Spring 2021: Division of Neurobiology, Neuroethology, and Sensory Biology

Message from the Chair

James Newcombchair.dnnsb@sicb.org

It is the end of March, which means that the snow is nearly gone, and mud season is kicking into high gear here in the northeastern US. It is also hard to believe that we are less than a month removed from the 2021 SICB meeting, with the extended virtual setting running until the end of February. What a meeting! The SICB Executive Committee deserves much thanks for being able to organize and execute a virtual meeting that, while not the same as an in-person meeting, still managed to run amazingly smoothly and provide an interactive setting for scientific discourse. Participation was up and I appreciated the attendance of many colleagues and students from around the world that may not have been able to join us in Washington, DC.

DNNSB co-sponsored three major symposia this year and we encourage DNNSB members to consider proposing symposia for upcoming SICB meetings. We also had a full slate of contributed talks and posters. Thank you to all of the people who volunteered to chair sessions, judge presentations, and help contribute to making this meeting memorable, indeed.

We had another strong group of speakers for our Best Student Presentation (BSP) talks and posters. Please join me in congratulating our 2021 BSP winners, Whitney Walkowski (Louisiana State University; oral) and Tobias Niebur (Georgia Institute of Technology; poster), and the 2021 BSP Honorable Mentions, Marissa McDonald (University of Hawaii, Manoa; oral) and Gabriela Bosque Ortiz (Yale University; poster).

In this year’s election, we will be voting for DNNSB Secretary, to start after the end of the 2022 annual meeting. Lisa Mangiamele has served in this role for almost a decade and I cannot thank her enough for all of the time and effort that she has contributed during that period. Next year we will be having an election for the DNNSB Program Officer, so please let me know if you are interested in serving in that position.


Message from the Program Officer

Jeff Riffelldpo.dnnsb@sicb.org

The 2021 Virtual Meeting

We had a great virtual meeting this year! Jake Socha, our fantastic SICB-wide Program Officer, played an instrumental role in enabling the virtual meeting.

Also, a big shout-out to Kim Hoke and Nathan Morehouse for their fantastic symposium “Spatiotemporal dynamics of animal communication“, and Karen Muraska and Julie Butler’s symposium on “Sending and Receiving Signals: Endocrine Modulation of Social Communication“.  DNNSB was the major sponsor of both symposia. We also co-sponsored several other excellent symposia, including “Physical Mechanisms of Behavior” hosted by Patrick Green and Alejandro Rico-Guevara, and “Blinded by the Light: Effects of Light Pollution across Diverse Natural Systems,” organized by Meredith Kernbach and colleagues.

A big thank you for virtually attending DNNB’s Best Student Presentations and Posters! Each year our the number of applications increases, and this reflects the growth in our division.  But please remember to encourage your students to apply. The application is easy (just a check-box). And of course, thanks to everyone for participating and sharing your work!

 Symposia for the 2022 Meeting – Phoenix, AZ

DNNSB will co-sponsor several symposia at the 2022 meeting, including “Phenological Plasticity: from Molecular Mechanisms to Ecological and Evolutionary Implications,” and “The deep and shallow history of aquatic life’s passages between marine and freshwater habitats.”  There are several other symposia that we are also co-sponsoring, including SICB-wide symposia “Open source solutions in experimental design,” “DNA metabarcoding across disciplines,” and “Causal mechanisms of interspecific metabolic scaling patterns.” Please keep an eye out for symposium details on the SICB meeting site.

 Submit Proposals for Symposia and Workshops for the 2023 Meeting in Austin, TX

Proposals for symposia for the 2023 meeting in Austin are due August 20th, 2021. If you have an excellent idea for a symposium, I urge you to submit a proposal. Moreover, please contact me, Jim, or Maryam if you want feedback about your ideas. The call for proposals can be found at this site, and the guidelines for the process of developing proposals can be found here

Submitting a proposal is not difficult, although it does require some planning and organization. The breadth of DNNSB continues to grow, and we’d like the symposia to reflect that breadth. Not surprisingly, given our scope, we co-sponsor many symposia. Nonetheless, we would still appreciate having symposia that have DNNSB as a focus. And if there are hot/developing topics that should be a symposium topic, please let us know.

Another mechanism for featuring emerging research areas are Workshops. A Workshop can be scheduled the day before the meeting and provides impetus to bring new people who typically do not attend SICB. If you have an idea for a Workshop, even one for Washington DC, please contact me and Jake Socha (Chair Program Committee).

Looking Forward…We continue to have great discussions on ways to increase DNNSB membership. Please encourage your friends and colleagues about the benefits of being a SICB member and attending the annual meeting. SICB is a fantastic meeting for students and postdocs, and a mechanism to showcase interdisciplinary and forward-looking symposia. 

In addition, I will be leaving the DNNSB’s Program Officer post next year, so if you have any interest in participating in the development of symposia for SICB as a Program Officer, please let Jim Newcomb know. Being the DNNSB PO is a great opportunity. Our division forms a natural bridge between disciplines (behavior, endocrinology, development, biomechanics, ecology, and the list goes on) – as such, DNNSB symposia often gain SICB-wide support. Moreover, our division is growing, so the DNNSB Program Officer provides an opportunity to showcase research in these growing areas. 


Message from the Secretary

Lisa Mangiamelesecretary.dnnsb@sicb.org

Business Meeting Minutes from SICB 2021

Our division’s business meeting minutes are posted on the SICB website shortly after the annual meeting each year. If you missed them, you can find them here

Vote in the SICB Election in May

An important reminder about elections: our division is electing a new Secretary this year, so please see below for more information on the candidates and don’t forget to vote! Look for the link to the ballot at the top of the society-wide newsletter, and the election reminder email from SICB Headquarters in your inbox.

