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Fall Newsletters by Division:
Division of Animal Behavior
Division of Comparative Endocrinology
Division of Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry
Division of Developmental and Cell Biology

Division of Ecology and Evolution
Division of Integrative & Comparative Issues
Division of Invertebrate Zoology
Division of Neurobiology
Division of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology
Division of Vertebrate Morphology

SICB 1998 Fall Newsletter

Messages from:

Message from the President

Alan J. Kohn

This is my last message to you as president, toward the end of an eventful year, both personally and for the Society. In June, I officially retired as professor at the University of Washington after 40 years of teaching and research as a faculty member, all but the first three in Seattle. So far, this event has not changed my life much at all -- I still supervise graduate students and undergraduate research students in various aspects of integrative and comparative biology. This year's personal zoological highlight was the opportunity to see the world's largest lizard Varanus komodoensis, the komodo dragon or ora, in its remote but now protected natural habitat in Indonesia, as well as Komodo's notable birds, molluscs and corals. Perhaps less spectacular and near the other extreme of the animal size spectrum, but rarely seen by biologists, was the snail that seems to think it is a clam, the unusual bivalved gastropod Berthellinia, also seen in Indonesia.

SICB's year has also been eventful, and I think reasonably successful in maintaining the momentum of past-president Mike Hadfield's many innovative and thoughtful initiatives. During 1998, we maintained and increased the level of our new program of Grants-in-Aid support for student research projects. This year's 11 winners were announced in the Spring 1998 newsletter, and student members can request an application for the 1999 awards by returning the postcard in this issue. However, we need additional contributions from our more senior members to the Grants-in-Aid endowment, in order to increase the financial assistance of our students in the critical initial stages of their research. Several new SICB publications appeared during 1998. Most notably, at this writing, the first three issues of our new journal Integrative Biology: Issues, News and Reviews, have been published and have elicited much favorable comment. We also published the long-awaited brochure Careers in Biology, with many features unique to the diverse disciplines of integrative and comparative biology, and demand for it has been high. Finally, the slimmed-down 1998 SICB Membership Directory signals the end of an era, as it will be our last in the print medium. Future directories will be provided electronically on the web, where it can be conveniently and quickly accessed and updated.

During 1998, we successfully pursued several efforts aimed at establishing mutually beneficial and synergistic relationships with other groups having kindred goals and interests. At the 1998 SICB Annual Meeting in Boston, by far our largest in many years, several "new" cosponsoring societies joined with us; Most notably the Ecological Society of America, International Society for Reef Studies and the really new Julia B. Platt Club. Starting with the 2000 SICB Annual Meeting in Atlanta, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology will meet with us. We also joined with the counterpart Cuban Society of Zoologists, signing a memorandum of understanding to promote cooperation and collaboration, and facilitating joint individual membership.

This year the Society has also experienced more than its share of internal political and administrative upheavals, but we are once again operating smoothly. We avoided a potentially serious problem when president-elect John Hildebrand resigned from that position last spring. Fortunately, both candidates for president-elect in the spring election agreed to accelerate their terms of office if elected. President-elect Martin Feder has thus been serving in that office since the election results were announced. Martin is working actively in planning the Society's future activities, including the program for Atlanta, the American Zoologist editor transition, and future election mechanisms. I look forward to passing the gavel to his capable hands in January. In the Spring 1999 newsletter, we will again hold an election for president-elect.

Another change is our new staff members in the SICB Business Office. After serving as the SICB executive director for six years, and after 17 years with Smith, Bucklin and Associates (SBA), Laura Jungen left at the end of July. She will develop her own business as a management consultant. We appreciate Laura's conscientious and loyal service, and especially her most successful efforts in bringing SICB from a bottom line several hundred thousand dollars in the red to one now several hundred thousand in the black. Peter Studney has taken over as our new executive director, and I look forward to working with him. Peter has a master's degree in management and has been with SBA for six years. One of his major activities has been working with societies of software user groups.

Also administrative manager Pam D'Argo resigned early in the year after becoming the mother of twins, and membership services coordinator Micki Unkrich left to attend law school. Susan Heckman and Christopher Mundschenk, respectively, have filled their positions, and you will meet these new staff members at the Denver meeting.

Financially, SICB received a major financial boost this summer from a most generous bequest from the late past-president Charlotte Mangum. Charlotte directed that we use these funds as an endowment to support student members of the Society. In accord with her wish, the annual interest will be used to support and enhance our student support program for students presenting papers and posters at the Annual Meetings.

