Division of Comparative Endocrinology: Spring Newsletter 2020

Message from the Chair, Kathleen Hunt, Chair.DCE@sicb.org

Austin 2020 Highlights. I hope you all were able to attend the annual meeting in Austin. We were blessed with beautiful weather for the entire meeting — though I saw very little of that nice weather due to the fact that the meeting was so good! I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the research presented this year.

Bern Award
The 20th annual Howard Bern lecture was presented by Dr. George Bentley

2020 Bern Lecture. The 20th annual Howard Bern lecture was presented by Dr. George Bentley. His lecture, “A Bird’s Eye View of Reproductive Endocrinology,” provided a compelling case that the animals we study in the lab are not the same as wild animals in the field. His lecture was wonderful and I walked away more convinced than ever that the individual animal’s context — reproductive state, history, recent experiences, social environment, food availability and so forth — is critical to interpreting endocrinology data correctly. The lecture was very well attended and was followed by much discussion that continued at our social, which this year was on site just outside the Bern lecture hall.

2020 DCE Social. Our divisional social was co-convened with several other divisions (DAB, DEDE, and DNNSB). This year we also had the pleasure of combining the announcements of student winners with those of the Division of Animal Behavior. It felt quite festive for multiple divisions at the social to be co-celebrating all the students’ achievements, no matter which division those students might be in, and I look forward to another joint social next year!

2020 DCE Symposia. DCE hosted three symposia at the 2020 meeting:  “Epigenetic Variation in Endocrine Systems”; “Reproduction: The female perspective from an integrative and comparative framework”; and “Building Bridges from Genome to Phenome: Molecules,Methods and Models.” All symposia were well-attended and were quite fascinating. I thank all organizers and speakers for these excellent symposia. It’s been a pleasure to see DCE members proposing more symposia, and I hope this trend continues. (See below for the call for new symposia for Phoenix 2022).

 Rosemary Knapp Special Session. We were all greatly saddened this year by the passing of Rosemary Knapp, a long-time colleague who was not only a skilled scientist and a consistent supporter of SICB, but also a great friend to many of us. A special session was convened in her memory this year, with her family members among the many people in attendance. We all miss Rosemary’s bright smile, but it was heartwarming to see what a scientific legacy she has left and how many people she touched in her career.

Jordan Boersma
Loren Buck and Jordan Boersma (Best Student paper Aubrey Gorbman Award)

Student Competition Results. As has become the norm, we had intense student competitions for the Aubrey Gorbman Oral Presentation Award and the Lynn Riddiford Poster Presentation Award. The competition is consistently fierce in both competitions, and judging is always terribly difficult, often with a cluster of top presentations separated by only a point or two in the judges’ scoring. The Aubrey Gorbman Best Student Oral Presentation went to Jordan Boersma for his talk entitled “Sex-Specific Causes and Consequences of Variable Testosterone Circulation in a Tropical Songbird”, while Mary Woodruff (with co-authors Sermersheim & Rosvall) won the Lynn Riddiford Best Student Poster Presentation for a poster entitled “Do endotherms acclimate to heat? Physiological responses to a simulated heat wave in free-living birds.” A big thanks to all of the participants and congratulations to the winners! A special thanks goes to all those who volunteered their time to judge the presentations.

New Business. The DCE business meeting covered a number of important topics, perhaps the most notable being a suggestion from chair Loren Buck (now former chair) that DCE consider rebranding, including a possible change in name.

Rebranding DCE? To briefly summarize the discussion from the business meeting, DCE has had low and gradually declining membership for a number of years. As Dr. Buck and others pointed out, there are several other groups of endocrinologists in the world who might attend DCE if they were made aware of it or if our name were broader. As discussion continued, a related issue emerged: one factor in membership decline may be the additional $10 fee that DCE charges for registration. This $10 fee goes to support our affiliation with International Federation of Comparative Endocrinological Societies (IFCES), and secures DCE members a discounted rate for attending other meetings affiliated with IFCES (for example, meetings of the European Society of Comparative Endocrinology, and of the North American Society of Comparative Endocrinology) – but this fact is probably opaque to most SICB registrants. The $10 fee appears on the SICB registration webpage with no explanation and may be a deterrent – many scientists who use endocrinology tools are also members of other divisions, and may not necessarily see a reason to tick another box if doing so involves an extra fee. In light of the interest expressed in these linked issues of rebranding, IFCES membership, and the $10 registration fee, an ad-hoc committee has been formed that will gather input from DCE members, consider various options and likely will draft up proposals for vote either this summer or next summer. At the business meeting, Ned Place and Ignacio Moore volunteered for the ad-hoc committee and have since reached out to other potential members. I think all involved are cognizant of the need to seek input from the full diversity of DCE members (of all career stages and backgrounds). Stay tuned for more discussion this spring and summer, including possible surveys to gauge interest in all the above, and potential votes this summer regarding changes to bylaws that might be necessary. If any DCE members have thoughts on any of the above, please contact Ignacio Moore directly at: itmoore at vt dot edu (replace “at” and “dot” with the usual.)