Communicating with Our Division’s Members

I am always working to keep members better informed about news and research going on within the Division. I maintain our Division’s Twitter feed at @SICB_DNNSB. I would especially like to use this platform to advertise the excellent research of our divisional members, so please tweet me at @SICB_DNNSB or email me at secretary.dnnsb@sicb.org if you would like your work highlighted.


Message from the Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee Representative

Maryam KamranKamran.mary@gmail.com, Twitter: @merreyum 

 I hope everyone had a chance to participate in the virtual meeting earlier this year. It was really amazing to see it all come together and have a chance to see the wonderful work everyone has been doing. I wanted to remind our student and postdoc members that SPDAC has many resources that they can utilize. We have guides covering how to improve talks/posters, how to get into graduate school and academia, tips on grant writing and on how to prepare academic applications to name a few. We also hosted a Transferable skills workshop where we invited experts to talk about the skills from graduate school that helped them along the way. These experts were from a range of fields (NGOS, Think tanks, NOAA, National Parks Service/Resource Management,  Fisheries and Wildlife Agencies, Museums, Science Communication and Data Science).

I wanted to emphasize if anyone is interested in getting more involved or taking on this role to please let me know. 


Best Student Presentation Awards

Best Oral Presentation Winner: Whitney Walkowski, Louisiana State University

Whitney Walkowski

Overall my research interests deal with how the physiology of an animal can influence its behavior. In particular, I am interested in how hormones act within the brain and peripheral sensory structures to drive mate choice behavior. The overarching goal of my work is to assess how these mate choice decisions could influence the evolution of species. My dissertation research focuses on the retina of various frog species. One of my focuses is how the retina of diurnal and nocturnal frog species differ on a morphological level. Another project concentrates on hormonal modulation of retinal sensitivity in the green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) using electrophysiological recordings. The final chapter of my dissertation aims to map spectral sensitivity across species to form a hypothesis on the evolution of frogs within the family of Dendrobatidae, poison dart frogs.

Honorable MentionMarissa McDonald (University of Hawaii, Manoa), “Visual physiology of larval stomatopod crustaceans”

Best Poster Presentation Winner: Tobias Niebur, Georgia Institute of Technology  

Honorable Mention: Gabriela Bosque Ortiz (Yale University), “Hypothalamic POMC neural modulation of infant vocalization in Mice” 


Candidates for Secretary

Rachelle Belanger 

Rachelle Belanger

Current Position: Associate Professor and Assistant Chair of Biology, University of Detroit Mercy

Education: B.Sc. University of Windsor (2000), M.Sc. University of Windsor (2002), Ph.D. Bowling Green State University (2007)

Professional Experience: Postdoc, University of Alberta (2007-2009)

SICB Activities: Member since 2006; Regular participant as a student poster/oral presentation judge for Division of Neurobiology, Neuroethology, and Sensory Biology and Division of Animal Behavior

Other Memberships: Council for Undergraduate Research, Michigan Society for Neuroscience, Association of Biology Laboratory Educators, Association of College and University Biology Educators

Research Interests: Research in my lab examines the behavioral, neurological and physiological effects of contaminants on aquatic organisms, including fish and crayfish. 

Goals Statement: I joined SICB as a graduate student in 2006 and have been regularly attending the annual meeting since I became a faculty member at the University of Detroit Mercy. As a graduate student, attending SICB, I always felt welcomed and supported when I gave both poster presentations and talks. Since joining SICB as a faculty member, I have continued to watch the society grow and increase its commitment to equity and inclusion of diverse scientists. As a faculty member, I now attend and bring my undergraduate student researchers to present their work at the conference annually. This conference and division really fosters a sense of inquiry and belonging. I plan to continue to help grow the division and make the division inclusive for both graduate and undergraduate student researchers. Planning more student activities, symposia and planning more seminars and scholar activities for division members are some of my goals as chair. I consider SICB to be my ‘home’ society, and I would be delighted to give back to the society by serving as the chair of the Division of Neurobiology, Neuroethology, and Sensory Biology.


Jessica Fox 

Jessica Fox

Current Position: Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University

Education: B.S. Entomology, Cornell University, 2005; PhD, Neurobiology and Behavior, University of Washington, 2010.

Professional Experience: HHMI postdoctoral associate, UCLA 2011-2013; assistant professor, Case Western Reserve University, 2013-2019. 

SICB Activities: Member since 2007; Affiliations with DNNSB, DAB, and DCB; Served as judge for DNNSB Best Student Presentation in multiple years; Organized symposium in 2018; Served on Carl Gans Award selection committee in 2020; Reviewer for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Other Memberships: Lifetime member of the International Society for Neuroethology

Research Interests: Research in my lab focuses on sensory information processing for locomotion. Using electrophysiology and quantitative analysis of behavior, we study how flies combine mechanosensory and visual information to guide flight and other behaviors. 

Goals Statement: My first scientific conference was the 2007 SICB meeting in Phoenix, where I found a scientific community that was broad-ranging in interests, diverse in backgrounds, and welcoming to students. As a faculty member, I now bring my students to SICB each year, where they have presented research to inquisitive and encouraging colleagues. I intend to help the society maintain its commitment to promoting student research and providing a forum for developing scientists to present their work. I also hope to continue to increase the society’s diversity and ensure that meetings continue to be a place where new scientists can launch their careers.