Spring 2021: Division of Vertebrate Morphology

Message from the Chair

Rick Blob, chair.dvm@sicb.org

I look forward to SICB every year. It means seeing friends and science I care about, renewing connections and building foundations for future discoveries. During a normal year, putting the annual meeting together is a huge undertaking, and everyone who is part of the effort deserves thanks. But so much of 2020 was frightening, chaotic and sad. The work to put our meeting together under these circumstances was really extraordinary. Thoughtful, creative efforts from the Society and Division officers made inclusion and accessibility priorities, helping all of us to be part of the meeting as best as we could. As I move into the role of DVM Chair, I want to first give sincere thanks to the people whose hard work made Virtual SICB 2021 possible, especially our Division officers who just finished their terms: Chair Patricia Hernandez, Program Officer Mason Dean, and Past Chair John Hutchinson. Thanks for your leadership and work for DVM in such a challenging time. And, further thanks to Patricia for continuing to serve as SICB President-Elect.

Eva Herbst

With the virtual meeting, we were able to continue the tradition of a dedicated session for the D. Dwight Davis Best Student Paper presentations. From an excellent group of talks, the winner was Eva Herbst from the University of Zürich, Switzerland, for her presentation “New methods support the possibility of a salamander-like walk in the Permian tetrapod Eryops.” From another excellent group of presentations, the Karel Liem poster award went to Amanda Palecek-McClung from Clemson University, for her presentation “Stuck on you: how pelvic girdle morphology influences adhesion.” Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to all the participants for sharing your research. Thanks also to the intercontinental group of DVM members who helped to judge.

Spring is election season for SICB, and DVM will be voting for a new Chair-Elect and Program Officer-Elect. We have outstanding candidates for both offices: Lara Ferry and Casey Holliday for Chair-Elect, and Shannon Gerry and Alice Gibb for Program Officer-Elect. Please see the profiles for these candidates later in this newsletter, and thank you to all the candidates for your willingness to serve DVM. Thanks also to Katie Staab, David Coughlin, and Andrea Ward for serving as our nominating committee.

Amanda Palecek-McClung

Looking toward SICB 2022 is an exciting prospect. As you’ll see in Nicole Danos’s Program Officer message below, DVM will be supporting several interesting symposia. Proposals are usually due in August, so spring and summer are a great time to be thinking about symposia for the 2023 meeting, scheduled for Austin, Texas. If you have ideas for potential topics, an interest in organizing a symposium, or questions about the process, please reach out to Program Officer Nicole Danos for help with the steps involved.

Even though SICB wasn’t in person this year, the virtual socials were a great way to connect, with a special thanks to Armita Manafzadeh for leading the way with the Wonder platform. Special thanks also to Ty Hedrick, for sustaining the tradition of regional SICB meetings and organizing a Virtual Southeast Regional DVM-DCB meeting “at” UNC this past fall, which was a big success. Regional meetings are a wonderful way to build nearby connections and get feedback on ideas ahead of the national meeting, especially for students. DVM has some divisional funds that can help support regional meetings – consider hosting one in your area! 

It’s hard to forecast how a lot of things will work this upcoming year, but we’re always happy to hear your ideas about symposia, socials, regional meetings, or any other SICB or DVM topic. Please contact me at rblob@clemson.edu, or any of the DVM officers with thoughts and suggestions. We’re here to help. 

Before closing this message, I’d like to refer DVM members to the heartfelt tribute to Steve Wainwright, compiled by Mark Westneat and John Long and posted here. Steve’s research, creativity, and generosity touched many of us, and continue to be an inspiration.

Stay safe, and thanks for being part of the DVM community!


Message from the Program Officer

Nicole Danos, dpo.dvm@sicb.org

Congratulations to DVM for not only surviving but shining at our first ever virtual SICB meeting! Although the overall number of posters and oral presentations was slightly lower than SICB 2020, DVM and DCB together again represented about 20% of all presentations at SICB 2021. Our Division supported 8 symposia with diverse topics- a big thank you to all organizers and participants! We are especially grateful that the virtual format of SICB 2021 enabled our Division to reach over 120 high school students and their teachers- special thanks to the organizers of the symposium “An evolutionary tail: evodevo, structure and function of post-anal appendages” Janeke Schwaner, Tonia Hsieh and Craig McGowan  for making the most of a difficult year and sharing the wonders of Vertebrate Morphology! If you have a story of how the virtual format enabled you to do something different but exciting during SICB 2021, we’d love to hear it! 

