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Division of Invertebrate Zoology (DIZ): 2005 Spring Newsletter

Marrus orthocanna, a deep sea siphonophore. Submitted by Casey Dunn.

In this newsletter:

Message from the Chair

Thomas Wolcott

Dear Colleagues:

It's been an eventful summer, hasn't it? I hope that most of you escaped having your selves, families, homes and research smacked by sundry hurricanes, and that those of you who were so smacked are on the road to recovery. It is humbling to be reminded that as a species or nation we're not nearly as much in control as we'd like to think.

As is usual at this time of year, I cannot believe that it's this time of year. I also cannot believe that I have nearly completed my three years of alleged service as chair and will be stepping aside for our new chair-elect. In the spring elections, we were privileged to have two very capable candidates offer their services -- Janice Voltzow and Jon Norenburg. The electorate has chosen, and I have sent both congratulations and condolences to each of them -- the job can be time-consuming now and then, but is worthwhile and therefore satisfying too. The hardest part for me was the papers I had to miss while closeted in business meetings, but it's been a minor sacrifice. Janice will be shadowing me at Orlando to draw conclusions about all the ways things could have been/can be done more efficiently and effectively by a truly organized person (which, as you may have observed, I am not). Thanks, Janice and Jon, for your willingness to serve, and best wishes, Janice, as you step into the harness!

The social impact of all the uncertainty about natural disasters has been much on my mind as I compose my swan song, so please allow me to philosophize for a moment. It strikes me that this sort of unease has a lot to do with the whole creationist/I.D. controversy with which we keep struggling. Everyone seeks a source of assurance. They quite naturally feel threatened by anyone who denigrates their particular source...and off we go to war. SICB and we invert types have a unique role to play in defusing the situation and helping the general public get the discussion back to the real, core issue that almost always gets passed right over. I hope that we all have opportunities to clarify what everyone assumes someone else has already taught: "What is science?" If we could get the discussion back onto the facts about these allegedly competing belief systems, we'd do an enormous service! It doesn't seem all that complicated:

Science is a set of "thought techniques" for drawing sense out of the universe; its beliefs include:

  • it limits itself to observable/measurable data

  • data are weighted by their reliability, redundancy, and verifiability, not by how well they fit a theory

  • the rules of nature don't change in mid-stream so science can be progressive and verifiable

  • those fixed rules allow drawing of conclusions, extrapolating backward and forward in time

  • science cannot "prove" anything, only provide the clearest understanding available to date

  • under its rules, its conclusions are true

Creationism and I.D. are other systems for making sense of things, which use different rules; their beliefs include:

  • other kinds of information can supplement/replace physical data

  • data that fit theory are probably good, those that don't are probably flawed and may be rejected

  • external intervention in natural law occurs

  • extrapolation in time is permitted by fixed rules that are non-physical (e.g. character of Designer)

  • information sources, once accepted as reliable, can "prove" things

  • under its rules, its conclusions are true

What gets lost in the arguments is that science isn't about "Truth" with a capital "T". We scientists must avoid getting harassed into taking the adversarial position, "No, you're wrong, ignorant, uneducated, foolish...and we're right!" because, by our own rule 5 above, we simply cannot prove it. With our tools, we scientists cannot even address the hypothesis "The world was created 30 seconds ago with everything in place as we see/experience it now!" The physical data are all there, but where is the Truth?

What we need to get across is that science, albeit by its very nature provisional and unable to "prove" things, is inordinately useful. If someone chooses to believe that creation occurred 30 seconds ago (OK, now 45), fine! We cannot prove them wrong and must not condemn them for what they choose to believe. However, to be effective in this science-dominated world, everyone really does need to understand what the scientific technique is (both strengths and limitations) and how it works -- and that's where we can help them.

If we scientists refuse to be made into enemies, the war should go away. Granted, there always are people who profit from war, and they never will welcome peace, but we may achieve it with the rest.

Here endeth the rant. Back to the news:

At our last meeting Ben Miner generously offered to take over from Sara Lindsay as chair of the Best Student Presentation Awards Committee. Well...biology has a way of torquing our expectations. Ben's family is to expand by two (yes, twins) right about the time of the meetings. Another set of congratulations and condolences! Sara and Ben asked if volunteers might come forward to organize the best paper judging this time, and it is a credit to the membership of DIZ that we had far more generous and zealous souls than we could actually use! Cecelia Miles and Dick Turner offered to work as a tag team to set everything up, and we are very grateful. They will be asking many of you to serve as judges; we hope that the others who offered to coordinate will be able to serve in that less time-intensive capacity. Watch your e-mail. Sara has come out of chairly retirement to help with protocols, forms, and experience. Our humble thanks to you all! Encouraging our best and brightest is one of the most important things we do, and I am heartened by the enthusiasm I see for it in DIZ.