Howard Bern Fund Update. The endowment for the Howard Bern fund continues to grow slowly. I encourage all members to consider making a contribution to the fund to ensure its long-term solvency. Even small contributions help! Not all SICB divisions host an evening talk, so this is the event that really presents the face of DCE, and the state of our field, to the rest of SICB. We have been fortunate to have many spectacular Bern speakers and we hope to continue this going forward. This year, we collected names for possible Bern nominees earlier than usual, during the business meeting. This method of brainstorming nominees was a smashing success, with over 60 names represented (many with repeated nominations). The Bern nomination committee now has a large pool of potential nominees to consider; please continue to send in any additional nominations. A decision will be made by the Bern nomination committee during the spring, so send in your ideas early. If you have nomination ideas, please contact DCE Secretary Timothy Greives at: secretary.dce@sicb.org.

Kathleen Hunt and Loren Buck
Kathleen Hunt and Loren Buck

DCE Officer Updates. At the end of the Austin meeting, Loren Buck stepped down as chair and I stepped in. I want to thank Loren for his service to DCE as Chair over the past three years. As chair-elect, I have been shadowing Loren for several years and it has been an inspiration to see Loren’s commitment to DCE and to SICB, as well as learning from his thoughtful ideas about ensuring a bright future for DCE. I very much hope he’ll continue to be involved in the future.

I’d also like to take a moment to highlight the work of the other DCE officers. As new chair of DCE I am rapidly finding that the chair’s duties are made a thousand-fold easier by the other officers, who collectively shoulder the burden and deal with dozens of logistical details. DCE Program Officer Brian Walker deserves special mention here. As most of you know, the program officer has the difficult task of scheduling all DCE symposia, sessions, and the social, assessing venue layout, solving the innumerable logistical problems, and wrestling with the many presenters’ scheduling conflicts. Brian’s hard work began many months before the meeting, and will continue through and after the meeting. His tireless efforts were instrumental to pulling together a fantastic program, and another successful DCE social. DCE Secretary Timothy Grieve and DCE postdoc/student representative Carla Madelaire were also front and center whenever needed. Our thanks also to chair-elect Rachel Bowden, program-officer-elect Sara O’Brien, and secretary-elect Christine Lattin, all of whom donated considerable time to DCE issues this year despite the fact that they are not even obliged to do so yet! Former chairs Michael Romero, and, now, Loren Buck, also have my thanks for their continued willingness to meet with new chairs and chairs-elect to help show us the ropes.

POSSIBLE VOTE THIS SUMMER! Due to our recent vote to extend the program officer term to three years, this summer’s DCE elections will not have any officer elections. However, as mentioned above, we may have votes on other issues, such as whether or not to pursue the possible rebranding and whether to continue the $10 registration fee and IFCES membership. Some of these possible changes may require votes for appropriate changes to DCE bylaws. Look for emails in summer about any votes that may occur this summer.

Future Symposia. We also wish to encourage symposium ideas for the next meeting after D.C., which will be in Phoenix in 2022. Symposia will be due this summer (symposia are proposed a year and a half in advance so as to allow time to secure funding for participant travel). We would particularly like to encourage symposium ideas that cover taxa or topics not being studied by current DCE leadership – we’d love to attract new audiences to SICB!

Message from the Program Officer, Brian Walker. DPO.DCE@sicb.org

Thanks to all who attended the Austin meeting. I believe it was a smashing success, and the quality of both talks and posters was once again excellent. Hopefully, you all felt the venue was convenient, with all programming in one building, and lots of social activities to be had close by.

Once again, I’d also like to thank my colleague and friend Dr. George Bentley for giving a most excellent Howard Bern lecture. While he perhaps surprised many in the room by not talking about GnIH, his “Bird’s Eye View of Reproductive Endocrinology” was thought provoking and appreciated!

