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SICB 1997 Spring Newsletter

Spring Newsletters by Division

Message from the President,

Alan J. Kohn

SICB begins its second year under a new banner and with a bold mission. We are the only professional society that fosters advances and facilitates communication among life scientists working at all levels of biological organization, from molecule to ecosystem, on all kinds of organisms, and with comparative as well as experimental approaches.

Another banner year has begun for SICB, thanks mainly to the outstanding leadership of Mike Hadfield and the initiatives implemented during his two years as President. In addition to the Society's new name, these initiatives include:

  • Increasing the sophistication and efficiency of electronic communication via e-mail, the World Wide Web and the electronic journal Experimental Biology Online.
  • Grants-in-Aid of Research program.
  • The new journal Integrative Biology: Issues, News, and Reviews, to be published by Wiley-Liss and distributed to all SICB members free of charge, at least for the first few years.
  • Improvements to the Annual Meeting program thanks to searching reviews by the Program Advisory Committee chaired by Martin Feder and the efforts of Program Officer Willy Bemis.
  • A new Conservation Committee, to coordinate and lead the Society's efforts toward the conservation of biological diversity.

In the rest of this message, I summarize our plans to advance these new directions during 1997.

Our new name is not only that; it is facilitating a healthy trend toward thinking, research and presentations that increasingly integrate multiple levels of biological organization and cross a broader spectrum of taxa. The SICB 1996 Annual Meeting in Albuquerque drew more than 700 participants and attracted considerable public recognition. A substantial article on meeting highlights by Elizabeth Pennisi in the January 17, 1997 issue of Science, headlined "Integrating the Biological Sciences in New Mexico," led by stating, "Living up to its new name, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology..." and emphasized the diversity of participants, topics and habitats of the organisms studied. Albuquerque newspaper coverage of the meeting emphasized the Public Affairs Committee Panel Discussion entitled, "Water Resource Issues in the Rio Grande Valley" and included a favorable editorial the day after the meeting.

Despite the new name and emphasis, most SICB members are in fact zoologists, and the proposed rebirth of the International Congress of Zoology announced elsewhere in this newsletter should be of broad interest.

Our next Annual Meeting will be held in Boston, January 3-7, 1998 and will feature symposia that will be both more diverse and more integrated. We are developing more interactions with other societies, and welcome the Ecological Society of America (ESA), which will meet with us in Boston for the first time in many years. Both the ESA and the International Society for Reef Studies will join SICB in sponsoring the major symposium on coral reefs and environmental change. Again we will have a regionally relevant and important public affairs forum, most likely focusing on the current problems of fish resources and fisheries of the western North Atlantic. There will be a special session on late-breaking advances in integrative and comparative biology as well as other innovative activities being planned by the Program Officer.

We also hope to have the inaugural issue of Integrative Biology: Issues, News, and Reviews available for you at the Boston meeting. At all recent Annual Meetings, we have been able to provide hotel accommodation to all graduate student members who present papers or posters and are willing to provide a few hours of help to the staff, and we plan to continue this practice at Boston. It will be a great meeting; don't miss it!

In the Fall 1996 SICB Newsletter, President Hadfield described the long-range planning (LRP) meeting held last summer in Chicago. In Albuquerque, the Executive Committee voted to adopt the recommendations from that meeting. Some of these recommendations require amendments to our Constitution, so Executive Director Laura Jungen, Administrative Manager Pam D'Argo and I drafted the necessary amendments and presented them at an "electronic meeting" of the Executive Committee in January. The Executive Committee voted unanimously in favor of these amendments, which now must come before the membership for a mail vote. You can find the proposed amendments on page 16, and a ballot is enclosed with this newsletter.

Here I summarize the effects of these amendments:

Article I, Section 2. The statement of purpose is amended to reflect the change from ASZ to SICB.

Article II. Membership requirements are simplified. The Associate membership category is deleted, Full membership is open to those who do not have the doctorate and paperwork is reduced because new Full Members need not be nominated. In addition, the Student Member category is no longer restricted to graduate students but is open to undergraduates, the Postdoctoral Member category is formalized, and the membership categories are broadened to accommodate the growing number of family members. (The two new sections were not part of the LRP Report but are housekeeping amendments proposed by the Business Office.)

