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Division of Vertebrate Morphology (DVM) - Spring 2000 Newsletter

Message from the Chair

Andrew Biewener

Thanks to all who attended and presented their work at the 1999/2000 SICB meeting in Atlanta. From talking with many of you, my sense was that the meeting was a great success, despite the often limited screen size for slide/computer projection. DVM was well represented in several thematic paper sessions and the three symposia that we co-sponsored ("Intermittent Locomotion," "Using Phylogenies" and "Marine Plant-Animal Interaction"). I attended many of the talks in the first two of these symposia, which were well attended, engaging and stimulating. Although moving to thematically programmed paper sessions may leave some people in "catch-all" sessions, which we need to work to avoid, my strong impression was that people very much valued having paper sessions programmed in this way. It seems likely that this program format is to remain with us for the foreseeable future. Programming is based on key word listing, so please pay attention to your key word list!

A few important announcements: Dave Carrier was elected our new program officer and Audrone Bicknevicius our new DVM secretary/treasurer for the next two years (2000/2001). It has been a great pleasure working with both Kurt Schwenk and John Long, our outgoing program officer and secretary. Kurt and John both helped immensely in handling DVM business and getting ready for the Atlanta meeting. Special thanks also to our Nominating Committee (Dave Carrier, Bret Tobalske and Sharon Swartz), who assembled a great slate of candidates. Dave deserves special credit for not only serving on the Nominating Committee but also being willing to stand for election for DVM program officer. This brings up an important matter for DVM and SICB generally. The future well-being of our division and the society depends on our more senior members' willingness to volunteer their valuable time and energy to a range of important duties within our division and the society. So when the time comes, I hope that you will agree to be considered for service to DVM and SICB. Special thanks, therefore, to the other candidates who ran for our divisional officer posts. All of these people, I'm sure, will continue to play an important role in contributing to and leading our division. In the future, we are weighing the possibility of moving up our officer elections to the spring, so that this would allow the secretary-elect and program officer-elect to learn and assist the current officers, prior to taking over these responsibilities at the end of the Annual Meeting.

In other announcements, Justin Grubich (previously of Florida State University and now at the University of California at Davis) won the D. Dwight Davis Award for best student paper for his talk "The evolution of molluscivory in teleosts: a convergence of motor patterns?" Special thanks to our Awards Committee (Gary Gillis, Duncan Irschick and Jeff Walker) for their hard work and effort to attend and evaluate all of the student papers presented at the meeting. The Awards Committee felt that Vicki Stegall deserved honorable mention for her talk on "Epaxial muscle morphology of robust vs. emaciated harbor porpoises." In advance of next year's meeting, we hope to provide student award candidates with a set of guidelines for good scientific presentation and on what criteria they are to be judged by the Awards Committee. Lara Ferry has agreed to spearhead this effort. Combining this with feedback to all candidates after the meeting on the quality of their presentations will help make this a more beneficial learning experience for those who participate in the competition. DVM students should also remember that a prize is offered for the best student poster presentation. We had no student competitors in this category for Atlanta, so no award was made.

At our divisional business meeting it was clear that a large majority of our membership liked the electronic communications used to submit abstracts and to review the program in advance of the meeting. Some folks also asked if a mailing of the program could be made just in advance of the meeting. The SICB Executive Committee will see if this can be arranged. One advantage of doing all of this electronically is that the deadline for abstract submission can be pushed back into the fall, giving people more time to collect/analyze data before submitting an abstract. One crucial point regarding electronic communications: it is important that you read and respond to them (good for you for reading this newsletter on line!). This is essential for critical DVM business, such as our officer elections, which now require that you vote electronically. I was pleased with the large turnout that we had at the DVM business meeting. Students and postdocs--please continue to feel that you are welcome, as you are the future of our division and the society. To maintain and strengthen our divisional identity, we agreed to plan for a divisional dinner at an off-site restaurant, rather than having a scientific discussion as a social event. At the dinner, senior DVM members will be required to bring one of their research slides and drop it into a hat. They will then do a series of one-slide presentations based on the slide each person pulls from the hat. This is certain to provide much entertainment (thanks to Sue Herring and Kathleen Smith for this great suggestion).

In terms of general SICB business, it is clear that our society is on very sound financial footing. Moving to new management through AIBS is expected to strengthen our finances even more and facilitate additional scientific interactions with other member related societies. Our improved financial situation will be reflected in reduced meeting registration and membership fees. There will also be no abstract fee next year. Funds are also now available to develop new initiatives and programs sponsored by SICB at the Annual Meeting. So, please think about how we can best develop in the future. One thing is most clear: we need to grow! So, encourage your colleagues and students to (re-)join SICB.

