Spring 2023: Division of Ecology and Evolution

Happy Spring 2023! It is that time of year when we pick up those binoculars to watch mate choice behaviors or start flipping logs looking for migrating salamanders! We hope this newsletter finds you with warm spring air on your face and renewed excitement to be a biologist.

Thank you to our DEE Officers! 

We want to start out with a huge Thank You to Fran Bonier and Christine W. Miller for supporting the Division of Ecology and Evolution as Chair and Secretary, respectively, through the past two challenging COVID-19 years! They did an amazing job! A big thanks also to Anusha Shankar for her service supporting our early members as Student/Postdoctoral Representative and especially all her help with Beer and Brains. She went above and beyond. Incoming officers, Tonia Schwartz and Ryan Earley are excited to support DEE as Chair and Secretary, respectively. Based on the outcomes for the elections past last year, we welcome Christian Cox as Chair-Elect and Kristi Montooth as Program Officer-Elect.

We are excited to have two excellent candidates nominated for DEE Secretary-Elect for the Spring Elections (see their information below). Please be sure to vote for this position, and on the proposed amendments to our DEE bylaws, posted here.

SICB 2023 Annual Meeting in Austin, TX

SICB has always been known for the networking opportunities and it was a joy to see SICB in full swing again with old friends catching-up, and new friendships and collaborations being established. DEE was well represented at SICB as we co-sponsored five excellent symposia, and we had 262 presenters selected DEE as their primary SICB divisional affiliation with 165 oral and 97 poster presentations. Martha Muñoz has been working hard as Program Officer! The Beers and Brains Event was a great networking success with over 60 early career folks chatting with 20 established researchers sharing their experiences and offering words of career advice. As is typical the event was filled up in less than a day. We are excited by the enthusiasm for this event, and we are exploring creative ways to continue to expand this event to be as inclusive as our budget will allow. We also held our annual Members Meeting, and the minutes of our meeting are available on our divisional website, here.

While it was great to reconnect at the SICB meeting, we encourage you to stay connected throughout the year by joining our Facebook group (SICB Division of Ecology and Evolution), follow us on Twitter (@SICB_DEE), and/or join our Slack workspace (SICB Division of Ecology and Evolution). Also, remember the SICB Jobs and Fellowships board is a great place to both look for and advertise jobs, graduate student positions, and postdoc positions.

Would you like to organize a symposium?

SICB symposia are part of the lifeblood of the society. DEE supports many of the symposia that you see at the annual meeting. We are, by nature, a broad division: our symposia cover many topics in ecology and evolution. Symposia occur throughout the conference and highlight emerging trends in integrative and comparative biology from a diverse range of biological fields. In addition, the papers from these symposia populate our companion journal, Integrative and Comparative Biology.

We encourage you to reach out with your symposia ideas! If you’ve got an idea for a symposium, let’s talk! Please reach out to Martha Muñoz, your DEE Program Officer. As the PO, Martha helps SICB members pitch and refine proposals for symposia, and helps the other POs plan the annual meeting program.

The sooner you reach out, the better. Symposia proposals are due in August or September (it varies between years) for symposia 16 months later at the annual meeting. Give yourself a few months to make your plan. Detailed information about the process can be found on this link (please click on ‘Symposium Proposal Guidelines’ on the right-hand side). The document is quite detailed, and if those details feel daunting, don’t worry! Martha is here to help. Martha has spoken in a number of SICB symposia and co-ran a symposium in 2019 with an associated networking luncheon for students. She secured NSF funding to support the costs of the events. Whether this is your first or fifteenth symposium, we would enjoy helping you out! We can help you talk through your ideas and speakers, make a funding plan, and build capacity (companion sessions, lunches, etc.) for your symposium. Early career researchers – we are especially eager to hear from you! Your ideas and vision are exciting to us, and we would be delighted to help you plan a symposium proposal.

