Spring 2022: Division of Ecoimmunology and Disease Ecology

Message from the DEDE officers

This year taught us that even our best laid plans need to be flexible. We appreciate everyone who participated in person in Phoenix and in the virtual space on SICB+. Combined on these platforms, DEDE hosted 38 talks across 5 sessions and 28 posters across 3 sessions. We continued our annual tradition of hosting an oral presentation session dedicated to the DEDE Best Student Oral Presentation Competition. We had 10 amazing finalists. In addition, 13 students competed in the DEDE Best Student Poster. A special thanks to those who volunteered to judge student presentations; your participation and enthusiasm for judging our students makes this a seamless process and we couldn’t do it without you!

Oluwaseun Ajayi
Oluwaseun Ajayi

The winner of the DEDE Best Student Oral Presentation was:

Oluwaseun Ajayi, at University of Cincinnati, with the presentation entitled “Investigation of sleep-like condition and the influence of sleep deprivation on blood feeding and host landing in mosquitoes.”

The winner of the DEDE Best Student Poster was:

Abigail Wukitch, at Bucknell University, with the presentation entitled “Chronic infection improves tolerance and resistance in Drosophila melanogaster.

Abby Wukitch
Abby Wukitch

In addition to the Best Student Presentation competitions, we held our first competition for the Robert Lochmiller Young Investigator Award. Named in honor of this seminal figure in ecoimmunology, this award recognizes distinguished contributions to the fields of ecological immunology and disease ecology. The depth and breadth of the nominees’ contributions were outstanding, highlighting an extraordinarily bright future for our fields. Moreover, this pool of impressive candidates, consisting entirely of women and members of other underrepresented groups, showcases DEDE’s commitment to promoting environments in which scientists from all backgrounds can excel. We are pleased to announce that because of the extremely tight competition, this year we awarded two Lochmiller awards. Drs. Sarah Knutie (UConn; https://www.knutielab.com/) and Patricia C. Lopes (Chapman University; http://www.patriciaclopes.com/) will each receive this prize in its inaugural year. On behalf of the division, many congratulations to Drs. Knutie and Lopes and thank you to our highly talented pool of applicants.

Sarah Knutie
Sarah Knutie
Patricia Lopes
Patricia Lopes

In Phoenix, DEDE co-sponsored 3 symposia: 1) Ecoimmunology: what unconventional organisms tell us after two decades. Organizers: Vania Assis and Stefanny Monteiro; 2) Open source solutions in experimental design. Organizers: Kirk Onthank and Richelle Tanner; 3) DNA metabarcoding across disciplines: sequencing our way to greater understanding across scales of biological organization. Organizers: Anna Forsman, Michelle Gaither and Anna Savage. Keep an eye out for all the amazing papers associated with the presented talks will come out in Integrative and Comparative Biology this year. 

Once again this year, we had a great turnout for our “Meet an Ecoimmunologist/Disease Ecologist” event with both in person and virtual meetups between student/post-docs and faculty working in Ecoimmunology and Disease Ecology. Thank you to all the student/post-doc mentees and our eleven mentors that participated this year!

The SICB Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee (SPDAC) sponsored an in-person workshop on “Science Communication Skills.” Ten experts on different kinds of science communication including Twitter, personal websites, podcasts, and TikTok led discussion groups with participants about best practices and strategies to promote your research on social media. SPDAC also sponsored a “get-to-know-them” networking booth with postdoc- and faculty-level SICB members. 

As we look forward to SICB 2023 in Austin, Texas, it is shaping up to be another outstanding meeting. We are excited to announce that DEDE will be co-sponsoring a symposium on Marine Larval Evolution. We will also be co-sponsoring three society-wide symposia: 1) Sex Diversity and Variation, 2) Micro-scale Life, and 3) Inclusive & Safe Field Biology. 

To ensure that DEDE continues to grow and thrive, it is important that DEDE members continue to host ecoimmune/disease-related symposia. We are now soliciting proposals for symposia for the 2024 meeting in Seattle. Symposia are eligible for NSF funding, and symposia that have complementary sessions/associated workshops and invited speakers from diverse institutions across a range of career stages are most likely to receive NSF funding. If you have an idea, email our Program Officer at dpo.dede@sicb.org or the SICB program officer (Thomas Sanger) at programofficer@sicb.org for more details or information. We also have sample NSF proposals that we can share. We highly encourage senior graduate students and post-docs to submit proposals, as a symposium is an excellent way to network with researchers in your field, to highlight a research area you think is exciting, and to help shape future programming at SICB. 

Thank you for your ongoing participation and support of DEDE events, and thanks again to all who volunteered to judge student presentations. We sincerely hope to see you all in person in Austin next January!

We want to make DEDE and SICB continuously more inclusive. Please follow DEDE on Twitter (@SICB_DEDE), so you can learn about opportunities associated with the division and with the society. Also, if you have DEDE related papers, grants, post-doc or student opportunities, and other news, remember to tag us in your posts! We used Twitter again this year to call for candidates to stand for DEDE positions. You can also contact the Secretary directly (secretary.dede@sicb.org) to find out what opportunities are coming up within DEDE and different ways in which you can become involved with the division. We would like to thank all candidates for this year’s elections. Please exercise your right to vote: all SICB members are eligible regardless of career stage.