Best wishes for a productive and intellectually fulfilling spring and summer. Please plan to attend next year's Annual Meeting in Chicago. It's a great city with much to see and do, in addition to all of the great science that will be presented at the meeting. Also, remember to e-mail Dave, Audrone or me (abiewener@oeb.harvard.edu) about any special concerns or thoughts you may have on how to make DVM a better part of your professional life.

A Message from the Program Officer

David Carrier

The society's next Annual Meeting, to be held in Chicago in January of 2001, promises to be busy and maybe a bit hectic for DVM members, since we are sponsoring or co-sponsoring four of the 12 symposia:

1. "Molecules, muscles, and macroevolution: Integrative functional morphology," organized by Miriam Ashley-Ross, Alice Gibb and Lara Ferry-Graham.

2. "Motor control of vertebrate feeding: Function and evolution," organized by Michael Alfara and Anthony Herrel.

3. "Stability and maneuverability," organized by Frank Fish and Bob Full.

4. "Science, entertainment, and teaching: Bringing cutting edge biology to the public and teaching community," organized by Stuart Sumida and Elizabeth Rega.

In addition to these four, a number of other symposia will be of interest to many members of DVM (e.g., "Vibration as a communication channel,: DAB/DNB; "Starting with fins: Parallelism in the evolution of limbs and genitalia," DEDB; "Taking physiology to the field: Advances in investigating physiological function in free-living vertebrates," DCPB; "Ontogenetic strategies of invertebrates in aquatic environments," TCS/DIZ.)

The large number of symposia is exciting, but it will create scheduling conflicts. As a division we need to decide where to draw the line on the number of symposia. Kurt Schwenk has suggested that we adopt a policy of one DVM symposium a year with a competition among proposals. My own inclination is also to limit the number of symposia in order to reduce conflicts with the contributed paper sessions. I see the contributed paper sessions and poster sessions as the heart and soul of meeting. They are also the focus of presentations from the younger members of the society. Please send me your opinions on this (carrier@biology.utah.edu).

In spite of the scheduling conflicts at our next Annual Meeting, we encourage you to consider organizing a symposium for the Anaheim meeting in January 2002. Now is the time to consider submitting a proposal. One proposal already is brewing and we are looking for additional suggestions. The official call for symposia proposals for the Anaheim meeting will happen sometime next month. Contact me directly if you have questions in the meantime. The second step in organizing a symposium is to contact the program officer of the division that you hope will act as sponsor. It is very important to do this in the early planning stages, before submission of the proposal, and to keep him/her in the loop throughout the process. Please note that the organizers are usually expected to apply for extramural funds to help support the symposium. At the same time, acceptance of the symposium for the meeting is not contingent upon whether or not the grant proposal is funded.

A suggestion for a future symposium, that I would like you to consider, is one focused on "controversy" in our field. It would have a point-counterpoint format. Two or more speakers would be selected to present alternative viewpoints. The focus would be on theory and available evidence. Each speaker would be given time to respond to the points raised by the other speaker. (A possible example is the controversy surrounding the configuration of cursorial limbs. There are studies that suggest limb configuration is not important to performance and other studies that suggest anatomy does make a difference.) A number of unrelated controversies could be included in the same symposium. This format would draw attention to important unanswered questions and would naturally emphasize what we don't understand rather than what we know. Please contact me if you have any topics that might fit into such a symposium.

John Pearse and Martin Feder have asked Paul Sereno to be the opening speaker at the Chicago meeting. Paul has accepted the offer. The plan is to have Paul talk the first evening and then have a society-wide social.

A Message from the Secretary

Audrone Biknevicius

While Andy and Dave have covered some of the issues discussed during the division's business meeting, several others are worth bringing to your attention. First of all, Rick Harrison, editor of the Journal of Morphology, announced that the journal has changed its format to a larger page size with more color. In addition, he has gotten the publisher to agree to remove limits on the number of pages and on the number of illustrations. Furthermore, since each issue (not manuscript) is allotted 10 color pages free of charge, these are available to authors, depending on demand, who contact the editor prior to publication. Finally, Rick encouraged DVM members to act as reviewers for the journal; anyone who does so will receive a complimentary subscription for the year following the review. These are welcome changes in the journal's policies!

In his final report as program officer, Kurt Schwenk polled the membership on three programmatic issues from the Society:

1. Satisfaction with interdivisional paper sessions

2. The attraction of organizing interdivisional poster sessions

3. Satisfaction with electronic posting of the Annual Meeting's program listing and abstracts. While attending members voiced some concerns, the majority of members voted affirmative on all three issues.

In addition to the scheduling conflicts with symposia mentioned in Dave's message (above), Kurt also noted that another avenue for interdivisional symposia is the Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, which seeks to develop stronger ties with SICB. DVM members who would like more information should contact Blaire Van Valkenburgh.