Article III, Section 5. This section is modified to make it consistent with the simplified membership requirements of Article II.

Article III, Sections 9-11; Article VI, Section 1; and Article VII, Section 4. These are minor housekeeping changes in committee titles.

Finally, the changes to the bylaws formalize how the Society has actually operated during the past several years.

Our Constitution allows two weeks for the return of ballots. Amendments favored by two-thirds of the members voting will be adopted.

Above, I mentioned the new Conservation Committee. Led by Fraser Shilling, the committee is leading a major effort to develop a statement that will inform Congress of biological requirements necessary to ensure that the Endangered Species Act, up for re-authorization this year, will succeed in accomplishing its goals. The statement is based on the Conservation Resolution that the Committee drafted last year and that was approved by 94 percent of voting SICB members. By the time this newsletter goes to press, I will have asked a number of presidents of relevant societies to join in supporting the statement and bringing it to the attention of Congress. Led by our Conservation and Public Affairs Committees, SICB is expanding its interactions with policy makers and with the public.

Elsewhere in this newsletter, the first awards in the new Grants-in-Aid of Research program for graduate student research are announced. A special appropriation of $5,000 from Society funds made these initial grants possible. Last fall, Mike Hadfield and I solicited major donations to the endowment in support of this program from a group of senior SICB members with histories of commitment to the Society. Thus far, this appeal has resulted in a welcome addition of more than $15,000 to the endowment. The interest earned on this amount will be enough to provide at least one additional Grant-in-Aid of Research in 1997. I hope the endowment will continue to grow, and I encourage your large or small tax-exempt donation to the Grants-in-Aid program fund (a donation form is included with this newsletter).

Finally, I address the matter of membership. I strongly support the efforts of Past President Hadfield and the Executive Committee to widen the range of our activities and to increase the benefits of belonging to SICB for all members, and I plan further enhancements. Despite the exciting activities of our Society, its membership has been stagnant or has declined slightly in the past few years. If we are to maintain the level of benefits, including those I've described here, we must increase our membership. This must be the responsibility of our current members. I urge each of you to copy and distribute the enclosed membership application or call the Business Office for a prospective member packet and use them to recruit at least one colleague and one student who are not members to join us. We will all profit!

Message from the Program Officer,

Willy Bemis

The Albuquerque meeting was the first since our name changed from ASZ to SICB. It also was our last Christmas-week meeting. More than 500 talks and posters were presented in Albuquerque, including seven symposia, contributed paper sessions for nine of our 10 Divisions, and three newly instituted interdivisional sessions. I was particularly encouraged by the strong graduate student and postdoctoral presence in Albuquerque, for these scientists represent the future of SICB, and the future looks very bright. Based on tabulated meeting evaluations, most participants and attendees enjoyed the Albuquerque meeting, and I am working to smooth out those programming problems that were brought to my attention.

Now that I have served one year as SICB Program Officer, I can comment with some perspective on the annual cycle of programming. Much of the routine business of programming occurs in a more-or-less continuous dialogue with our convention staff at the SICB Business Office in Chicago. The programming calendar is full throughout the year, from symposium planning to preparation of the abstract form and guidelines in the spring to laying out the program grid and abstract processing and scheduling in the fall. Many groups and individuals are involved directly in the programming process. SICB has 10 Divisions, and usually seven or eight symposia are organized for a typical SICB meeting, so it is challenging to schedule the scientific sessions to minimize conflicts. Added to this are all of the other activities that must be accommodated during a meeting. Our institutional memory stands to benefit by improving the stability of at least one person very closely associated with the programming process. To remedy this, we are already planning ways to ease the transition for the next SICB Program Officer so that he/she will benefit from what I learn during my term.

For example, we adopted four simple and achievable goals for session programming last year, and will attempt to apply these throughout my term as SICB Program Officer: 1) reduce the number of incompletely filled sessions; 2) group papers together by some logical connections; 3) reduce overall number of concurrent sessions; and 4) encourage interdivisional communications by developing interdivisional sessions.

