Spring 2021: Division of Animal Behavior

Best Student Presentation Competition

Zuk Award finalists

Thank you to all of the students who participated in our 2021 Marlene Zuk and Elizabeth Adkins-Regan competitions! With 36 student competitors and 75 judges, much of our division was involved in these competitions. We are proud of this high level of engagement and grateful to all who participated. The Marlene Zuk Best Student Presentation Session was a fantastic focal point for DAB this year, with eight finalists giving excellent oral presentations in a well-attended live session. In addition, many students competed for the Elizabeth Adkins-Regan Award for Best Student Poster throughout this year’s virtual meeting.


Elizabeth George, Marlene Zuk Award

The Marlene Zuk Award for best oral presentation went to Elizabeth George for her talk entitled “Uncovering the bidirectional link between testosterone and aggression in a female songbird.” Elizabeth is a PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Kim Rosvall at Indiana University. Her dissertation focuses on the proximate mechanisms and ultimate outcomes of female aggression in tree swallows, a cavity-nesting songbird species that competes for nest sites. Through her work in the field and lab, she seeks to understand how females respond behaviorally and physiologically to dynamic competitive environments throughout a breeding season, with a particular focus on the role of the steroid hormone testosterone. In the research presented at SICB, Elizabeth showed that aggression and testosterone in female tree swallows were temporally associated, with highest levels early in the breeding season when territories were being established. However, females responding to experimentally increased competition showed intense aggressive behavior but no increase in testosterone.

Joyce Wang, Elizabeth Adkins-Regan Award

The Elizabeth Adkins-Regan Award went to Joyce Wang, for her poster “The neural transcriptomic basis of attaining social dominance status.” Joyce is an undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Biology with a concentration in Computational Biology. She has a strong interest in Bioinformatics and has been working on the transcriptomic analysis of phenotypic plasticity with Dr. Hans Hofmann and Dr. Becca Young. In this study of the highly social cichlid fish, Astatotilapia burtoni, Joyce and coauthors investigated gene expression in brain regions associated with social decision making when subordinate males were allowed to ascend to dominant status. Distinct changes in gene expression were identified in association with the behavioral and physiological changes that accompany this change in social status.

Many congratulations to our winners, kudos to all student presenters, and a big round of applause to all of the judges who stepped up to help evaluate the student talks and posters!


Message From the Chair

Kendra Sewell, Chair.DAB@sicb.org

A huge thank you to all members who presented at, and participated in, our virtual meeting for 2021! This has been a tough year for everyone and the chance to engage with colleagues was a welcome break. The support that the Division of Animal Behavior provides for students is especially impressive and both our student presentation sessions and mentoring program were highlights of our meeting. I want to give a few shout outs to people who made this happen…

Rindy Anderson, organizer of DAB Mentoring Program
  • Our DAB Mentoring Program was organized by Dr. Rindy Anderson and served over 60 people. We are looking forward to an in-person version for 2022 so please think about participating or reaching out to help organize.
  • Our Student Talk and Poster Sessions were supported by viewers and judges who volunteered their time to support early career folks. These sessions are a great opportunity to highlight student work so please encourage students to participate and attend these sessions in future.
  • DAB now has a twitter handle (@SICB_DAB)! Thanks to Brett Hodinka, Matthew LeFauve, and Sarah Manka-Worthington taking on a social media campaign for us. Please follow the work they are highlighting!

This will be my last year as SICB DAB Chair – please vote in this upcoming election and please consider serving our division in the future. This is a great group of people within a society that emphasizes student and early career development, support of diversity, and really cool science. If you see something that can be improved please reach out, step up, and join us!


Message from the Program Officer

Kathleen Lynch, DPO.DAB@sicb.org

Breakout room at the DAB Social, SICB 2021

Thank you to all the presenters, attendees and volunteers that made this year’s virtual SICB meeting a great success. The virtual format paired with a prolonged timeframe was a wonderful way to view talks without too much screen time in a single day. There were so many benefits to this approach that it has sparked a conversation on how to keep those benefits as we move forward. Also, DAB had many submissions for the student presentation competitions this year and all the selected student talks in this session knocked it out of the park.


The symposia that DAB selected for sponsorship in 2022 are listed below.

  • Ecoimmunology: What unconventional organisms tell us after two decades. Organizers: Vania Assis and Stefanny Monteiro
  • Morphology and evolution of female copulatory morphology in Amniotes. Organizers: Patty Brennan and Günter Wagner
  • Evolutionary conservation and diversity in a key vertebrate behavior: “Walking” as a model system. Organizers: Haley Amplo, Alice Gibb and Sandy Kawano
  • Best practices for bioinspired design education, research and product development. Organizers: Marianne Alleyne, Aimy Wissa, Andrew Suarez and William Barley
  • Phenological plasticity: From molecular mechanisms to ecological and evolutionary implications. Organizers: Cory Williams and Lise Aubry

While we received many symposia proposals, we are always looking for more ideas. It is never too soon to contact me with your symposium ideas or if you have any questions about organizing a symposium. DAB would also like to continue co-sponsoring symposia that bridge complementary fields of research and that reflect the integrative qualities of our animal behavior studies. Contact me if you are considering becoming a symposium organizer and I will help you navigate the process and offer ideas to look for financial support. Once again, thanks to all presenters and attendees.

We hope to see you face-to-face at SICB soon!