Like individuals, the Society is frequently invited to contribute monetarily to worthy causes. This year we made modest donations to the National Association for Biomedical Research, of which SICB is a member, in efforts to defend U.S. Department of Agriculture animal welfare standards against legal challenges from an animal rights organization; and the American Cancer Society, in memory of past-president Albert Bennett's son. More frequently than I had ever anticipated, the president is also solicited to support various causes with written statements. Many of these efforts are generated by the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, to which SICB belongs, dedicated to furthering the welfare of science, wise national science policy, and science education. For example, I've written to members of Congress in support of doubling federal science appropriations and freedom in electronic communication. In these statements I have taken particular care to emphasize my position is that of an individual who is president of a scientific society, rather than to represent the Society's view.

Exceptional cases that presented the view of SICB as an organization included the statement opposing a weakened reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act by Congress, which reflected the overwhelming support of the membership (94 percent of the vote) for the SICB Conservation Resolution passed in 1996. As noted in the spring newsletter, seven other society presidents, representing more than 30,000 scientists, joined this effort.

On a related matter other society presidents and I wrote to members of Congress opposing a bill prescribing increased logging in national forests, for "forest health." This bill (HR.2515) was narrowly defeated in the House (201-181), and I was told that our efforts helped make the difference. Our Conservation and Public Affairs Committees have been particularly active and helpful in bringing these policy matters relevant to SICB's interests to my attention and to that of the membership through electronic alerts. The reasoned opinions and explanations that knowledgeable scientists provide to policy makers can sometimes be influential!

Finally, our 1999 SICB Annual Meeting in Denver, Jan. 6-10, promises to be as big and successful as last year's in Boston, which had 25 percent more attendees than the average of the three prior years. Despite the fact that fewer cosponsoring societies will meet with us than in 1998, we received abstracts for 703 oral and poster presentations by the August deadline, only four percent fewer than last year and 35 percent more than the prior three-year average. We will continue the late-breaking symposium tradition initiated last year, and there will be 10 exciting and integrative symposia. I look forward to seeing you all there!

Message from the Treasurer

Kimberly Smith

For the first time in a number of years, it is projected that the Society will end the year with an operating deficit. By using the term operating deficit, I am excluding the extremely generous one-time gift of $193,313 that Charlotte Mangum bequeathed SICB, whereby interest income will be generated for student support. This operating deficit comes on the heels of 1997, when the Society realized an income of nearly $170,000 based on the fact that there was no official meeting of the Society in the calendar year of 1997. The projected operating deficit for 1998 is about $42,700, which in turn, reduces the Society's unrestricted reserve fund to a little over $450,000. That figure still greatly exceeds the goal of keeping our reserve above 40 percent of our operating expenses, but, as we all know, the Society can ill afford to return to deficit spending. A number of factors contributed to this shortfall in 1998.

It is projected that dues collected during 1998 will be about $20,000 less than the amount collected in 1997. As my predecessors have all stated in the last years, the Society needs to do something to increase the membership! Some of this will be alleviated starting in 1999, when dues will increase by approximately 10 percent. However, the Society would be in much better financial shape if there were several hundred more members. (The Society has about 2,300 members currently, of which about 2,100 actually pay dues.)

The Annual Meeting continues to lose money, but the Executive Committee voted at the Boston meeting not to require that the Annual Meeting break-even, a suggestion that I had proposed. At the Boston meeting, the expenses were $318,003 with an income of only $205,880 for a loss of $112,123. The total attendance was 1,199, of which 1,002 were paid registrants. Only 38 percent of the total attendees were Full Member registrants, but they accounted for 58 percent of the revenue; 36 percent of the attendees were Student, but they accounted for only 18 percent of the revenue. The Denver meeting is projected to lose more than the Boston meeting.

The main source of income is of course the American Zoologist. Although the projected income for 1998 is about $8,000 less compared to 1997, the projected expenses are about $10,000 less in 1998 compared to 1997, so income from the journal continues to grow.

The Society has taken on a number of expenses which do not have offsetting income associated with them. The most significant of these is the offering of Integrative Biology: Issues, News, and Reviews to the membership. The Society entered into an agreement with John Wiley & Sons that beginning in 1998, the Society would underwrite the distribution of IB to all members of SICB for five years. During 1998 this amounted to an expense of about $31,000. In the three coming years, that expense will nearly triple to $30 per member per year or about $75,000 a year given current membership. Previous officers felt it was important to contribute to the success of IB, since the journal is intimately tied to our Society, so they entered into this agreement with the publisher. However, it is going to be a great financial burden for the next four years.