Winners of the Raymond B. Huey Best Student Presentation Awards

We want to congratulate all the finalists who presented their research at the Raymond B. Huey Awards for the DEE Best Student Presentations. The winner of the best oral presentation was Julia Kendrick from Queen’s University Kingston, Ontario for her talk “Beetlejuice: anal secretions as a competitive strategy in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus orbicollis,” and the best poster winner was Noé Reyna from the University of Texas at Austin for his poster “Coming to one’s senses: stickleback molecular processing and neuroanatomy vary across environments.” We also congratulate Jess Emery Sterling and Mercille Nguyen on their Honorable Mentions. Jess spoke on “The forming of a new kingdom: primary microbial succession in anchialine ecosystems,” and Mercille delivered a poster titled “Tritrophic interactions with avian predators: the effect of host plant species and herbivore-induced plant volatiles on recruiting avian predators.”

Oral Presentation Winner: Julia Kendrick

Julia Kendrick
Julia Kendrick

Position: MSc Student, Bonier Lab, Queen’s University Kingston, Ontario

Research: My research interests lie in exploring the ecological relevance of relationships between individual behavior and physiology. I’m particularly interested in the physiological basis of competitive ability and how parental environment effects offspring behavior and physiology. My current work presented as part of the DEE Huey Award competition focuses on how the fungal gut microbial symbionts of the burying beetle species Nicrophorus orbicollis contribute to their ability to compete against harmful microbes for carrion.

I’m preparing to defend my master’s work in the next month.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity to present my work as part of this incredible group of researchers, and to the DEE and SICB organizers for an excellent conference!

Oral Presentation Honorable Mention: Jess Emery Sterling

Jess Sterling
Jess Sterling

Position: Jess is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the cell and molecular biology program at UT Austin. She’s an NSF GRFP recipient and a member of Dr. Justin Havird’s lab.

Research: In my primary research, I study the mitochondrial theory of aging. This includes analyzing mitochondrial mutations and evidence of selection in genes responsible for mitochondrial DNA repair in long-lived species. Additionally, I conduct microbial ecology and population genetics research pertaining to organisms found in anchialine pools, unique habitats found almost exclusively in Hawaii.

Poster Presentation Winner: Noé Reyna

Noé Reyna
Noé Reyna

Position: Undergraduate Researcher, Hofmann Lab, The University of Texas at Austin

Research: My current research uses bioinformatics and genetics to understand the diversification of neural transcriptomes of Icelandic three-spined sticklebacks. Do we see this diversification between populations reflect the ecology and/or colonization history? It is through this project that I got hooked on genetics! Currently, I am a third-year undergraduate student at UT Austin, where I am majoring in Computational Biology – with two minors in Computer Science and Scientific Computation. At UT, I am involved in undergraduate research including the Hofmann Lab and the EvoDevOmics Freshman Research Initiative Stream (shout out to Drs. Hofmann and Young). This summer I’ll be at UCLA as a student in the Bruins-In-Genomics program. I will also be applying to Ph.D. programs this Fall 2023 cycle! I am beyond thankful for the amazing experience I had at SICB 2023 as it is the first-ever conference that I have attended! It was truly awesome to meet scientists from all over the world. I look forward to seeing you all next year at SICB 2024.

Poster Presentation Honorable Mention: Mercille Nguyen

Mercille Nguyen
Mercille Nguyen

Position: Undergraduate Researcher, Dr. Alex Van Huynh Lab and Dr. Joshua Slee Lab, DeSales University

Research: I am currently a third-year student in the 5-year Accelerated Physician Assistant Program at DeSales University. My major research interests lie in avian ecology and evolutionary biology. I strive to understand the mechanisms of avian olfaction and the role that olfaction plays in the day-to-day activities of Pennsylvania songbirds, including foraging, navigation, and mate choice. At the moment, my research is focused on identifying the use of herbivore-induced plant volatiles in avian-related tritrophic interactions. Specifically, my collaborators and I are investigating the possible use of methyl jasmonate and methyl salicylate in avian foraging of herbivorous insects. In the future, I would like to investigate the possible role of olfaction in the passerine recognition of brood parasite eggs. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to present some of this work as part of the DEE Ray Huey BSP session this year at SICB, and I am excited for what the future holds!

