Spring 2021: Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology

Message from the Chair

Deirdre Lyons, Chair.DEDB@sicb.org

Dede Lyons. Confocal image of a juvenile nudibranch (Berghia stephanieae) labeled with acetylated alpha tubulin (peripheral magenta), phalloidin (yellow), and DAPI for nematocysts (cyan). Strong dinoflagellate autofluorescence (magenta) highlights the gut.

This year’s Virtual SICB meeting pushed the boundaries of how we attend conferences. After almost 2 months of programming, it seems part of my weekly routine to view a talk or poster, zoom with students, or catch up with colleagues at a SICB event. The Executive Committee really knocked themselves out to make this meeting as interactive and creative as possible, and they deserve many thanks, emoji high fives, etc. 

The DEDB Best Student Presentation sessions were particularly strong this year. Big congratulations to Guilherme Gainett (University of Wisconsin-Madison) for winning Best Student talk, and Leah DeLorenzo (Clemson University) for winning Best Student poster. Please remind your students to submit their abstracts under this category for the 2022 meeting in Phoenix.  And faculty, please donate your time to judge (thank you to those who judged this year!). I’d like to thank our new Student/Postdoc Representative Ryan Hulett (Harvard University) for organizing the Evo-Devo Meet-ups, virtually this time of course. These have been well-attended each year and are important for networking and community building in our field.  Next year, in addition to this networking/mentoring opportunity, I encourage DEDB faculty, postdocs and students to participate in the SICB Broadening Participation Mentor -Mentee Matching Program. Faculty can sign up to be both mentors and mentees. Of the >110 participants this year, only 3 were DEDB members. Let’s increase that number next year.

It’s time to start planning for the upcoming meetings. The annual meeting in 2022 will be in Phoenix, in-person (yay!). You can still organize a workshop for that meeting. These are great ways to get a group of people together to discuss a topic, or honor a retiring colleague, or disseminate information from a collaborative grant, it’s very flexible! One workshop idea already put forward is one to discuss starting a Junior Faculty training program, inspired by the “bootcamp” organized by the Society for Developmental Biology, geared towards the needs of the SICB community. If you would be interested in contributing to this workshop please contact Leslie Babonis (who proposed this great idea) or Billie Swalla (who jumped into to help organize). Thank you Leslie and Billie!  The deadline for submitting workshop proposals for the Phoenix meeting (2022) is in August 2021. Contact your divisional Program Officer Matt Rockman for more information.

It is also time to develop your ideas for innovative symposia for the 2023 meeting, in Austin (seems like we were just there!). As you all know, great symposia are the heart of this meeting, and creative exciting themes get faculty and trainees who are not SICB regulars to attend meetings. The key to making symposium-organizing fun and painless is to start early! Email me and/or our DEDB Program Officer Matt Rockman with your ideas this spring and we will help you build a strong proposal. Symposia are a great mechanism for bringing diverse colleagues together to integrate across disciplines or levels of biological organization; they are also important opportunities for postdoc and student-organizers to build their professional network. The deadline for submitting symposia proposals for the Austin meeting (2023) is in August 2021. 

In closing, I’d like to thank everyone who stepped up to participate in SICB this year, it was a really fun conference, even if done remotely. I’d like to thank Prashant Sharma, our outgoing Secretary for his great work, ideas, and help during his tenure. Leslie Babonis is taking over the position of DEDB secretary, welcome Leslie! If you are interested in running for office, please let me or the other officers know; we are always thrilled to have volunteers on the list when elections come around. There are many ways to support the DEDB division, and we need your creativity, wisdom, and perspective!

Happy year everyone, and see you in Phoenix!


Message from the Program Officer

Matt Rockman, DPO.DEDB@sicb.org 

Matt Rockman. Time-lapse microscopy of C. elegans embryos from recombinant inbred lines shows that genetic variation influences the dynamics of spindle movements during the first cleavage. This variation helps test biophysical models for spindle behavior (Farhadifar et al., eLife 9, e55877, 2020).