Added to these session programming goals are important strategic goals of redesigning our program to reflect our current membership and technological revolutions in communication. To help open up and demystify the programming process, I have instituted a new system of quarterly programming reports to keep officers aware of the annual programming cycle. There also is a clear link between successful meeting programming, grant funding for symposia and the American Zoologist. To address this, we worked last year to restore our traditional 18-month lead time for symposium planning, and I am happy to report that this effort is already on-track for the Denver meeting in 1999. This year, we expect to further refine our abstract transmittal and scheduling process, including both paper and electronic submission and improvements in the final production of the abstract issue of American Zoologist. I also expect to work closely with divisional Program Officers during the hectic scheduling period in September. To help achieve all of these goals, many of which were called for in comments transmitted to programmers, the Executive Committee supported a motion to make this year's abstract deadline Friday, August 22, 1997.

Turning to plans for our SICB 1998 Annual Meeting in Boston, January 3-7, 1998, I am delighted that we will again meet in the Marriott Copley Center Hotel, the site of our very successful centennial meeting in 1989. This is a wonderful meeting hotel because it offers excellent session rooms as well as easy access to exciting activities in Boston and Cambridge. I am also very pleased to have the help of three great local co-chairs for the Boston Meeting: Farish Jenkins, Harvard University, Rich Marsh, Northeastern University, and Jan Pechenik, Tufts.

We have scheduled nine symposia:

  1. "Comparative Embryology of Myogenesis"
  2. "The Evolution of the Steroid/Thyroid/Retinoic Acid Receptor Family"
  3. "Coral Reefs and Environmental Change - Adaptation, Acclimation or Extinction?"
  4. "Evolutionary Relationships of Metazoan Phyla: Advances, Problems and Approaches"
  5. "Aquatic Organisms, Terrestrial Eggs: Early Development at the Water's Edge"
  6. "The Compleat Crustacean Biologist: A Symposium Recognizing the Achievements of Dorothy M. Skinner"
  7. "Development and Evolutionary Perspectives on Major Transformations in Body Organization"
  8. "Evolutionary Physiology"
  9. "Origin and Further Evolution of Circulatory Systems"

In addition, a special workshop will be presented entitled, "Comparative Biology in the Classroom." Information about the workshop and symposia will be distributed later in the year.

We are planning some wonderful special lectures and expect to finalize a decision about our traditional end-of-meeting party soon. Also, we will take advantage of our new January meeting time and Boston venue to have at least one affiliated meeting on January 2. Glenn Northcutt, Mary Sue Northcutt, Kiisa Nishikawa, Billie Swalla, Steve Zottoli and I will host the first meeting of the Julia Platt Club as a forum for evolutionary morphology and development. Further information about the Julia Platt Club will be provided in the Abstract Transmittal Form and Guidelines mailing this spring. We expect it to be a small but exciting group, and urge you to consider attending!

Finally, I must mention again how pleased I am about our shift to a regular meeting time in early January. Many people have called for such a change for many years, and it has much potential to energize SICB. It is now time for you to begin planning for next January, for your attendance at our Annual Meeting is essential to the long-term success of SICB. Come to Boston and help us chart the future!

Message from the Secretary,

Thomas G. Wolcott

Seeing the universal principles emerge again and again from a variety of disciplinary contexts can really bring them home to developing scientists

After years of faithful and competent labor, the retiring SICB Secretary, Susan Peters, has handed over to me the "Official Badge of Office" [no animals were harmed in the production of this quill]. Unfortunately, when making the transfer she neglected to read the Official Caveat: "Remember, I am a professional. Do not try this at home..." So it's Amateur Night in Raleigh. My appreciation of Susan's contributions has taken a quantum leap, especially since she passed along much smaller piles than I've already accumulated as SICB Secretary.

Tremendous gratitude also is due to Public Relations Manager Christine Bennett and the staff at the SICB Business Office, who tolerate the organizationally-challenged with great aplomb and endless patience. As long as the new Secretary is in tactile-proprioceptive mode (e.g., feeling his way), the SICB membership has an unprecedented opportunity to exploit his naiveté and get their items into the newsletters. Let me know what you think your colleagues ought to hear!

The Albuquerque meetings brought home to me once again what a unique society SICB is - such a stimulating brew of interdisciplinary ideas! It is so refreshing (at least to a generalist like me) to be able to step back and see more of the big picture, and to be shown what's interesting about subjects far from my own area of focus. The result can be a clearer vision, not just of how to execute some hot new technique, but of how to design and carry out good science itself. Seeing the universal principles emerge again and again from a variety of disciplinary contexts can really bring them home to developing scientists - another compelling reason for bringing students to meetings.