In Orlando we've got all kinds of fascinating stuff coming up; rather than duplicating, let me refer you to Amy Moran's Program Officer message. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible, and to being able to attend even more intriguing papers next time as an ex-chair. Thanks for the opportunity to work with you all over these past years!

Message from the Program Officer

Amy Moran

Dear DIZ members,

I just returned from the October meeting of the SICB and Divisional Program Officers, and I am happy to report that the 2006 meetings in Orlando promise to be very exciting for DIZ members and the society as a whole. There are over 1000 posters and talks scheduled for the meeting this January, including a large representation for DIZ - this means Orlando will be similar in size to recent large and successful meetings including New Orleans and San Diego.

The symposia: In Orlando, the Division of Invertebrate Zoology is joining DEE and AMS in sponsoring Robert Podolsky's and Amy Moran's symposium entitled "Integrating Function over Marine Life Cycles," and DCPB, DNB, and the Crustacean Society in sponsoring "Genomic and Proteomic Approaches in Crustacean Biology" organized by Donald Mykles and David Towle. Both of these symposia promise to be exciting and ground-breaking! Each has a webpage that you can link to through the meeting webpage to get more information.

The social: DIZ will again be joining DEE, AMS, and the Crustacean Society for an evening social (check the program schedule for dates). Please plan to attend!

The venue: The hotel, the Buena Vista Grand Resort and Spa, is a 10-minute walk or a short shuttle ride from Downtown Disney with its many restaurants and Disney-related shopping. The hotel has two large outdoor pools, one with a waterfall and bar perfect for that après-meeting networking. For those bringing children, there is an outdoor playground and kiddie pool. The meeting rooms are large - in some cases very large! If you find yourself in a small session in a large room, please be kind to the presenter and sit near the front.

2007: In Phoenix 2007, DIZ will be sponsoring a symposium entitled "Integrative Biology of Pelagic Invertebrates", organized by Alison Sweeney. This symposium will address the recent technological and scientific advances in understanding these fragile, remote, pelagic organisms. Congratulations to all for excellent symposia proposals!

It is never too early to be thinking about symposia for the 2008 meetings. Proposals will be due next August, and please feel free to contact me with your ideas.

Have a great fall and see you in January!

Message from the Secretary

Bob Thacker

I hope everyone had a productive summer! If you would like to share some of your recent activities, you can create or update your entry in the database of invertebrate zoology researchers on the DIZ website: http://sicb.org/divisions/DIZ/researchers.php3. If you would like to participate, please send me a photo, graph, or theoretical model from your research, along with a short title and a paragraph describing the image. The image should be in jpeg or tiff format, while the text can be MS Word or RTF format. Please e-mail your submission to me: thacker@uab.edu. Please note: if you have already submitted information to another division's database, you can just let me know which division that is, and we can link to your existing submission. I also welcome any suggestions for improving the DIZ web pages.

At the 2006 Business Meeting, we will have a vote on changes to the divisional bylaws. All proposed changes are available for review on the SICB website in an electronic forum: http://sicb.org/phpBB2/index.php. The proposed changes include rather bland incorporations of electronic balloting and a clearer definition of officers' terms. We also discussed another change at the 2005 Business Meeting: removing DIZ membership as a requirement for participation in the best student presentation awards. This proposal generated quite a few comments that might be appropriate for further discussion. Please post your comments or suggestions on the electronic forum. In addition, you are welcome to review and suggest other changes to our current bylaws, available on the SICB website: http://sicb.org/handbook/bylaws.php3#dizbylaws.

At the 2006 Meeting, we will be seeking nominations for Secretary of DIZ. The term of office begins in January 2007. Please let one of your DIZ officers know if you are willing to serve as Secretary, or if you know of any potential candidates.

Message from the Graduate Student - Postdoctoral Affairs Committee Representative

Justin McAlister

Hello fellow students and post-docs. January will be here before you know it and hopefully you're all making plans to spend a week at this year's SICB Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL. I would like to remind you of a couple deadlines that are important for student members.

  • First, applications for student support are due October 28. Student support covers either the registration fee or housing costs in exchange for a day of service. Please be aware that if you choose housing support this year, you will have to pay a $75 co-pay to the hotel upon checkout. You can find this application on the SICB website and it is a simple and easy way to save you money. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity!