As mentioned by the Chair, I would also like to again congratulate the two winners of the DCE student competitions. The Aubrey Gorbam best oral presentation was awarded to Jordan Boersma, from Washington State University, and the Lynn Riddiford award for best student poster was awarded to Mary Woodruff, from Indiana University. Many thanks to all of the judges who assisted in listening to this suite of excellent student talks and visiting the posters. It is always a difficult decision in choosing a winner! 

The 2021 SICB Conference in Washington DC will be here before we know it. DCE will be sponsoring four symposia next year. The titles are: 

  •       Blinded by the Light: Effects of Light Pollution across Diverse Natural Systems
  •       Biology Beyond the Classroom: Experiential Learning through Authentic Research, Design, and Community Engagement
  •       Manakin Genomics: Comparative Studies of Evolution and Behavior in a Unique Clade of Birds.
  •       Sending and Receiving Signals: Endocrine Modulation of Social Communication

We look forward to these, as well as to the suite of talks and posters that you all are currently collecting and analyzing data for at this moment.  Encourage colleagues and students to think about joining us for SICB 2021 in Washington DC!!!!!

Message from the Secretary, Timothy Greives, Secretary.DCE@sicb.org

It was a great meeting in Austin this year – it was great to see so many familiar faces and meet new ones! Thanks to all who participated for helping make the conference a success.

Normally in this space, I would be telling you that we will have elections for a new Program Officer-elect. However, last summer, the DCE membership voted to approve changes to the by-laws to extend the term of service for the Program Office from two to three years. Brian Walker graciously agreed to stay on for a third year as PO as we transition from the two to three year term of service. Because of this change, this year we do not have any elections for divisional positions. 

The minutes from this year’s business meeting will be available on the SICB DCE website (http://www.sicb.org/divisions/DCE/minutes.php3). If you missed the business meeting, please take a look, as there were many items of importance that we discussed.  Most importantly, as mentioned by Kathleen above, there was discussions about growing our division, with possible ideas towards this goal being re-branding the division, removal of the $10 registration fee for students/post-docs as well as the benefit of continued membership (including paying annual dues) in the International Federation of Comparative Endocrinological Societies (IFCES). We welcome any comments or feedback following these discussions that occurred at the business meeting. As mentioned by Kathleen above, the ad hoc committee has started to formulate suggestions for re-branding. The DCE officers will continue to formulate a plan, and we will keep you informed over the course of the coming year.

Finally, please know that you can email me at secretary.DCE@sicb.org with any announcements you would like to have included in the SICB monthly member update. If you would like to do this, please be sure to do so by the 5th of each month.

Message from the Student/Post-doctoral Af­fairs Committee Representative, Carla B. Madelaire

Lunch with a Comparative Endocrinologist
Lunch with a Comparative Endocrinologist

Hello, I hope everyone had a great SICB meeting this year! I would like to thank the 10 faculty members, who shared their time and experience in the “Lunch with a Comparative Endocrinologist” and the 21 DCE students/post-docs that enthusiastically participated. This is one of the events I look forward to every SICB meeting because it is a valuable opportunity for students and post-docs to have open conversations about career, life and science in an informal environment.  

The DCE committee also would like to congratulate the winners of DCE Best Student Presentation: Jordan Boersma for best oral presentation and Mary Woodruff for best poster presentation. The competition was tight, with excellent work and presentations. Well done to all and congratulations to Boersma and Woodruff!

Other highlights of the last SICB meeting were the sessions Celebrating the Scientific Contributions of Rosemary Knapp, where we could celebrate her scientific contributions and see how she inspired the work of so many other comparative endocrinologists, and S.T.R.E.S.S., which was an awesome opportunity to learn about stress endocrinology in different taxa and levels of organization. In addition, the meeting featured some remarkable workshops for students and post-docs, including: “Mentorship and Sponsorship: How to Curate Your Support Team and Guide Your Successful Career” organized by Dr. Laura Mydlarz, with support from the Broadening Participation Committee (BPC) and “Can We Talk? Difficult Conversations with Underrepresented People of Color: Sense of Belonging and Obstacles to STEM Fields” offered by BPC.

Don’t forget to follow us on twitter @SICB_DCE and join the DCE Facebook group: SICB Division of Comparative Endocrinology. Throughout the year, please tag us in your posts and tweets when you share research, papers, grants, post-doc or student opportunities, or other news. I will be glad to feature your research on DCE social media. SICB also provides an amazing list of External Grant & Fellowship Opportunities for Students and Postdocs, which can be accessed through the “For Students” tab on the SICB website. If you have any suggestions that could improve my DCE students/post-docs representation, please, contact me by email (cmadelaire@nau.edu).