For SICB 2022, DVM is sponsoring 7 out of 11 symposia. Here is the list of topics and organizers: 

  1. Lesser known transitions: organismal form and function across abiotic gradients (Charlotte Easterling, Mary Kate O’Donnell, Matthew Kolmann)
  2. Open source solutions in experimental design (Kirk Onthank, Richelle Tanner)
  3. Causal mechanisms of interspecific metabolic scaling patterns (Jon Harrison, Meghan Duell)
  4. Morphology and evolution of female copulatory morphology in Amniotes (Patty Brennan, Günther Wagner)
  5. Evolutionary conservation and diversity in a key vertebrate behavior: “walking” as a model system (Haley Amplo, Alice Gibb, Sandy Kawano)
  6. Best practices for bioinspired design education, research and product development (Marianne Alleyne, Aimy Wissa, Andrew Suarez, William Barley)
  7. Reciprocal illumination between ecology and biomechanics: evolution, integration, and constraint (Lara Ferry, Tim Higham)

Applications for SICB 2023 (Austin) symposia will be due at the end of August. Please email me (PO email?) if you have any ideas. Here is a list of past symposia; notice how successful symposium proposals often are integrative in their topics.

Lastly, an update on the Core Concepts of Vertebrate Morphology. As the global pandemic required instructors of Vertebrate Morphology to rethink how to effectively teach their classes online, Lisa Whitenack, Katie Staab and I informally shared a draft of the concepts in August 2020. These concepts were the result of an iterative process soliciting input from the DVM membership. A request for one last round of comments will be coming soon, so please keep a lookout in your inbox and share with us your thoughts.

And a second last thing: DVM is on Facebook and Twitter (#SICB_DCB_DVM). Please post to share your queries and successes!   


Message from the Secretary

Angela Horner, Secretary.DVM@sicb.org

Happy 2021 to all. Despite the circumstances, this year’s SICB was quite a success!

As a reminder for elections, you can vote even if you are not currently up-to-date with dues, so please take the time to review the candidate bios below and watch for announcements from SICB regarding elections.

Candidates for Chair-Elect

 Lara Ferry 

Lara Ferry

Current Position: President’s Professor and Associate Dean of Research and Strategic Initiatives, Arizona State University

Education: PhD UC Irvine

Professional Experience: Highlights of some related professional experiences outside of SICB activities include current service as executive editor of the journal Functional Ecology, and on the governing boards of ASU’s Faculty Women’s Association and the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (local meeting host for 2021 Joint Meetings), past President of the American Elasmobranch Society, past service on equity and inclusion committees for ASIH and AES, BSP judge (many times), current and past service on several awards committees.

SICB Activities: SICB Activities include current membership on the SICB Development Committee (assuming role of Chair this coming year), and past service as ICB Editorial Board member, DVM Secretary, current and past BSP judge (many times), current and Symposium Organizer (2022, and several times in the past)

Other Memberships: British Ecological Society, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, American Elasmobranch Society

Research Interests: can be summed up as the study of functional traits associated with the evolution of jaws and aquatic prey acquisition in fishes; details ad nauseum can be found at my website:  morphology.asu.edu

Statement of Goals: My primary goals in serving as DVM Chair are two-fold:  1) I want to encourage and support through allyship a diverse membership in our division and in our society, and ensure equity and inclusion are the highest priority in all that we do.  While SICB is already doing well in some areas of DEI compared with other societies, there are still hidden barriers that need to be eliminated, particularly with regard to access; 2) I hope to foster a stronger sense of inclusion and ways to engage with our membership more fully in these challenging times.  DVM has always created a sense of welcome that I have enjoyed since being a student member (so many years ago I don’t want to put the number here). COVID has made the world a different place, providing good outcomes as well as bad, and both of which we need to learn from.  There will be no going back to a pre-COVID world.  We can move forward, however, combining the best of the past with the new, and important, lessons/skills/positive values we have learned.  DVM can be a source of comfort and camaraderie for those feeling isolated by the pandemic, providing emotional support, connectivity, and hope in a challenging world.  Many ask, “what is the real advantage of joining a professional society and paying dues each year?”  The exchange of scientific information is only the very beginning.  This, I answer, is the real purpose: Having a group of people who understand what you do, and why you do it, for its inherent and intrinsic value, provides you with the affirmation that you need to keep going on this path, even when day-to-day life seems to place insurmountable challenges in that path.


Casey Holliday 

Casey Holliday

Current Position: Associate Professor of Anatomy, Integrative Anatomy Program, Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, University of Missouri

Education: BS, 2007, Zoology, University of Florida; PhD, 2006, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Ohio University

Professional Experience: 2015-present: Associate Professor with Tenure, Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, University of Missouri School of Medicine; 2009-2015: Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, University of Missouri School of Medicine; 2007-2009: Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy and Pathology, JCESOM, Marshall University; 2005-2007: Postdoctoral Researcher/Instructor of Anatomical Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dept. of Biomedical Sciences, Ohio University.