DEE Secretary-Elect Candidate Biographies

Ariel Kahrl

Ariel Kahrl, candidate for DEE Secretary-Elect
Ariel Kahrl, candidate for DEE Secretary-Elect.

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Hamilton College

Education: B.A. in Biology Oberlin College, Ph.D. in Biology University of Virginia

Professional Experience: Upper and Lower School Science Teacher, Stuart Hall School (2010-2011), Postdoctoral Researcher, Stockholm University (2017-2022).

SICB Activities: Member of DEE, DPCB (2014-present), DEE Student and Postdoc Representative (2017-2019), Judge for Huey Award (2018-2023), Judge for Wake Award (2022), Organizer and Mentor for Beer and Brains, PUI working group (2023-)

Other Memberships: Society for the Study of Evolution, Sigma Xi, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles

Research Interests: My lab combines field, comparative, and molecular approaches to study the evolution of sperm morphology. Research in my lab focuses on understanding how differences in biophysical properties of the fertilization environment shapes sperm morphological evolution and how sperm and eggs interact during the process of fertilization. We study these processes in local frogs in NY and in subtropical species of frogs in central Panama that have diverse fertilization modes.

Statement of Goals: SICB meetings attract some of the best integrative biologists to come and share their research every year. Though the rigor of the science presented at SICB is high, it is one of the friendliest meetings for students that I have attended. During my time as the student and postdoc representative for DEE I helped to maintain and improve resources for students, and as Secretary I hope to continue to cultivate an inclusive culture and career-building resources for students. Creating a welcoming and supportive environment for young scientists is a key step to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at our meeting, which a personal goal of mine and one that is central to SICB’s mission. I plan on promoting opportunities for students in DEE, such as the participation in the Huey award, and Beer and Brains, as well as helping to better connect the resources produced by the SPDAC committee such as graduate and postdoc funding opportunities. As a new PI at a small liberal arts school, I am currently serving as a member on the new PUI working group to support faculty at PUIs, which I view as an opportunity for DEE to improve access and resources for undergraduate students to participate at SICB. I look forward to the opportunity to continue supporting DEE in creating an inclusive environment at the SICB meeting and throughout the year.

Alisha Shah

Alisha Shah, candidate for DEE Secretary-Elect
Alisha Shah, candidate for DEE Secretary-Elect.

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Kellogg Biological Station, Dept. of Integrative Biology, Michigan State University.

Education: B.A. in Biology and B.A. in Journalism – University of Texas at Austin (2002-2007); Ph.D. in Zoology – Colorado State University (2012-2018); NSF Postdoctoral Fellow – University of Montana (2019-2021).

Professional experience: Assistant Professor, Kellogg Biological Station-Michigan State University (2022-present).

SICB Activities: Member since graduate school (2013-present); DEE Huey Award judge (2019 & 2020), judge for DEE student posters (2016).

Other Memberships: Society for Freshwater Sciences, Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, Ecological Society of America

Research Interests: Ecological (thermal) physiology, community ecology, aquatic insects, conservation biology

Statement of Goals: After attending other meetings for a year or two during grad school, I started attending SICB. I recall being so excited and nearly overwhelmed by the number of symposia and talks that pertained to my research. The friendly, welcoming atmosphere that is characteristic of SICB meetings, as well as its strong commitment to DEI, made me feel I had found my society “home.” It has been at SICB that I have met some of my most influential collaborators and mentors along my academic journey. As a new assistant professor, I have been looking for bigger ways to give back to this society and I am therefore so honored to have been nominated to run for Secretary. If elected, I will work actively to support the DEE executive committee. I will also communicate important news and opportunities in a timely manner to our members, spotlight current projects and publications, and highlight DEE symposia. I hope to continue to the division’s tradition of being inclusive and collaborative and serve to support our members in every way I can.