SICB 2021, experienced online via “The Platform,” tested the limits of how much integrative and comparative biology we can handle — no more concurrent sessions, no more lunch ran long, no more too late at the pub last night, to keep us from learning the latest and greatest. And now, a few weeks later, the whole meeting is 404 not found, a warm memory, tears in the rain.

We can now look forward to Phoenix 2022, where the in-person SICB meeting will rise like … is there something that’s like a phoenix but not so literally? DEDB is delighted to sponsor several symposia for the Phoenix meeting. These include “The deep and shallow history of aquatic life’s passages between marine and freshwater habitats,” “Lesser known transitions: organismal form and function across abiotic gradients,” “Open source solutions in experimental design,” “Causal mechanisms of interspecific metabolic scaling patterns,” “Morphology and evolution of female copulatory morphology in Amniotes,” and “Phenological Plasticity: from Molecular Mechanisms to Ecological and Evolutionary Implications.”

But where, you ask, is the evolutionary developmental biology? Well, there’s some in there, but there could be more. That’s where you come in: let’s put together some DEDB-themed symposia for the Austin 2023 meeting. If you have an idea that you’d like to turn into a science party with all your research friends, or if you’d like to make some new friends whose work you’re excited about, let me know. We can work together to craft a proposal that will win over the SICB program committee. The proposals are due in August, but the time to start planning and lining up speakers is now.

In the meantime, the Phoenix meeting, less than a year from now, provides opportunities to host workshops. As Dede describes above, these are terrifically flexible in content and format. Use a workshop to teach people a method, or to trick people you want to work with into meeting you in Arizona. The deadline for workshop proposals is August— don’t be a stranger.

Finally, both workshops and symposia are great venues for early-career scientists to gain experience and exposure. If you’re a PhD student or a postdoc, you can have your name in lights, and in the ICB journal. Let’s make it happen.


Message from the Secretary

Leslie Babonis, Secretary.DEDB@sicb.org

Leslie Babonis. To be or not to be (a stem cell). Notch signaling influences the choice to maintain proliferative state (red) or differentiate into a stinging cell (yellow) in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis.

Ahoy DEDB! I am happy to come aboard as the new divisional secretary. My first act in this role is to extend my most sincere thanks to Prashant Sharma for his outstanding service as the outgoing secretary. His dedication over the past two years have made this transition easy and I am honored to follow in his footsteps. I am also forever indebted to the two volunteers who stepped up to run for secretary-elect this year: Allison Edgar and Jason Macrander (see their bios below). Elections will take place in the coming month so please keep an eye out for the ballot and make sure to vote. As you all know, divisional activities live and die by the efforts of our dedicated volunteers. Cheers to Allison, Jason, and all of our esteemed DEDB officers (past, present, and future) for their generosity and support in keeping our division on an even keel.  

We are just weeks into 2021 and I am already looking forward to the 2022 meeting in Phoenix. The promise of engaging science paired with the joy of real, live human interactions (gasp!) is almost too much to bear – can’t wait to see you all there! Don’t forget to pencil in some time to attend our annual Member Meeting in 2022 – this is our opportunity to brainstorm about how to best utilize our division. Personally, I am excited to discuss how we can strengthen SICB’s ability to serve as the international home of EvoDevo and how we can better serve our increasingly diverse membership. Other topics of conversation are most welcome so remember to pack your thinking cap! If you happened to miss the 2021 DEDB member meeting and want to catch up on who/what/where we are, you can check out the minutes online, posted here. 