In keeping with SICB's goal of attracting more student members by providing student-oriented services (see the article on student support on page 9), I would like to begin assembling a guide to course offerings, research opportunities and internships at field stations. Students who succumb to my enthusiastic temptations and go to a field station always return wildly enthusiastic, regarding that summer as one of the high points in their educational career. What's available out there for them? A reasonably comprehensive guide would be a real service. The best place to display it may be on the SICB Web page, since the Spring SICB Newsletter comes out a bit late for many labs' scholarship and application deadlines. Let's see what we get... the stuff most useful for getting such a guide underway would be e-mail submissions from any field stations offering courses, internships, work-learns, REU's, or other opportunities. I would need the following information:

    Name of station
    Mail address
    Phone number
    E-mail address
    Web site URL (if any)
    Types of programs offered
    Approximate costs
    Opportunities for financial aid
    Deadline dates for applications and scholarships

I would anticipate sending an e-mail to all responding institutions each fall, requesting data on the next summer's programs. Then we could provide current data in time for students to survey the list, correspond with their top choices, and prepare applications. If you own, or are owned by, or know of a station that belongs in such a database, please send the information to Thanks!

Message from the Treasurer,

Mary Beth Saffo

SICB is currently in promising financial shape. Perhaps most importantly, our overall reserve balance (including the general endowment, specified contributory funds, and general liquid reserves) at the end of 1996 was approximately $340,600, which slightly exceeds our goal of maintaining at least 40 percent of our annual operating expenses as reserves.

Also, our net income for 1996 was higher than originally expected, because of lower than expected expenses in 1996. These savings were realized largely by lowered 1996 expenses for American Zoologist, for "meeting futures" (the costs of finding and reserving future meeting sites), and for the Albuquerque meeting, compared to original budget projections. Our savings of about $7,500 for the Albuquerque meeting was an especially welcome surprise. Although the 1996 Annual Meeting still operated at a loss, the lower-than-expected attendance could have resulted in an even larger net loss than we budgeted for. We owe thanks to the efficiency of the SICB convention staff for managing to save money even in such circumstances.

In 1997, our expenses will increase, in part to fund innovations in American Zoologist and the Annual Meeting. To fund our various new projects without long-term financial risk to the Society, we need to work hard to increase our annual net income in future years. We have four main sources of income:

Publications: American Zoologist continues to be our main income source. With Jim Hanken's energetic editorship, increased subscription prices, and our apparent success at holding the line on journal distributor fees, we have good reason to expect that this journal's income will continue to offset many of the expenses of the Society. However, continuing budget constraints among university libraries remain a source of uncertainty for projecting numbers of future institutional subscribers. Do continue to encourage your library to maintain its subscription to American Zoologist!

Membership Dues: Membership numbers have held steady this year, but our hoped-for increase in membership is still an unrealized goal, and it continues to be a priority of the Society.

Meeting Income: Our meetings have operated at a loss for several years; our long-term goal is for meeting income to at least match expenses. Hopefully, our new January schedule and continued program innovations will result in increased attendance (and therefore income) from both members and exhibitors.

Member Contributions and Grants: Tightened federal budgets call for greater initiative and creativity in seeking funds for symposia, graduate student support and other projects of the Society. The recently appointed Development Committee is charged with identifying new potential individual and private institutional donors to support SICB programs. Recent generous member contributions to several of our programs - crowned by Charlotte Mangum's recent, extraordinary gift to us - are an encouraging sign that SICB can realize its goal of funding several of its projects through member contributions. Many thanks to all of you who have contributed to the Grants-in-Aid of Research and other programs in 1996!

In order to maximize the impact of member contributions, we invested $100,000 of our reserves into long-term, high-interest CDs; in 1997, we hope to further increase the portion of our reserves invested into higher interest-bearing funds. Our goal is to invest at least the equivalent of our "endowment" reserves (currently $115,000) into secure but higher-interest funds such as these; the exact mix of investments could change from year to year, depending on changing interest rates and other financial considerations.

Make sure you check out the articles and news that is referenced at the top of this newsletter (in the left-hand column).

The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
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Phone: 703-790-1745 or 800-955-1236
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