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Division of Developmental and Cell Biology (DDCB) - Fall 2000 Newsletter


Dear DevCellBiologist:

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the symposium we co-sponsored with the Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology was a resounding success. The bad news is that in creating the DEDB, we may be putting ourselves out of business.

The symposium on the foundations of evolutionary developmental biology was given to a full auditorium and was one of the most informative, interesting, and interactive discussions of developmental and evolution we have yet heard. Nature (403:125) and Science (287: 570) have both proclaimed the meeting as a milestone for evolutionary developmental biology, and recent editorials by Günter Wagner ( JEZ 288: 95) and by Corey Goodman and Bridget Coughlin ( PNAS 97: 4424) have stressed the intellectual and professional importance of the meeting. Anyone who was there can tell you that the discussions generated by these talks spilled over into the coffee breaks, and how each of us went home with new papers to read in disciplines that had seemed unrelated before these talks.

However, we have to decide whether the evolution of the Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology is an anagenic or a cladogenic event. Does the Division of Developmental and Cell Biology merely become the Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology, or does the Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology split off from the Division of Developmental and Cell Biology, leaving two vigorous branches, each having a common ancestor in the DDCB in 1999?

The Division of Developmental and Cell Biology is going to become extinct if we do not act now. Its population is dwindling so rapidly that only 5 scientists showed up at the watering hole for its annual meeting. In such a small group, we found that we were unable to generate a healthy community. We could not even form a nominating committee. We have no division Chair-elect, Secretary-elect, or Program Officer-elect. The terms of the present Chair and Secretary end at the meeting in Chicago in a few months.

I think that cladogenesis is a better model for us than anagenesis. There are numerous important issues of developmental and cell biology which are not necessarily evolutionary. The recent advances in angiogenesis or the regulation of cell division are worthy of symposia that do not necessarily have to tie these issues to evolution. So I wish all of you to throw away your modesty and nominate yourselves to be Chair of the Division of Developmental and Cell Biology or to be Secretary of the Division of Developmental and Cell Biology. Send your nomination to Chuck Ellis at ellis@neu.edu. Say simply, "Scott Gilbert wishes to nominate (put in your name) to be a candidate for the office of (put in the office) of the Division of Developmental and Cell Biology. Do it now, by email. Please.

Do it now. Don't go on reading this paragraph. Do it. It's important that you do it right now. That being said, we have some wonderful things on the horizon. Rudy Raff and I have agreed that the DDCB and the DEDB will cosponsor the symposia for the next two years. There are three important symposia for our group at next year's meeting: (1) Amphibian Metamorphosis; (2) Starting from Fins: Parallelism in the Evolution of Limbs and Genitalia; and (3) Integrative Aspects of Epithelial Structure and Function. These are synmposia that you will not find at the meetings of other professional societies. In addition, there will be symposia on the ontogenetic strategies of aquatic invertebrates and numerous sessions on curricular issues. For the following year (January, 2002 meeting), we have submitted a grant proposal for Ecological Developmental Biology: Developmental Biology meets the Real World." If the first symposium on evolutionary developmental biology focused on the phylogenetic, non-adaptive, and macroevolutionary aspects of evo-devo, this "eco-devo" symposium will look at the ecological, adaptive, and microevolutionary parts of evo-devo. It will include discussions of phenotypic plasticity, environmental sex determination, endocrine disruption, life history strategies, and adaptations of developmental stages to environmental conditions.

The meetings have been excellent over the past few years, and they have been full of developmentally related symposia. To miss these meetings is to miss a real intellectual treat. So spend the extra funds, and come to Chicago on January 3-7, 2001. After all, the movie 2001 is about development. (Think of all the birthdays in that movie, the spermatic rocket and the ovular planet, the Jovian birth canal, and that final image of the human fetus circling the globe. Am I reading more into this than I should?) So come to Chicago in 2001, and come to the DDCB meeting, ready to assume an official title.

Best wishes,