New for 2021: The year 2020 challenged us all to reckon with some harsh realities about the history of STEM and the role that each of us plays in the ongoing disparities faced by women, people of color, and other underrepresented/minoritized groups in the sciences. In an effort to increase visibility for those who may otherwise struggle to find their opportunity to shine, we would like to announce a new segment that will appear in each of our divisional newsletters. In the spring, we will honor the memory of a “Forgotten Hero of EvoDevo” as a reminder of the many people who paved the way for the rest of us to achieve greatness. In the fall, we celebrate the future promise of EvoDevo up-and-comers in the “EvoDevo Diversity Spotlight.” Anyone wishing to contribute suggestions for candidates to be highlighted in either segment should email the divisional secretary (secretary.DEDB@sicb.org).


Message from the Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee Representative

Ryan Hulett, rhulett@g.harvard.edu 

Ryan Hulett. The frontal organ (magenta) of the acoel Hofstenia miamia; nuclei in blue.

Hello DEDB folks!

Thank you to everyone who attended and presented at SICB 2021. There is/was so much fascinating work done by such inspirational scientists. The poster sessions and recorded talks allowed me to peruse so many wonderful scientific stories. 

The virtual Evo-Devo meet-ups was another popular event this year because of the wonderful hosts and trainees that signed up. A very special and heartfelt thank you to our hosts for supporting this program and to our students for signing up with such enthusiasm (even when I sent a locked version of the sign-up sheet). Look out for an email from me in the fall regarding the 2022 event, as well as opportunities to support your meeting and travel costs. As always, I would love your feedback on your experiences this year and input on how we can improve these initiatives in the future. We hope to see you all next year! 

The SPDAC (Student and Postdoctoral Affairs Committee) held a virtual Exhibitor’s booth this year where SPDAC members across divisions held office hours to answer any questions, scientific or conference related. We also developed brochures covering a variety of topics including exploring non-academic careers, tips for first-generation students, and how to design conference talks/posters to name a few. If you have ideas for topics you would like to see incorporated at the SPDAC booth or suggestions for a workshop, please feel free to get in touch. 

If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or would like to get more involved in DEDB- please contact me. Have a healthy spring + summer and I hope you plan to attend SICB next year!


Forgotten Heroes of EvoDevo


Ethel Browne Harvey. Embryo Project Encyclopedia  ISSN: 1940-5030 embryo.asu.edu/handle/10776/3144.

Spring has sprung and we are now in the thick of women’s history month. As tribute to one of the inspiring women in EvoDevo, our division would like to explicitly recognize Ethel Browne Harvey (1885-1965) as the 2021 Forgotten Hero of EvoDevo. Through a series of careful tissue-grafting experiments in Hydra, Ethel Browne (then a graduate student) discovered the capacity of a small population of cells to determine the fate of their neighbors. That’s right: she discovered the organizer. This discovery was so transformational to the field of evolution that it elicited a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1935, but that prize was not awarded to her. Hans Spemann (1869-1941) received that prize for his (re)discovery of the organizing capacity of the blastopore lip in amphibians. These experiments, largely performed by Spemann’s graduate student, Hilde Mangold (1898-1924), are truly beautiful and their contribution to our field, indisputable. Spemann and Mangold stood on the shoulders of someone who should have been a giant to achieve greatness and so today we honor you, Ethel Browne Harvey, and your forgotten contribution to our field. Further kudos to Howard M. Lenhoff (1929-2011) for his engaging narrative of this story, which you can read in this article.


Candidates for Secretary-Elect

Allison Edgar 

Allison Edgar

Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, University of Florida, Saint Augustine, FL 

Education: Ph.D. Biology, Duke University (2019); B.A. Biology, Reed College (2008)

SICB activities: joined 2016; 2020 Evo-Devo virtual meetups

Other memberships: Society for Developmental Biology

Research interests: I have worked on a number of different evolution and development questions with diverse invertebrates. A wonderful research experience documenting variation in very early development among spiders cemented my identity as an evolutionary developmental biologist as an undergraduate. My graduate work focused on changes to the gene regulatory network in the embryos of a sea urchin that has undergone a dramatic evolutionary change in life history. I began my postdoc hoping to look at ctenophore embryonic development but started a side project about when and how these animals become reproductively mature. This project led me to consider parental nutrition and provisioning more deeply than I have before, which will allow me new access to questions about early embryogenesis, bringing the project full-circle. 