Other expenses that occurred in 1998 that did not occur in 1997 include the printing of the career brochure ($2,500) and the membership directory ($10,000); and the purchase of computer software ($10,000) to aid in the production of the Annual Meeting (requested by program Officer Willy Bemis).

As one can see, the 1998 expenses without offsetting income total to about the same as the projected deficit. The officers of the Society are committed to finding ways to decreasing the deficit in the 1999 budget and eliminating it by the year 2000. We will be meeting in Chicago in late October to finalize the 1999 budget. If you have any suggestions, questions, or concerns, please contact me directly at any time.

Lastly, I wish to thank Laura Jungen, our former executive director, for all the help that she has given me over the last two years when I served as treasurer-elect and now treasurer. Laura was a great source of information and advice and is one reason that the Society is as strong financially as it is today.

Message from the Secretary

Thomas G. Wolcott

How important is "integrative and comparative biology" when humanity is gaining abilities to twiddle so many knobs that can "control" nature (e.g., gene splicing)? This has occupied some of my thoughts here at our field research site on Chesapeake Bay, while I've been splicing more anchor lines for our wind-propelled aquatic mobile home. Hurricanes have a way of enforcing humility in the face of nature, a useful trait in biologists. I'll be singing "My Bonnie lies over the ocean" for only a few hours more, and then we'll be reminded once again that we are not omnipotent, nor omniscient, nor often particularly wise.

This summer's work with the belligerent and recalcitrant blue crab has forcefully reminded me how short and narrow human sight often is. We're dealing with a species that has huge economic and cultural importance -- affording watermen the last really profitable fishery in the once-teeming Chesapeake--yet when we try to understand it as a living animal in a dynamic ecosystem we continually fetch up against bulkheads of ignorance. The most basic kinds of biological information, and their integration into a picture of this crab as a behaving, regulating, adapting animal, are woefully lacking. Like so many other things we like to eat, wear or otherwise consume, it's been treated almost like a coal seam - a resource to be extracted and exploited without thought for its regeneration or the hole it leaves behind. Such casual dismissal of biological realities could be the prelude to disaster, as it has been for so many other species.

Integrative and comparative biology must become pivotal in global society, precisely because of humanity's habitually exploitative approach to the natural world upon which we ultimately depend. We must foster, in scientists and laypersons, the ability to see the "big picture" and appreciate how the effects of a knob-twiddle in one place may ripple through the system to cause salubrious or dismaying effects elsewhere. The more decoupled from nature our society becomes (as in "meat comes from supermarkets"), the more essential this role will become. We've got to learn to see and to teach connectedness.

Therefore, let me encourage you all to enhance your connectedness by joining us at the 1999 SICB Annual Meeting, Jan. 6-10 in Denver. Not only will there be fascinating symposia and tales of ICB to share with an incredibly broad spectrum of colleagues, there is much to see in Denver. Nearby there's the Front Range soaring improbably up from the plains and harboring various ski resorts and the National Center for Atmospheric Research by the Flatirons. Don't miss the factories in Golden where Coors produces porcelain labware and exhausted yeast culture media; Boulder Canyon where Mork and Mindy (and my uncle) live; Trail Ridge Road into the alpine tundra (tough to see in January without a snow shovel); and lots of other opportunities to integrate and compare biology with other parts of life. Come, teach, learn, enjoy!

Message From the Program Officer

Willy Bemis

1999 SICB Annual Meeting Highlights

The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology's purpose is to promote the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge and concepts in integrative and comparative biology, and to adopt and support policies advancing innovative studies of organisms. At the 1999 SICB Annual Meeting, January 6-10, 1999, in Denver, Colo., we will do just that. This year's meeting offers symposia and workshops covering the wide range of interests of our members and cosponsoring societies.

Highlighting the meeting, we have a fantastic line-up of 10 symposia (see separate article), including the late-breaking symposium "The Wildlands Project: Holding Off the Sixth Extinction," featuring Michael E. Soulé and Stuart Pimm.

In addition to the ten pre-arranged symposia, SICB is continuing its program of interdivisional sessions to foster new links in biology. This year, four interdivisional sessions will be held: "Locomotion and Movement;" "Feeding and Foraging;" "Reproduction and Life History;" and "Education." We were thrilled to receive approximately 703 abstracts for oral and poster presentations by the August deadline, only four percent fewer than last year and 35 percent more than the prior three-year average.

