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DSEB: 1998 Spring Newsleter

This Newsletter by Section

Message from the Chair

Paula Mabee

Greetings to all of you in the Division of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology! I look forward to seeing you all - both primary and secondary affiliates - at the 1999 SICB Annual Meeting in Denver, Jan. 6-10. Our division is cosponsoring three exciting symposia that promise to underscore the importance of understanding the evolutionary relationships of organisms when interpreting the origin and function of particular characters, such as the vertebrate axis ("Function and Evolution of the Vertebrate Axis"), or feathers ("Evolutionary Origin of Feathers"). Our third cosponsored symposium ("Evolution of Starfishes: Morphology, Molecules, Development and Paleobiology") will surely illustrate how multiple data types clarify our understanding of starfish relationships. At the same time, I'm guessing that the data inconsistencies will raise some interesting questions that will take the integrative power of SICB to answer!

Increasingly, far more molecular data is being generated for use in systematics than morphological, functional, developmental or paleontological data. Since one of our goals is to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships of all living organisms and the large number of characters available from molecular data will expedite this, integration of different hierarchical levels of organismal data within an evolutionary framework has only just begun. Our division within SICB is a perfect forum for systematists to generate and address such questions. I envision our membership growing steadily through the years as more and more systematists seek out an audience from which to solicit expertise in whole organism functional and developmental biology. Integration, as well as specialization, drives methodological and conceptual advances. DSEB can provide a lively, if not large, forum for this.

Some newsy items: The Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists (SVP) has accepted our invitation to meet at the 2000 SICB Annual Meeting in Atlanta (Jan. 4-8). The impressive systematics done by SVP members will be a wonderful addition to this meeting. From the Society of Systematic Biologists: In an effort to increase international participation in systematics, president Vicki Funk is spearheading an effort to formalize relationships with the Society of Australian Systematic Biologists and the Society of South African Systematic Biologists.

We need more DSEB activity! I encourage you all to bring in new members, particularly graduate and postdoctoral students. Sponsor their membership for a year or fund their trip to a SICB meeting. Finally, pick one of your more difficult and integrative systematic questions and organize a symposium around it. By the time you're finished, you'll be the expert. I look forward to hearing your ideas at the Denver meeting, or by e-mail, and I hope to help to move DSEB forward.

Message from the Program Officer

Jon Norenburg

DSEB will be at the 1999 SICB Annual Meeting in Denver with oral and poster-contributed paper sessions and as cosponsor of the following symposia:

  • "Evolutionary Origin of Feathers," organized by Paul F. A. Maderson, State University of New York and Dominique Homberger, Louisiana State University.
  • "Evolution of Starfishes: Morphology, Molecules, Development and Paleobiology," organized by Daniel Janies, American Museum of Natural History, Daniel Blake, University of Illinois and Richard Mooi, California Academy of Sciences.
  • "Function and Evolution of the Vertebrate Axis," organized by John H. Long, Jr., Vassar College and Tom J. Koob, Shriners Hospital for Children.

The deadline for submitting symposium or workshop proposals for Atlanta (Jan. 4-8, 2000) was April 15, 1998. I am not aware of any proposals emanating from DSEB. It's now time to start planning for Chicago (Jan. 3-7, 2001)! Symposia and workshops don't have to be formal, high-stress endeavors. Surely there is no shortage of controversial issues for which DSEB could host a workshop or informal symposium (e.g., not intended for publication).

Improving SICB meetings: I have received no response to my continued request for comments and suggestions about meeting organization (only written comments qualify). I suppose I am to assume that everyone thinks that the meetings run just swimmingly or people assume that program officers don't really function. However, I am happy to hear from any of you - preferably by e-mail. See you in Denver!

Message from the Secretary

Miriam Zelditch

Like Paula and Jon, I am excited by the symposia we are cosponsoring in Denver. These symposia focus on interesting questions and also reveal the central role of systematics in comparative biology. I am also intrigued by the plans to meet with the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists. This is one of the most productive plans I've seen to improve our meetings. Now we just need to inspire invertebrate paleontologists to attend as well. We also need to inspire our colleagues to attend (and present papers) in systematics sessions. I am pleased to see one important sign of interest in DSEB: we now have 16 primary and 207 secondary members. Clearly, many members of SICB regard systematics as basic to their research.

DSEB has fallen behind schedule for elections. We will announce candidates and provide ballots at a future date.

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