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Division of Vertebrate Morphology (DVM): 2007 Fall Newsletter

In this newsletter:

Message from the Chair

Kurt Schwenk

The spectacular New England fall foliage visible outside my new office taunts me as I write this. Early fall semester is an exceptionally busy time for those of us in Academe-if it weren't for Gary Gillis' vigilance and tactful reminders, there would probably be a blank space here instead of these pithy remarks.

First of all I'd like to thank Sharon Swartz and Mark Westneat for agreeing to run for DVM Chair. Mark is the new Chair-Elect, but as a consolation prize, Sharon gets to remain a highly productive research scientist while Mark looks forward to two years of unremitting drudgery. Congratulations Mark!

As Gary mentions in his statement, we will soon be electing a new Program Officer and Secretary. So please watch for the announcement asking you to vote. Voting participation is not always what it should be. As always, we need as much input from the membership as possible. I will be appointing a nominating committee very soon to identify candidates, so beware the unexpected phone call or email...

There is one piece of budgetary news that you should be aware of: the Society has adopted a flat-rate funding scheme for all SICB divisions, regardless of membership. For some divisions this represents an increase in traditional divisional budgets, for others a decrease. Unfortunately, DVM is in the latter category. What this means for us practically is a reduction in funds available to support symposia, divisional socials and regional meetings. There are good reasons for going to the flat rate, but obviously it is a bit painful for DVM. Nonetheless, as Jeff describes in his message, we can be creative by pooling our resources with other divisions when appropriate. I am open to the possibility of bringing this up for discussion at the next SICB Executive Committee meeting if the membership decides we should revisit the issue.

The DVM Northeast Regional meeting took place October 13th at the beautiful Narragansett campus of the Graduate School of Oceanography of the University of Rhode Island. Thanks to Cheryl Wilga, Jackie Webb and their students for organizing this year's meeting. The meeting was dedicated to Karel Liem of Harvard University who was honored not only for his distinguished career in morphology, but for his outstanding contributions as a mentor-it seemed that nearly everyone at the meeting had been influenced by Karel in some way. The meeting mirrored our annual meetings in its excitement, diversity and exceptional quality of student talks. Next year's regional meeting will be hosted by the University of Connecticut and will be organized by Margaret Rubega and myself.

Speaking of meetings, January's annual meeting in San Antonio is looking good, as usual. Certainly San Antonio should be a fun town and there are a variety of symposia of interest to DVM members.

  • Going with the flow: ecomorphological variation across aquatic flow regimes (full-day symposium organized by G. Rivera & R. Blob)

  • Vertebrate head segmentation in a modern evo-devo context (full-day symposium organized by S. Kuratani & T. Schilling)

  • Evolution vs. Creationism in the classroom: evolving student attitudes (full-day symposium organized by E. Lovely)

  • Electromyography interpretation and limitations in functional analyses of musculoskeletal systems (half-day symposium organized by N. Konow & S. Gerry)

  • Testing macroevolutionary hypotheses: approaches and perspectives (half-day symposium organized by M. Alfaro)

    There are already several excellent DVM-supported symposia lined up for the 2009 Boston meeting, but I would like to encourage our membership to consider organizing symposia that are centered in DVM. The trend has been for DVM to be a subsidiary co-sponsor of recent symposia rather than the main sponsor. On the one hand, this probably reflects the interdisciplinary nature of most modern research, but on the other hand it speaks to the question of DVM's identity as a division-something that has been discussed at recent business meetings.

    I'd like to call your attention to Gary Gillis' Secretary's report and his request for member participation and input into the new SICB and DVM websites. We would like to get ourselves out there by providing great photos for the site that will be cycled through the SICB home page. In addition, we want photos and short photo essays of member's labs and research programs. This is a great opportunity to combine shameless self-promotion with service to your society! Please think about putting together a group of several photos and perhaps a brief text description of what goes on in the lab. Gary will start the process of organizing this. Finally, please consider what kinds of things YOU would like to see on the website. It is going to evolve and we would like it to reflect members' needs and interests as much as possible (otherwise it will become a personal venue for me, Gary and Jeff, and who knows what will happen-maybe hundreds of pictures of lizard tongues to start with...). We can discuss this at the San Antonio business meeting, but Gary and I welcome your comments now (ggillis@mtholyoke.edu; kurt.schwenk@uconn.edu).

