral trials and mark recapture studies of free living animals of each species, as well as developing techniques to assess individual and interspecific variation in ecophysiological traits.

Hobbies and Interests: Music is a huge part of my life, whether it be listening to it or making it. I play guitar and trombone, I sing a little bit, and I do a bit of songwriting. You can also find me outdoors hiking, camping, birding, etc. and I love sharing my love of the natural world with others, particularly with those who may lack the means or opportunity to do so.

Favorite Part of SICB: SICB’s commitment to supporting and highlighting early career scientists won me over as soon as I joined the society. To have a community like this, full of diverse people and diverse science, is truly special.

Advice for Fellow Students: Build a strong community and support system. Grad school can be an isolating time, and there’s often this expectation to retreat inward when things get difficult. But your community, whatever that may look like, will hold you down and keep things in perspective.

Name: Courtney Klepac

Position: Ph.D. Candidate

Department: Biological Sciences, Old Dominion University

Personal Website: http://ww2.odu.edu/~dbarshis/Home.html

Courtney Klepac

Research Description: My dissertation research investigates the thermal and stress tolerance of corals from extreme reef environments. These stressful reef habitats experience high fluctuations in environmental conditions, and resident corals have been shown to have greater stress resistance than nearby coral populations in more mild or stable reefs. Therefore, I aim to understand the physiological and genetic mechanisms that can contribute to increased tolerance, and under accelerated climate change, examine whether upper tolerance limits are fixed and if these corals could become more susceptible to warming oceans. To address these concerns, I conducted two transplantation studies using a massive coral populations from three backreef lagoons of Ofu Island, American Samoa, with distinct daily environmental variability. During the transplant study, I would return to the island to conduct acute thermal stress experiments of my coral samples and measure the physiological response to bleaching temperatures. Moreover, I am currently working on an RNAsequecing project to characterize any differential gene expression patterns during heat stress and look for loci of environmental selection among the three coral populations.

Hobbies and Interests: Running, Surfing, Yoga, Concerts

A Fun Memory of SICB: SICB 2014 was my first big conference, and I immediately felt slightly overwhelmed in choosing which talks to attend given many parallel sessions. As I runner, a talk titled gait analysis really intrigued me, so I decided to attend that session. I remember I was jumping from room to room in the Hilton that day, and was tardy to the gait analysis talk so naturally, everyone in the room turned to look at me. Trying to make myself small and catch up with the presentation, I soon realized the talk was about horse gait and not human gait, but was stuck in the room until questions. Moral of the story: read the abstracts, not just the titles!

Advice for Fellow Students: Perseverance and passion are crucial for successful graduate research. There will be many days things don’t work, you make mistakes, and you want to give up, but keep reminding yourself why you’re enduring such a challenging endeavour: for the love of science!

Name: Alexus Roberts

Position: Ph.D. Student

Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Davis

Personal Twitter: @Alexuss_Symone

Alexus Roberts

Research Description: I am broadly interested in the evolution of fish feeding mechanics. Specifically, I use comparative anatomy, kinematic analyses, phylogenetic comparative methods, and ecomorphology to understand how mechanical, morphological, and ecological constraints have shaped the evolution of feeding mechanisms. My current research explores how key morphological innovations within the feeding apparatus have affected the evolution and function of oral and pharyngeal jaws in fishes.

Hobbies and Interests: I am super passionate about diversity, inclusion, and equity in STEM which has led to my leadership of and participation in a variety of outreach initiatives on UCD’s campus and in surrounding areas. I love a good show, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

A Fun Memory of SICB: I will never forget my first SICB in Portland, OR (2015) as that was the year that one of my division socials was in a venue with purple spotlights and smoke machines. It was so entertaining to see all of our peers, mentors, and advisors dance the night away and very fun to get to know my colleagues in a casual setting.

Advice for Fellow Students: In those moments when nothing is working, you feel overwhelmed, and frustration is at an all time high, take a moment to remember why you started this journey. Remind yourself that you are in a position which, at one point, is all you prayed and hoped for. Just breathe and keep working hard, it will get better!

Name: Daniel Escobar-Camacho

Position: Researcher

Department: Environmental Engineering — Universidad de las Americas

Personal Website: https://danidoesca.weebly.com/

Daniel Escobar-Camacho

Research Description: I am interested in the proximate and ultimate mechanisms of color vision in fish. I study how this trait evolved and what is the genetic background of the fish visual system and its implications in their behavior. For this I do molecular and behavioral experiments complemented with visual modeling. I have been studying a number of fish since I started college and now I am focusing on cichlids and characins.

Hobbies and Interests: Like any other seasoned field biologist I also enjoy going on hikes and exploring nature wherever I can get myself into. I like to paint and I like going to techno-raves.

A Fun Memory of SICB: It is nice to meet people whose papers you read, but it’s even nicer when you run into somebody that has read your work. One time I was talking to somebody about their poster because guess what? It was about cichlids, and it turns out this person knew me all this time and I was totally unaware of it until they told me so. So it was funny to me.

Advice for Fellow Graduate Students: Go to SICB! Of all the conferences I have ever been it is still my favorite. Talk to people and make new friends, even if they are only for that couple of days. Take a break and go and enjoy the city wherever the conference is, and go to as many SICB social events as possible. Work on your networking, whether it is for collaborating right now or to just hang out at meetings.

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