SICB Activities: 2017-present: SICB Meetings buddy program mentor; 2013-2016 Secretary: Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB): Division of Vertebrate Morphology (DVM); 2000-present: Member.

Other Memberships: Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, American Association for Anatomists, AAAS, ISVM

Research Interests: Cranial biomechanics, paleobiology, reptiles and other vertebrates, skeletal tissue biology, feeding, joints

Statement of Goals: You all in DVM should be commended for the way you pulled together to tackle the pandemic so far. Shared course content, guest lectures, rote enthusiasm, and as I write this, a still ongoing virtual conference… These are all the result of a strong, generous, dependable and boisterous community. As DVM Chair I would be proud to work with you to maintain this inertia you’ve generated doing excellent research, increasing exposure, broadening participation and sharing our science.  I look forward to continuing to develop successful and inclusive programming throughout the year such as small, topical meetings, online presentations, workshops and even casual activities. As educators and colleagues, you’ve proven we can consolidate and share materials regardless of time and space and I hope to help promote and organize this evolving project. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing you all in person again immensely.

Candidates for Program Officer-Elect

Shannon Gerry 

Shannon Gerry

Current Position: Associate Professor of Biology, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT

Education: Ph.D., 2008 Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island; B.S., 2001 Biology, Bucknell University

Professional Experience: 2016- present, Associate Professor, Fairfield University; 2011-2016, Assistant Professor, Fairfield University; 2009-2011, NSF Postdoctoral Researcher, Wellesley College; 2008-2009, Visiting Assistant Professor, Arcadia University

SICB Activities: Active member since 2005, including DVM and DCB. DVM Best Student Paper Judge 2019; DCB Best Student Paper Judge 2011, 2012; Co-organized “Electromyography: Interpretation and Limitations in Functional Analyses of Musculoskeletal Systems” in 2008; Northeast regional DVM meetings including co-organizer at URI in 2007.

Other Memberships: International Society of Vertebrate Morphologists, co-organized “Interdisciplinary and Novel Approaches to Vertebrate Locomotion” for ICVM in 2013; Society for Experimental Biology.

Research interests: Functional morphology, muscle performance and ecology of feeding and locomotion in vertebrates, particularly fishes.

Goals Statement: I am honored to be nominated for the position of DVM Program Officer. My goals include continuing the successful work of recent Program Officers by organizing both classic and innovative sessions. I will promote the research of all of our student members, especially those who are competing for the Best Student Presentation and Poster Awards. I will encourage members of DVM to develop symposia with members from other divisions that highlight the integrative, diverse and cutting-edge nature of our Division and our Society.


Alice C. Gibb 

Alice Gibb

Current Position: Professor and Chair of Biology, Northern Arizona University

Education: B.A. Biology, Mount Holyoke College; Ph.D. Biology, University of California, Irvine

Professional Experience: Post-doctoral Researcher, California State University, Fullerton, 1997-1999; Assistant/Associate/Full Professor at Northern Arizona University, 1999-present; Chair of Biology at Northern Arizona University, 2019-present

SICB Activities: Member since 1990; Chair of Division of Vertebrate Morphology, 2014-2016; Society-Wide Secretary, 2018-2021

Other Memberships: Sigma Xi

Research Interests: Functional Morphology, Organism Environment Interactions, Comparative Physiology, Science Education

Statement of Goals: SICB is a large and vibrant society, but we face ongoing questions related to our annual meeting program. How do we integrate virtual and face-to-face activities in the post COVID-19 pandemic world? What is the role of non-academic research in our annual meeting? What resources should we allocate to science education during the meeting? How can we continue to promote visibility and success in early career SICB members, particularly SICB members from minoritized and under-represented populations? Although there are no easy answers to these questions, I aim to help SICB adopt positions and policies that maximize access to, and participation in, professional activities for early career scientists from diverse backgrounds. As Secretary, I was pleased to be able to move our newsletters away from static PDF files to the more dynamic and accessible HTML format. As DVM program officer, I would seek to help SICB leadership cultivate and develop new online venues for sharing scientific presentations and other professional materials. Increased online activities will promote scientific outreach and access to SICB’s activities by people across the globe. I also support SICB’s ongoing efforts to improve institutional transparency, develop formal practices that promote equity, and new efforts to remove systemic barriers to success in science. SICB has been my main society and DVM my home division since 1990; although I have served in a variety of roles, I think my skillset is particularly well matched to meet the demands of Divisional Program Officer. If elected, I would look forward to serving you to the best of my ability during the (undoubtedly) challenging times still ahead of us.