Division of Ecoimmunology and Disease Ecology: Spring 2020 Newsletter

Message from the Chair, Laura Zimmerman,

Austin Waterfront
Austin Waterfront

Thank you to all those who organized, participated, and presented at the 2020 SICB Annual Meeting in Austin! Once again, it was a great showing by DEDE and I had a fantastic time learning about all of the great science being done. It takes so many people – judges, symposium organizers, presenters, and more to make a meeting work, and we all appreciate the effort. A special thank you to outgoing chair Travis Wilcoxen for all of his work over the years in support of DEDE. 

At the meeting, the “Lunch with an Eco-immunologist” continued its successful run. Thank you to Ashley Love for organizing once again. This is a great opportunity for early career researchers to ask questions and learn about career paths. We all look forward to the continuation of this fantastic event at future meetings. 

As we look to the spring, one event to keep in mind is the election of officers. This year we will be voting for our Chair-elect and I encourage you to check out the nominee information provided in the newsletter and remember to vote!

Speaking of voting – with our next annual meeting in Washington D.C., it serves as a reminder that science is a vital piece of the policy process. I hope we all can find some time in the next year to find ways that our science can contribute to this process – whether that be outreach activities, sharing research on social media, or even running for local office. Scientists bring a vital perspective to the decision making process, and so I encourage you to make your voice heard on the issues that matter to you.

Message from the Program Officer, Cynthia Downs, 

The annual meeting in Austin was a great success!  DEDE hosted 41 talks across 6 sessions and 29 posters across 3 sessions. This year we continued the practice started at the 2019 meeting and we hosted an oral presentation session dedicated to the DEDE Best Student Oral Presentation Competition.  The 8 finalists were chosen from the abstracts submitted. We’ll continue this practice for future meetings. Ten students competed in the DEDE Best Student Poster. The winners of both contests are announced in the note from the DEDE Secretary. A special thanks to those who volunteered to judge student presentations. We can’t run those contests without you. 

DEDE co-sponsored 4 symposia in Austin: (1) Epigenetic Variation in Endocrine Systems, organized by Tyler Stevenson, Lynn Martin, and Haley Hanson;  (2) Reproduction: the female perspective from an integrative and comparative framework, organized by Virginia Hayssen and Teri Orr; (3) Building Bridges from Genome to Phenome: Molecules, Methods and Models, organized by Karen Burnett, Jonathon Stillman, Donald Mykles, and David Durica; and (4) Integrative comparative cognition: can neurobiology and neurogenomics inform comparative analyses of cognitive phenotype?, organize by Yuxiang Liu and Sabrina Burmeister.  The papers associated with the presented talks will come out in Integrative and Comparative Biology this year.  Keep an eye out!

SICB 2021 in Washington, DC is shaping up to be another outstanding meeting. I’m excited to announce that DEDE will be sponsoring 4 symposia:

  1. Biology’s best friend: Bridging disciplinary gaps to advance canine science, organized by Caleb Bryca and Ana Jimenez;
  2. The integrative biology of pigment organelles, organized by Florent Figon, Jérôme Casas, and Leila Deravi;
  3. Biology Beyond the Classroom: Experiential Learning through Authentic Research, Design, and Community Engagement, organized by Alexandria Hansen, Lisa Whitenack, Patrice Connors, and Hayley Lanier;  and
  4. Blinded by the Light: Effects of Light Pollution across Diverse Natural Systems, organized by Meredith Kernbach, Stephen M. Ferguson, Valentina Alaasam, Colleen Miller, and Clint Francis.

The full list of all 12 symposia can be found on the meeting page at the SICB website.

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 2022 meeting in Phoenix, AZ.  Symposia are eligible for NSF funding, and symposia that have complementary sessions/associated workshops and invite speakers from diverse institutions across a range of career stages are most likely to receive NSF funding. If you have an idea, email me at or the SICB program officer (Jake Socha) at for more details. It’s never too early to start building support for your idea.  I encourage senior graduate students and post-docs to submit proposals. 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 the future of the program at SICB. 

Thank you for your ongoing participation in and support of DEDE events, and thanks again to all who volunteered to judge student presentations. See you in DC!

Message from the Secretary, Ken Field,

Bradford A. Dimos
Bradford A. Dimos

What a great meeting in Austin. I was very proud of the SICB organization for its efforts at increasing the inclusivity of the meeting and I particularly enjoyed the talks about inclusive teaching practices. The next meeting in Washington, DC will be another great opportunity to bring a diverse and interdisciplinary group of scientists together. I want to remind everyone that you can follow us on Twitter @SICB_DEDE

The oral and poster presentations by the DEDE participants were outstanding. The judges had a difficult task in choosing just two winners:

Best Student Oral Presentation: Bradford A Dimos, University of Texas, Arlington, “Differential disease susceptibility between closely related coral species is due to regulation of mitochondrial genes.”