New developments for teaching comparative biology will be explored in a workshop sponsored by the SICB Educational Council. This half-day workshop will take place on the first day before the late-breaking symposium.

For the Denver meeting, we are proud to have four cosponsors participate. They include the Animal Behavior Society, American Microscopical Society, Julia B. Platt Club and The Crustacean Society. We look forward to enhancing our relationships with these societies.

The Julia B. Platt Club will meet on January 5, one day prior to the SICB Annual Meeting, to provide an international forum for evolutionary morphology and development.

Send in your registration form today to sign up for this inspiring meeting. See you in Denver!

American Zoologist - From the Editor's Desk

James Hanken, Editor, American Zoologist

I write this column at the close of what has been an extremely busy spring and summer here in the Editorial Office. In addition to the anticipated crush of symposium manuscripts from last winter's Annual Meeting in Boston, we have been overseeing the formal search for my successor as editor, which has involved many people. Here are status reports on these and other important issues:

Publication Schedule
Thanks to the continued diligence and hard work of our enlarged cadre of associate editors, processing of symposium manuscripts from Boston has moved along quickly. We are on schedule to publish proceedings of one of these symposia in vol. 38 (1998), issue no. 6. As in the previous two years, this will represent an interval of only 12-13 months following the corresponding oral presentations. Proceedings from three other symposia are finished, or nearly so, and they are tentatively scheduled for publication in the first half of 1999 (vol. 39). Proceedings from the remaining symposia are in various stages of completion and will be scheduled for publication as soon as they are complete. The tentative publication schedule for the first four symposia is as follows (organizers' names in parentheses):

  • "Evolutionary Relationships of Metazoan Phyla: Advances, Problems and Approaches" (McHugh & Halanych), 38(6).
  • "Coral Reefs and Environmental Change: Adaptation, Acclimation or Extinction" (Buddemeier and Lasker), 39(1).
  • "Developmental and Evolutionary Perspectives on Major Transformations in Body Organization" (Olsson and Hall).
  • "Aquatic Organisms, Terrestrial Eggs: Early Development at the Water's Edge" (Martin and Strathmann), 39(2).

Journal Web Site/Home Page
Re-design of the American Zoologist World Wide Web site has been completed by webmaster (and associate editor) Beth Brainerd and submitted for posting by the electronics mavens at SICB's Business Office in Chicago. Hopefully, it will be on line by the time you read this column. Please send comments and suggestions regarding the site to Beth ( or me (

Editorial Personnel
This December will mark the end of the line (so to speak) for four associate editors whose three-year terms will expire at that time -- Beth Brainerd, Todd Gleeson, Dave Norris and Gary Packard. All four came to the journal during my first year as editor, and I owe much of the credit for the journal's subsequent success to their considerable and ongoing efforts. One of the first jobs of my successor will be to fill these vacant slots from among the ranks of Society members in time for them to oversee processing of manuscripts from next winter's Denver meeting. Look for their names in the journal's masthead beginning in 1999 and in this column next spring.

Search for New Editor
The search for the next editor of American Zoologist began in earnest early last spring with a Call for Nominations posted to the Society's membership e-mail distribution list. As stipulated in the Society's Constitution, the Executive Committee appoints the editor after consultation with the Editorial Board. Consequently, the board has spent much time over the last few months reviewing nominations and preparing a set of recommendations for the Executive Committee. Several excellent candidates emerged as finalists, and for many of us the deliberations have been difficult, even agonizing. The search has entered its final stages and I expect that a final decision will be made within the next few weeks. Advance preparations for the move of the Editorial Office will be completed this fall, with the "official" and public announcement of the new editor planned for the Denver meeting in January.

For much of the last three years I have ruthlessly badgered authors to trim the acknowledgments section (among others) of their manuscripts in the eternal struggle to cut article length. Does that mean that I can break my own rules in this instance? Hopefully so, because I need to acknowledge the enormous contributions to the journal made by several people during my tenure as editor. All of the associate editors, the many members of the Editorial Board (present and past), and especially assistant editors Claudia deGruy and Kristin Lopez have served tirelessly and unselfishly in executing the many tasks assigned to them. Successfully operating even what is a relatively moderate-size professional journal such as American Zoologist requires far more time and energy than many people realize, and this was possible only because of the dedicated efforts of the entire editorial staff. Thank you all.

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