  • Second, be aware that the due date for meeting registration is December 2. Be sure to indicate that you're a Division of Invertebrate Zoology (DIZ) member when registering. Including this information indicates that you are eligible to compete for the DIZ best student paper or poster award.

In addition to the deadlines, there are several student/postdoc events that will occur during the meeting.

  • The student "first timer" orientation (Wednesday, January 4th at 5:30 pm) is an excellent introduction both to SICB and to the Annual meetings.

  • The student/postdoc luncheon (Thursday, January 5th at Noon) will give you a chance to meet and interact with fellow students and postdocs...oh yeah, and you'll get a free lunch!

  • Two workshops are scheduled that will be of interest to many of you:

Workshop 1: "Optimizing Your Graduate School Experience"

Saturday, January 7, 6:00-7:00 pm

Workshop 2: "Strategies for Landing an Academic Job/Postdoc"

Saturday, January 7, 7:00-8:00 pm

  • The SICB society-wide evening social in honor of students and postdocs (Saturday, January 7th from 8:00 - 9:30 pm) is a great way to relax with new and old friends at the end of a busy week. Coffee, dessert, and a cash bar will be provided at this event.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to e-mail me at: jmca@unc.edu

See you soon and best of luck with your studies and research!

Message from the Student Awards Committee Chair

Ben Miner

I would first like to thank Sara Lindsay for all her hard work over the past three years as the DIZ Student Awards Committee Chair. I happily receive the baton as the new chair and hope to continue the excellent precedent that Sara has set. I would also like to thank Richard Turner and Cecelia Miles, who will be co-chairs of the committee this year - I will be unable to attend the meeting this year because I am expecting twins in January. As with each year, we have quite a few students who have signed up to participate in the DIZ Best Student Paper program, and I therefore ask for your help in judging the student presentations in Orlando. Please contact either Richard (rturner@fit.edu) or Cecelia (cmiles@zoo.ufl.edu) if you are interested. Enjoy the meeting!!

Message from the Libbie H. Hyman Memorial Scholarship Committee Chair

Isidro Bosch

The 2005 Libbie H. Hyman Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Mr. Rafael Rosengarten, a first year Ph.D. student in the Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University. Rafael is currently interested in the neuromusculature and myogenic differentiation of lower metazoans. He was previously a researcher in the laboratory of Leo Buss where he helped to develop techniques for the mass culture of Placozoan, Trichoplax adherens. Rafael used his award was used to help defer the costs of travel and tuition while participating in the Embryology course at the Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories.

As in previous years there were many excellent candidates for the scholarship and the selection committee was hard pressed to choose a single recipient from such an outstanding group. After considerable discussion we were pleased to select Rafael, whose application and letters (as eloquently stated by one member of the Committee) "reflected an excellence of intellect and passion for research that is resonant with the Libbie Hyman legacy."

The Libbie Hyman Memorial Field Scholarship Committee (including Beth Okomura, Amy Johnson and Sid Bosch) wishes to express their appreciation to all of those who continue to make this scholarship possible. A future goal of DIZ and SICB should be to raise the principal to the level of endowing this important fund and potentially increasing the number of awards that can be given out to two per year.

In support of these goals, as well as that of maintaining the continuity of the scholarships, Monetary contributions, large or small may be sent, to: SICB Business Office, Libbie H. Hyman Memorial Scholarship Fund, 1313 Dolley Madison Blvd., Suite 402, McLean, VA 22101. Checks should be made payable to SICB and marked as a "Contribution to the Libbie H. Hyman Memorial Scholarship Fund." All contributions are tax deductible.

This scholarship, in memory of Libbie H. Hyman, one of America's foremost invertebrate zoologists, provides assistance to students to take courses OR to do research on invertebrates at a marine, freshwater or terrestrial field station. The Hyman scholarship is intended to help support a first field station experience for a first- or second-year graduate student or an advanced undergraduate student.

Completed applications, which must be submitted on-line, must include:

  • A one to two page description of the proposed coursework or research

  • Two (2) letters of recommendation from faculty members

  • Transcripts of both undergraduate and (if applicable) graduate course work

Deadline: MARCH 3, 2006

Notification of Awards: APRIL 3, 2006.

Application forms and further information are available on the web at:


For more information contact:

Dr. Isidro Bosch

Chair, SICB Libbie Hyman Scholarship Committee

Department of Biology

SUNY Geneseo, NY 14454

Phone 585-245-5303

Fax 245-5007


Link to officer list on DIZ page