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Division of Comparative Biomechanics (DCB): 2006 Spring Newsletter

Message from the Interim Chair

Robert Full

The SICB has created a new division for the study of comparative biomechanics.

Comparative biomechanics needed a home where colleagues from all fields, interested students, granting agencies and corporations can turn to find the latest cutting-edge research, the investigators conducting the studies and the events that disseminate the discoveries. No other society in the world is better positioned to highlight the contributions of comparative biomechanics. The strength of the symposium and contributed paper and poster sessions at the SICB annual meetings are unmatched. Comparative biomechanics complements strong divisions that focus on physiology, ecology, behavior, vertebrate morphology and invertebrate zoology. This cross-fertilization has become more obvious in recent years as the society has encouraged themed sessions. Sessions on hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, terrestrial locomotion, feeding, biomaterials, and muscle function represent a core of the meeting and consistently showcase research that sets the pace for the field of comparative biomechanics.

The creation of The Division of Comparative Biomechanics (DCB) in SICB signals that we are in a new age of integration, but one that builds on past strengths. Integrative and comparative biomechanists and physiologists have been doing Systems Biology since the early 1600's. Recently, Systems Biology has received renewed attention, but the definition has been narrowed. "Systems Biology is a scientific discipline that endeavors to quantify all of the molecular elements of a biological system to assess their interactions and to integrate that information into graphical network models that serve as predictive hypotheses to explain emergent behaviors."

We contend that Systems Biology must integrate across:

1. Levels of organization (molecules to eco-systems)

2. Organisms (plants, invertebrates and vertebrates)

3. Time (evolution)

Comparative biomechanics is uniquely positioned to serve as an exemplar of this integration. The discipline focuses on the physics of how organisms function and interact with their environment from the scale of molecules to eco-systems. The goal is to discover basic physical principles that can be applied to a diversity of organisms. Studies of fluid and solid mechanics of organisms take advantage of direct experimentation, comparative and phylogenetic approaches and both mathematical and physical modeling. Few other disciplines contribute to and benefit from integration not only within biology, but also with physics, engineering, mathematics, chemistry and computer science.

The new division will hold its organizational meeting at the 2007 SICB Annual Meeting in Phoenix. At this time, we will attempt to adopt a set of bylaws. Since we do not yet have an official membership, we will hold elections in the spring of 2007. New officers will assume office at the 2008 meeting. Until then, we accepted volunteers as interim officers. These include: Robert Full, chair; Miriam Ashley-Ross, secretary; Frank Fish, program officer; and Monica Daley, student/postdoc representative.

DCB will get off to a lively start through events honoring Steve Vogel. Few individuals have had as broad an impact on the direction of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology as Steven Vogel. Having applied the world of fluid mechanics to myriad organismal level functions, he has pioneered an entire discipline. From feeding and swimming, to dispersion and wind forces, from giant creatures to tiny ones, Vogel opened our eyes to how organismal design reflects physical constraints of the world in which they live.

Steve is also a citizen-scientist for organismal biology. Through his popular books, his popular lectures and his passion for all things plant and animal, he has been an ambassador for integrative biology.

Finally, Steve has inspired legions of students -- those who were directly his own, those who have occupied F1 and F2 and even F3 generations of academics. His work and passion for teaching have infected institutions all around the country. I can think of few individuals who can match Steve as a role model for members of the Society for Integrative Biology.

Kate Loudon and Tom Daniel are organizing a "socialist" affair in which the contributions of Steve Vogel to research and teaching in comparative biomechanics is honored by individuals submitting their contributed papers or posters to sessions named in his honor. There will be one full day of contributed papers for this celebration. We encourage all of you to submit a paper - especially those of you who have benefited from his wisdom and inspiration.

While there will be no symposium and thus no invited speakers, there will be a social to which all are invited. We are just now finalizing sponsorship for this august event and would welcome contributions to it. Please let Tom Daniel or Kate Loudon know of your interest here.

Don't miss the plenary speaker for the 2007 meeting! Mimi Koehl has accepted SICB's invitation to open the meeting.

In addition, the Digital Library Advising Group for SICB has organized a symposium this year, focusing on the development of the SICB digital library with an initial emphasis on the topic of Biomechanics resources for all members. Trish Morse and Sara Hiebert Burch are coordinating the plans for the symposium and Steve Vogel and Rachel Merz are co-editing the Biomechanics Webpage (http://www.sicb.org/dl/biomechanics.php3) and welcome your contributions.

I also would like to encourage you to spread word of our new division to friends, students and postdocs, and suggest that they join SICB. SICB is a perfect place to pace the field with our diverse and integrative membership, and we would like our annual meeting to continue to be the showcase for the best research in the field.

Please respond to the call for symposia for the 2008 meeting in San Antonio, TX, January 2-6, 2008. Proposals are due by August 19, 2006 (http://www.sicb.org/meetings/2008/index.php3). If you have any questions regarding submission for a symposium, contact Frank Fish, Program Officer, at ffish@wcupa.edu.

Finally, I'd like to invite suggestions from future members regarding divisional initiatives, the newsletter and ways to increase membership.