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Division of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology (DSEB) - Fall 2000 Newsletter

Message from the Chair

Miriam Zelditch

I am looking forward to the SICB Annual Meeting in Chicago, Jan 3-7, 2001. I expect that this will be an excellent meeting, with symposia and a general talk of particular interest to members of this division. In particular, the symposium "Starting from Fins: Parallelism in the Evolution of Limbs and Genitals" (Jan. 4, Thursday) looks intriguing, and should demonstrate the value of well-supported cladograms. Also, "Lesser Known Protostome Taxa: Evolution Development and Ecology" (Jan. 5, Friday) should be of interest (even to those of us who work on other lesser known taxa). The problems facing workers who study poorly known groups are of relevance to all of us, and this symposium nicely ties in with our planned second annual workshop Phylogenetics for Dummies (more on that below). In addition, the talk by Paul Sereno, Major Patterns of Evolution in Dinosaurs (Jan. 3, Wednesday, 8-9 pm) will also be of interest to members of this division for its systematic and evolutionary content.

Last year, our division sponsored "Phylogenetics for Dummies", a workshop that was remarkably well-attended, especially in light of the fact that it did not appear on the program. We received many compliments and much gratitude for it, and plan to hold one annually. This year we will focus on a subject of great general interest to our colleagues - how to choose a tree as the framework for comparative studies. When there are many competing cladograms it is necessary to decide among them, and when there are few and quite preliminary studies, it is necessary to evaluate its support. As they did last year, Anne Maglia and Donald Swiderski are organizing the workshop, and will cover both theory and practice. If you have something to contribute on this subject, please attend. Your experience and insight will be immensely valuable to everyone. Tree evaluation is a complex and sometimes controversial subject, so it will be useful to have our cumulative experience available, as well as have several viewpoints represented.

Both our society and our division are in good shape. Most of you probably know that membership costs are reduced and that abstract fees are eliminated. This is possible because the society is fiscally sound. The society is also in interesting shape intellectually because of the new thematic structure for meetings. And the addition of the new division, Evolutionary Developmental Biology, is very exciting. Our own division is also doing well, with 289 members (as of my most recent list). But that number does make me wonder why so few regularly attend our business meetings.

I urge you to attend the business meeting, and to offer to run for divisional offices (and to accept being nominated if this should happen to you). SICB is undergoing substantial changes, both in the scientific program of our meetings and in many details that can affect us all (such as the increasing reliance on electronic communication, and the change in business office). We need to hear from you regarding these changes. And your input is useful for making decisions, such as how to use our resources. Also, the success of our annual workshops depends on the ideas and expertise of our division. With the increasingly thematic structure of the meetings, it is easy to lose sight of each other. Systematics is so integral to all comparative studies that we might have few papers in a specifically systematics session. Instead, systematics papers might be distributed across many different themes, depending on the characters of particular interest.

Message from the Secretary

Valerie Cappola

I too am looking forward to the SICB Annual Meeting in Chicago. Since both Miriam and Anne reminded you about the symposia and "Phylogenetics for Dummies" workshop I want to just to emphasize how important it is to attend the DSEB business meeting. Our division has 289 members, but very few people have attended the business meetings for the past two years (yes I'll admit that I only went to the last two). We want and need your contribution in making decisions concerning the division. I hope to see you at the conference and the business meeting, but if you can't be there please contact one of the officers with your ideas or comments.

Message from the Program Officer

Anne Maglia

At the 2001 meetings, DSEB will sponsor several contributed paper sessions and will co-sponsor two symposia: "The Lesser-Known Protostome Taxa: Evolution, Development and Ecology." These promise to be exciting, informative, and well attended. Also, as part of an ongoing series of hands-on workshops designed to help non-systematists use systematic tools, we will sponsor the second "Phylogenetics for Dummies" workshop. This year's topic will be "Picking a Tree from the Forest" and will build on last year's workshop that covered how to map characters onto an existing tree (to understand character evolution). This year we will evaluate different methods of analyzing data ( = coming up with a tree) and discuss the different methods of showing support for trees. Everyone is encouraged to attend, and feel free to bring questions or trees from your own research!

It is not too early to be thinking about workshop and informal symposium ideas for the 2002 Anaheim meeting. For divisional sponsored symposia (i.e., those intended for publication), the deadline has already passed with several proposal submitted. However, we can still promote informal symposia, workshops, and paper sessions centered around a common theme. We can also start making plans for symposia for the 2003 meeting.

The upcoming Chicago meeting would be a great time for you to get involved in the DSEB program. I'd particularly like to encourage students and "fringe" members to take an active role in deciding the directions in which our program should go. Have any ideas or comments about how to change or improve our program? Stop by the DSEB business meeting, find me at the meetings, or send me an email. I'd love to hear any suggestions or ideas you may have. See you in Chicago!