Candidates for Chair-Elect

Greg Demas

Greg Demas
Greg Demas

Current Position: Professor, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior Program, Department of Biology, Indiana University.

Education: B.A., Psychology, Millersville University (1991); M.S., Experimental Psychology, Villanova University (1993); Ph.D., Biopsychology, Johns Hopkins University (1998).  Post-doc, Biology, Georgia State University (1998-2001);

Professional Experience: Professor, Biology (2001- ); Department Chair (2017-2021; Associate Editor, American Naturalist, Journal of Experimental Zoology A, International Journal of Zoology; Editorial Board, Hormones and Behavior; Secretary, Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology (2011-13); Co-author of ~160 peer-reviewed journal articles within the field of comparative physiology. Co-editor, special issue on “Immune-Neuroendocrine Interactions: Implications for Integrative and Comparative Biologists” in Hormones and Behavior (2016). Co-author, Ecoimmunology (OUP, 2011).

SICB Activities: Member (2001-present); Judge (DAB, DCE, DEDE), DAB Chair candidate (2016); DEDE Program Officer (2017-19); Co-organizer of symposia, Bridging the Gap between Ecoimmunology and Disease Ecology (2011) and Mechanisms and Methods in Ecological Immunology (2014); DEDE symposium speaker (2011,2014, 2016).

Other Memberships: Animal Behavior Society; Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology

Research Interests: The primary goal of my laboratory’s research is to apply an integrative approach to understanding the interactions among the nervous, endocrine and immune systems and behavior within ecologically relevant environmental contexts. Ongoing research in my laboratory focuses on investigating seasonal changes aggression and sickness and gut microbiome influences on social behavior from both ultimate and proximate perspectives.  

Statement of Goals:  I have participated in SICB for the past 20 years and have always appreciated the meeting’s focus on physiology and behavior from a broadly integrative perspective that includes ecological and evolutionary approaches.  A key strength of DEDE is its integration of ideas across disciplines, experimental approaches and animal models while focusing on the “common themes” of ecology, physiology, immunology, parasitology, epidemiology. SICB has traditionally been a vibrant home for comparative endocrinology research; as a DEDE officer I will work with the divisional leadership to encourage the development of innovative and creative divisional and society-wide symposia that continue to connect across newly emerging fields of biological inquiry. Another important goal is to attract and recruit a new and diverse membership to the division. Students are the cornerstone of every SICB division, and DEDE is no exception; I will work hard to ensure the growth and success of the society by not only sustaining our current membership, but also exploring creative ways to recruit young researchers to our division.  I will work hard to ensure that DEDE remains the intellectual home for ecoimmunology and disease ecology.


Lauren E. Fuess

Lauren Fuess
Lauren Fuess

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Texas State University

Education: B.S. College of Charleston (2012), PhD University of Texas at Arlington (2018)

Professional Experience: Assistant Professor, Texas State University (2020-present); Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Connecticut (2018-2020) 

SICB Activities: Member of DEDE & DEE (2016-present); DEDE Best Student Presentation Judge (2020-2022); DIZ Best Student Presentation Judge (2020); Lunch with an Ecoimmunologist (2021); Broadening Participation Mentor (2021-2022)

Other Memberships: International Coral Reef Society

Research Interests: Research in my laboratory group focuses on understanding interplay between symbiotic relationships (spanning mutualism to parasitism) and host immunity. We work in a diversity of systems to understand how interactions between organisms shape host immune responses and the evolution of immune systems. Our work combines techniques in immunology, ecology, molecular biology, and bioinformatics. We use an integrative approach to understand both the causes and consequences of variability in host immunity and host-symbiont interactions. Current projects fall into two main categories: 1) investigating how variation in multi-partner cnidarian symbioses shapes immunity and disease response and 2) exploring the processes which shape evolution of immune systems (largely using fish as a model).

Statement of Goals: I would be honored to serve as chair of SICB DEDE. SICB broadly has been my primary scientific society since 2012, when I first attended as an undergraduate (my first scientific conference). I have been an active member of the society since that time, joining DEDE in 2016, during my graduate career. I see DEDE as an important conduit for bringing together a growing and diverse group of scientists interested in understanding immune and disease processes across scales and systems. As chair I would work with my fellow officers to continue to foster this growing community by representing our division’s interests to the broader SICB community, and working to maintain robust connections with complementary divisions within the society. These connections will be essential in helping expand the reach of our division, and in fostering multi-divisional symposia reflective of the diverse research interests and approaches of our members. Additionally, as a faculty at a Hispanic Serving Institution, I am passionate about making our division broadly accessible to diverse scientists. Consequently, as chair, I would prioritize working with the broader SICB community, as well as my fellow DEDE officers, to continue to improve inclusivity and accessibility of our society and meetings.