Message from the Secretary

Allison Welch, Secretary.DAB@sicb.org

First, I’d like to express sincere gratitude to our outgoing DAB Secretary, the amazing Erica Westerman. Erica has done a wonderful job organizing the Zuk and Adkins-Regan Best Student Presentation competitions, enhancing DAB communications, and helping guide our division with her cheerful and sagacious contributions to the DAB executive committee. Erica has also gone above and beyond in working with me to help ensure a smooth transition. Thank you, Erica, for your dedicated service to DAB!

DAB highlights from SICB 2021 – Along with the fantastic lineup of symposia, plenary lectures, and contributed sessions, our meeting highlights included the Best Student Presentation competitions, the DAB members meeting and social, and the second year of our mentoring program. Thank you to everyone who took part in these events. We value your engagement in DAB, and we warmly welcome all DAB members to participate in the future!

Keeping up with DAB – To complement our twice-yearly newsletter, DAB is stepping up our engagement on social media. Our new twitter team, made up of Brett Hodinka, Matthew LeFauve, and Sarah Manka-Worthington, is working hard to boost our social media presence and bring SICB DAB content to your feed. Brett Hodinka is a Ph.D. student at Simon Fraser University studying avian behavior, physiology, and life history. Sarah Manka-Worthington is a Ph.D. student at Indiana State University studying stress physiology, behavior, and signals in lizards. Matt LeFauve is a Ph.D. student at George Washington University studying sensory ecology, behavior, and neural anatomy in an invasive fish. 

DAB Social Media Team: Brett Hodinka, Sarah Manka-Worthington, Matt LeFauve

Follow @SICB_DAB on twitter or join SICB Division of Animal Behavior on Facebook. Please reach out to me at Secretary.DAB@sicb.org if you have an announcement or opportunity to share with our members or if you have questions or suggestions about anything DAB-related.

ABS 2021 – The 2021 Animal Behavior Society annual meeting will be August 3-6 and will be virtual again this year. ABS is DAB’s sibling organization, and this summer’s virtual ABS meeting is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in behavioral research and connect with animal behavior colleagues without the hassle and expense of travel.

Please vote in the upcoming SICB Election – All SICB members, including students, are encouraged to vote in the upcoming SICB election. In addition to candidates for Society-wide positions, you will be able to vote on DAB Chair, and later this summer, on a change to the DAB Bylaws. You can read more below about the DAB Chair candidate below; the SICB-wide newsletter contains candidate biographies for Society-wide positions.


Message from the Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee Representative

Conner Philson, cphilson [at] ucla.edu

Conner Philson

I’m excited to join the DAB team as the new Student/Post-Doctoral Affairs Committee (SPDAC) Representative! A huge shoutout to outgoing representative Dr. Sydney Hope for her service these past three years. Thank you, Sydney!

This year’s virtual SICB was a wild success. One of many SPDAC highlights was each of our division’s representatives hosting an open office hour used to help address comments, questions, and concerns or just as a place to chat.

As we all hope to safely gather in person again soon at SICB 2022 in Phoenix, SPDAC is always looking for new ways to help our community! If you have an idea for SPDAC or DAB, please never hesitate to reach out to me: cphilson (at) ucla.edu. We are always looking for feedback on our continuing programs and for new ideas. Whether you have a specific seminar topic or some jumbled thoughts, we want to hear them!


Candidate for Chair

Avery Russell

Avery Russell

Education: B.S. Cornell University, Entomology and Plant Science (2007); Ph.D. University of Arizona, Insect Science, Neuroscience minor (2016)

Professional Experience: Postdoctoral PEEP Fellow, Ecology and Evolution, University of Pittsburgh (2017-2019); Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Missouri State University (MSU) (2019-present)

SICB Activities: Member since 2014; Invited talk 2021, contributed presentations 2015-2017

Other Memberships: Society for the Study of Evolution; International Commission for Plant-Pollinator Relationships; Animal Behavior Society; Sigma Xi; International Society for Behavioral Ecology; Entomological Society of America; International Congress for Neuroethology

Research Interests: I am a behavioral and evolutionary ecologist interested in how flexibility in foraging behavior shapes the ecology and evolution of plant-animal-microbial interactions. The lab’s work focuses on how plant-pollinator reciprocal exploitation shapes foraging behavior, floral traits, and/or microbial associates.

Goals Statement: The diversity of SICB attendee research and careers has made SICB an extremely welcoming venue for me and my students. As a behavioral ecologist working across evolutionary biology, microbiology, and pollination biology, interdisciplinary research is my passion. I have also greatly appreciated and benefitted from SICB’s commitment to early career researchers. If I am elected DAB Chair, I will work with the other DAB officers, members, and the SICB Broadening Participation Committee, to facilitate opportunities for early career researchers (e.g., symposia and workshops to advance their careers), promote interdisciplinary research, and to interrogate our current practices and continue to build a culture of (and funding for) justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in DAB and SICB. I have substantial experience with DEI initiatives across multiple institutions. For instance, I am a member of the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) diversity committee and at MSU, the Provost Diversity Council, the CNAS Diversity Committee, the Inclusive Admissions Committee, and the Ad Hoc Faculty Handbook Revision Committee (2020-present), and a co-organizer of the ABS Cultural Competency Workshop (2019, 2020) and ABS Inclusive Mentoring Workshop (2021). I also have conference organizing experience and was an organizing committee member and co-chair of the scientific programming committee of the Three Rivers Evolution Event at the University of Pittsburgh, a regional conference serving 168 and 193 attendees from 45 and 35 institutions, giving 109 and 147 presentations in 2017 and 2018, respectively. While I do not have experience in SICB leadership positions, I believe my strong interdisciplinary research background and demonstrated commitment to inclusive practice and justice in mentoring, teaching, and professional service are a solid foundation for service as DAB Chair.