Goals statement: SICB is a beloved conference for many because it is a unique opportunity to engage with researchers at different career stages and who work on topics far outside our own areas of expertise. Evolutionary Developmental Biology could not have a better home. I love the expansive and deeply interdisciplinary nature of Evolutionary Developmental Biology and so I am committed to bringing together scientists from all points on the evo-devo map. In graduate school I co-organized a weekly Evo-Devo seminar for several years; something I learned in that position is how many people doing work that is clearly at the intersection of evolution and development do not realize that they are Evolutionary Developmental Biologists! If elected, I will work to increase the number of SICB members who recognize that their research interests already intersect with DEDB so that this wonderfully interdisciplinary field can continue to grow and flourish. I was able to participate as a mentor for the first time this year in the Evo-Devo virtual meet-up program and it was a deeply gratifying experience. Whether we are able to gather in person next year or once again gather only virtually, I will support and expand these opportunities for connection. As we all work to recover our pace and equilibrium in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I think it is especially important that we support trainees, including recent trainees who might have lost that status. I would advocate that funding, mentorship, and other opportunities to participate be extended to members who held that status prior to the pandemic and are seeking to resume their training. Finally, I will ensure timely publication of regular updates on the division’s activities and achievements through the newsletter.


Jason Macrander 

Jason Macrander (center)

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Marine Biology, Florida Southern College, Lakeland, FL.

Education: Ph.D., Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University (2016); M.S. , Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Nebraska – Lincoln (2010); B.S., Biological Sciences and Fisheries and Wildlife, University of Nebraska – Lincoln (2007)

Professional Experience: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of North Carolina, Charlotte (2016 – 2018), Adviser: Dr. Adam Reitzel

SICB activities: Member of SICB for approx. 10 years. Social Media Team Leader for the Integrative and Comparative Biology Journal. Other division memberships: DEE Ecology and Evolution, DIZ Invertebrate Zoology, DPCB Phylogenetics and Comparative Biology (Formerly: DSEB)

Other Memberships/Associations: Aiptasia Symbiosis Resource, Initiative for Venom Associated Microbes and Parasites (iVAMP)

Research Interest: I am an evolutionary biologist using comparative ‘omics approaches in sea anemones and other venomous animals to address questions concerning evolution, symbiosis, and protein function. Students in my lab are able to study venom, a functionally important (but poorly studied) phenotype and ask questions that are focused on different developmental stages, relative locations of genes within the genome, or organisms’ interactions with one another and/or their environment.

Goal Statement: Every year I look forward to attending SICB meetings. Everything we do in research is interdisciplinary and I feel that SICB is a venue that permits celebrating our collaborative approach to science in a supportive and meaningful way. Shortly after starting at Florida Southern College I was able to bring undergraduate research students from my lab to present their research in Austin during our 2020 meeting. They shared my enthusiasm for the society and joy of interacting with other members of our interdisciplinary scientific community. I am incredibly thankful to the society for providing such a positive and supportive venue to support everyone from tenured R1 faculty to undergraduate student researchers at small institutions and I want to give back. As team leader for the ICB Social Media team I have worked collaboratively with many SICB members about research published in ICB. As Secretary of DEDB I would like to further bridge that connection and celebrate members accomplishments and achievements to ensure DEDB and its members are recognized. As a member of several SICB divisions as I’ve benefited from interactions with other divisions and would build an online network to complement social media, SICB resources, and other divisions to bridge memberships and communication to establish collaborative approaches. Finally, as Secretary I would provide a voice for the primarily undergraduate institutions helping bridge our diverse interdisciplinary community. Regardless of election outcomes, I’m looking forward to future SICB meetings and I truly enjoy being part of such a wonderful group of scientists.