    In Memoriam

    We are very sad to report that Karen Hiiemae, well known vertebrate morphologist and a Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering at Syracuse University, has died of cancer at the age of 66. Karen is best known for her work on the functional morphology of mammal feeding. She was a long-time collaborator with Fuzz Crompton, Rebecca German and Jeff Palmer, among others, and a mentor to many students and postdocs, including Kurt Schwenk and Rebecca German. She was as famous for her wit and humor as she was for her science. At her memorial service, Fuzz Crompton observed, "We admire her courage, strong will, friendship and loyalty. But above all, we admire her total inability to be mean or vindictive." She will be missed.

    -Kurt Schwenk

    Message from the Program Officer

    Jeff Walker

    The air is cooling and the leaves are falling but not in San Antonio, the site of our 2008 annual meeting. Expect sunny skies, warm temperatures, and many, many great sessions of good science. And get excited about three symposia: (1) Going with the Flow, on the morphological, ecological and evolutionary consequences of living in flowing water, (2) Vertebrate Head Segmentation in a Modern Evo-Devo Context, on one of the great questions of vertebrate comparative morphology, and (3) Evolution vs. Creationism in the Classroom, which will address effective ways of teaching evolution to our students as well as two half-day symposia listed above in the chair's message. As usual, the many contributed sessions on feeding, swimming, running, flying, materials, systematics and developmental and evolutionary morphology will compete for our time. But we can relax after 3 p.m. and visit the poster sessions for another year of good science in the company of friends and drink. Other "edutainment" opportunities in San Antonio will include four showings of the not-to-be-missed Flock of Dodos followed by a discussion with the filmmaker Randy Olson and at least one showing of the IMAX film Volcanoes of the Deep Sea. Because of the divisional budget restructuring mentioned in the Chair's message, DVM and the Division of Comparative Biomechanics are pooling resources and will be co-hosting a joint social following the annual Friday night DVM business meeting. Both the Marriot Rivercenter Hotel and the Henry Gonzalez Convention Center have spacious facilities for our sessions, meetings, and socials. And finally, the hotel and convention center are located on San Antonio's beautifully planted Riverwalk. Double your food budget because the restaurants along the walk are outstanding (but expect lots of obstacles if you are planning anything other than early morning runs). Finally, think about contributing some time to the Division and running for Program Officer. I'm keeping a FAQ on what to do (and not do) in this position; please contact me (walker@maine.edu) and I'll send you a copy. Good luck preparing your presentations. I look forward to seeing everyone at Mad Dog's British Pub in San Antonio (yes, they have free wireless).

    Message from the Secretary

    Gary Gillis

    Hi all, it was nice to see so many of you at this summer's International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology in Paris, France. The talks and posters were excellent, and the sites and food were pretty impressive as well. It is always fun to get a chance to meet with colleagues from around the world (especially when you get to do it at a café sipping burgundy with a view toward Notre Dame or the Pantheon or Sacre Coeur...you get the idea). If the meeting in Paris is any indication, the study of vertebrate morphology is indeed alive and well both in the U.S. and abroad!

    On October 13 we had our Northeast Regional DVM meeting hosted by the University of Rhode Island (Thanks). The tradition of a day's worth of 5-minute talks is a good one and a great way for students to practice presenting new material and for everyone to keep tabs on what everyone else is doing these days. This year's meeting was dedicated to Karel Liem, one of the world's greatest functional morphologists and a darn good story-teller as well. Quite a few members of Karel's "academic family" were present, and seemed to enjoy harassing him in varied ways (I mean congratulating him for all he has done...). Some photos tell the story.

    Like Kurt, I would like to extend my thanks to Sharon Swartz and Mark Westneat for agreeing to run for DVM Chair-Elect and congratulate Mark on getting the nod (I think having a fish in his picture might have had something to do with it...). I should also note that it will soon be time to vote for program officer and secretary elect, so if you get a call or email from me in the next year asking you to run for one of these esteemed positions, don't hesitate to agree to do it.

    Finally, I'd like to encourage everyone to have a look at the new SICB website and especially the DVM page. If you have thoughts or ideas about things you'd like to see changed or improved, please let me know (ggillis@mtholyoke.edu). Along those lines, it would be great to begin to collect cool photos that you have related to vertebrate morphology. These will be used to decorate our website and on occasion will get rotation onto the society's homepage. If you have photos you'd like to see online to highlight your research and DVM more broadly, please send them to me in jpg format. In addition, the society is in the beginning stages of developing an online database of members, which will incorporate photographs and text relating to research interests. I'll have some examples to show you and more to say about this at the upcoming meeting in San Antonio. See you all soon.

    Link to officer list on DVM page