Best Student Poster: Emily E Virgin, Utah State University, “Comparisons of egg yolk physiology and hatchling quality between urban and rural Side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana).”

Emily E. Virgin
Emily E. Virgin

Thanks to all who served as judges. I also want to thank the candidates who have agreed to stand for election for the DEDE Chair-Elect position. Please participate in the election – all members are eligible to vote, including student and post-doc members. If you are interested in becoming more involved in the organization, please contact me. In addition to this important elected position there are other ways to support SICB and the DEDE division.

DEDE Chair-Elect Candidate Biographies


Jim Adelman

Jim Adelman
Jim Adelman

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Memphis

Education: B.S. Duke University (1999); Ph.D. Princeton University (2010).

Professional Experience: Assistant Professor, University of Memphis (2019-present); Assistant Professor, Iowa State University (2015-2019); Postdoc, Virginia Tech (2011-2014); Postdoc, Smithsonian Institution (2011); Postdoc and Lecturer, Princeton University (2010-2011).

SICB Activities: Member since 2006 (DEDE since 2014); Secretary, DEDE (2017-2018); Symposium co-chair (2014); Session chair (2010-2016), Judge for Best Student Paper (2012-2019); Student worker (2008-2009).

Other Memberships: American Ornithologist’s Union, Animal Behavior Society.

Research Interests: I am a disease ecologist and ecoimmunologist interested in the evolutionary patterns, immune mechanisms, and transmission consequences of individually variable responses to infection. Recently, my lab has blended fieldwork and captive studies with molecular assays and next generation sequencing to uncover the mechanisms and consequences of infection tolerance in house finches.

Goals Statements: I say it often: “I grew up going to SICB.”  And as a scientist, I really have grown up with this society, learning about exciting new research, refining my own questions, and forging lasting collaborations and friendships. Continuing in my career, I’ve felt very fortunate to help maintain and expand our society and DEDE in particular: I served as divisional secretary from 2017-2018 and have contributed to our symposia since the division’s inception in 2014. I would be honored to continue serving DEDE as Chair and I feel that I bring the experience and drive to help lead our division in the coming years. As a prior officer, I understand the role of Chair in communicating with other divisions and fostering society-wide interest in our research and symposia. Having worked as secretary to connect with our members and solicit new participation, I also value our efforts in growth and inclusion. Moreover, as a scientist whose work is rooted in integration across levels and biological disciplines, I will work diligently to maintain a similar vision for our division. I will collaborate with other divisions to encourage exciting, cross-cutting symposia. In addition, I will partner with other societies, like the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), to recruit promising young scientists from all backgrounds into our field. SICB is an important incubator for ecoimmunology and disease ecology and I would be thrilled to help our society, division, and field grow.

Susan Balenger

Susan Balenger
Susan Balenger

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of Mississippi

Education: B.S. University of Maryland, College Park (1998), M.S. Towson University (2008), Ph.D. Auburn University (2011)

Professional Experience:  Assistant Professor, University of Mississippi (2016 – present), Postdoctoral Research, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (2012-2016) & University of Turku, Finland (2011-2012)

SICB Activities: Member of DEDE (2014-present); member of DAB (2006-present); SICB research grant recipient (2007); Symposium participant (2014); Session Co-chair (2016, 2017, 2020). DEDE “Meet the PI” lunch mentor (2016); DEDE “Meet an Ecoimmunologist” mentor (2019); DEDE Best Student Paper Judge (2019); DAB Best Student Paper Judge (2019); DAB Mentor meet-up (2020). 

Other Memberships: Animal Behavior Society (2005-present)

Research Interests: The long-term focus of my research is in understanding the role of phenotypic plasticity in determining the outcome of host-parasite interactions at population and species levels. I am particularly interested in understanding how multi-host parasites navigate unique suites of avoidance, resistance and tolerance mechanisms when interacting with a diversity of natural hosts. 

Goals Statement: It would be my pleasure to serve as Chair for DEDE. I joined SICB as a graduate student, and now I am incredibly proud to see my own undergraduate and graduate students present their research, participate in meeting mentoring activities, and receive their own SICB research grants. This division is an important place for ecoimmunologists and disease ecologists to share ideas and serve as mentors to one another and our students. As our discipline continues to grow, DEDE is a place for us to come together as a collaborative community. My primary goal, therefore, is to promote forward-looking, integrative symposia that will spark theoretical, empirical, and pedagogical innovation. Equally important, I will work to continue to increase student diversity and participation, and provide opportunities for young researchers to identify and interact with mentors outside of their current network.