Spring 2023: Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology

Message from the Chair

Dave Angelini, Chair.DEDB@sicb.org

Dave Angelini
Dave Angelini

SICB is a community that is driven by its members, in ways large and small. As we continue to emerge from the constraints of the pandemic, it has been wonderful to connect with old friends and to make new connections through SICB. This year’s conference in Austin was my first time to the Texas capital, although many SICB members enjoyed a return to the site of our meetings from recent years. It was a blast to meet people on the early morning runs or while waiting for the bats to emerge at dusk. I found myself doing some impromptu insect collecting and watching Texan leaf cutter ants right there in the green space along the river with some insect biologists, some I’d known for years and others newly acquainted. And of course, so many excellent presentations of exciting science.

As always, the logistics of the conference are a feat. The local volunteers and members of the Executive Committee deserve our thanks. I am particularly grateful to our divisional Program Officer, Frank Smith, for his work in organizing much of the division’s contribution to the conference, as well as to our out-going divisional Secretary, Leslie Babonis, who in addition to her regular duties organized and chaired another successful Faculty Launch Workshop. We also saw the end of the term of our SPDAC representative, Ryan Hulett, who has worked in recent years to organize the mentor-mentee meet-ups.

Bumble bees, such as this Bombus ternarius queen, are studied in our lab as a model to understand allometric growth and scaling.
Bumble bees, such as this Bombus ternarius queen, are studied in our lab as a model to understand allometric growth and scaling. Photo: Dave Angelini.

DEDB helped support several of the symposia at the Austin meeting including S1: Genomics of Marine Larval Evolution and Development, S3: Sexual Diversity and Variation, S5: Pathways to Adulthood, S6: Large-Scale Biological Phenomena Arising From Small-Scale Biophysical Processes, S7: Biology at Birth, and S9: Envisioning a Diverse, Inclusive & Safe Future for Field Biology. The DEDB Best Student Presentation session was also a highlight, with eight excellent talks from young researchers doing innovative and creative work. The BSP poster session was also packed with interesting projects, and it was a joy to speak with so many students and postdocs about their projects. The winners, Kate Garland from Monash University (best oral presentation) and Oghenevwogaga Atake of the University of Saskatchewan (best poster) beat out very strong competition.

SICB+ brings the annual conference to our global membership. The success of this virtual meeting is one of the silver linings of the pandemic. And this year, the continuing demand of the online platform has led to an extended period into March. That’s something we can’t do with an in-person meeting!

Looking forward, 2024 will bring SICB to Seattle. DEDB will continue to support several symposia and workshops with our membership in mind. Until then, SICB will continue to organize pop-up workshops throughout the year on various topics.

If you have any thoughts on what DEDB can do for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Email chair.dedb@sicb.org. Bumble bees, such as this Bombus ternarius queen, are studied in our lab as a model to understand allometric growth and scaling.

Message from the Program Officer

Frank Smith, DPO.DEDB@sicb.org

Frank Smith
Frank Smith

Hi everyone,

I hope you are having a pleasant Spring semester. First off, congratulations to all of our DEDB members that participated in Austin 2023, whether you participated in person or via SICB+. It turned out to be a very exciting, fun, and educational meeting. With that said, I am happy to report that our 2024 program is chock full of exciting symposia that will be of interest to DEDB members. A very prominent evo-devo symposium called “Chordate origins, evolution and development” organized by Billie Swalla is scheduled for our next meeting. Several other symposia will focus on important themes and concepts of evo-devo research. These symposia include “Convergent evolution across levels of biological organization, organisms, and time,” “What do trade-offs mean to reproducing females?: An integrative look at whole-organism trade-offs,” and “Evolution, physiology, and biomechanics of insect flight,” among other fantastic symposia.

Hypsibius exemplaris embryo. DAPI, gray. orthodenticle expression, cyan. six3 expression, magenta
Hypsibius exemplaris embryo. DAPI, gray. orthodenticle expression, cyan. six3 expression, magenta. Photo: Frank Smith.

Our 2024 meeting in Seattle is shaping up to be an exciting meeting for evo-devo research. But it is already time to start looking forward to 2025. Symposia applications for 2025 are due in mid-August (2023). In several ways, our society depends on symposia. So, if you have an idea for a symposium, please aim to submit an application. The application process is fairly simple. Please reach out to me if you are interested in submitting a symposium application. I will be happy to help in any way possible.

Lastly, don’t forget that abstracts for talks and posters are typically due in early September.

I hope to see you in Seattle!



Message from the Secretary

Allison Edgar, Secretary.DEDB@sicb.org

Allison Edgar
Allison Edgar

Division Business: DEDB officially has 244 members, and programs such as the Best Student Presentation Awards and DEDB Mentoring Meetups are going strong! As a follow-up to the successful 2022 Faculty Launch workshop, DEDB sponsored a follow-up workshop on interview skills (“Nailing the Zoom Interview”). The workshop was attended by 39 students, postdocs, and professors at SICB 2023. Please remember to respond to surveys so we can identify programming that will suit the needs of our members for future meetings.

We owe outgoing Secretary, Leslie Babonis, and outgoing SPDAC Representative, Ryan Hulett, hearty thanks for their service over the past two years. Both worked tirelessly to maintain these activities and other DEDB programming, moving many activities online and back again or to hybrid formats, to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minutes from the divisional Members Meeting in Austin are available online.

Members may follow @SICB_DEDB on Twitter.

the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi
The ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi. Photo : Allison Edgar.

Elections: Please remember to vote in the Spring SICB elections; student and postdoc members are especially encouraged to vote and to attend future member meetings. We have found excellent candidates for Program Officer-Elect and Secretary-Elect. We are always looking for volunteers who might be interested in serving the division in the future. If you would like to be notified of potential opportunities to serve, please feel free to email me directly (Secretary.DEDB@sicb.org) or use the SICB-wide sign up form.

Our division will also be voting on several small amendments to our bylaws, to align with proposed amendments to the society-wide bylaws. The DEDB proposed amendments are available here.

Best Student Presentations: Thank you to all the judges of the 2023 DEDB Best Student Presentation Awards! The BSP winner for oral presentations in 2023 is Kathleen Garland (Monash University)! Congratulations to all our BSP speakers: Gwendolyn Lam, Cody Limber, James Nowotny, Yareli Alvarez, Taylor Harrison, Kira Heikes, and Wesley Dillard. Congratulations also to our BSP poster winner Oghenevwogaga Atake (University of Saskatchewan) and all our BSP poster competitors: Amarachi Nwawueze, Atalanta Ritter, Braden Oddo, Emma Lanee Vequist, Hesper Khong Truong, Johnny Davila Sandoval, Joseph Sardina, Kennedi Light, Lauren Lubeck, Max Ellsworth, Rose Fiorenza, Scott Landman, Taneshia Wyman, Tran Huyen Nguyen Huynh, Trevor Oschenhirt, and Whitney Brownlee.

Message from the Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee Representative

Sydney Birch

Sydney Birch
Sydney Birch
Immunohistochemistry image of the actinula larva from the aboral end.
Immunohistochemistry image of the actinula larva from the aboral end. Photo: Sydney Birch.

I am a postdoc in Adam Reitzel’s lab at UNC Charlotte. My research interests include investigating how cnidarians interact with the environment at a genetic level and how that impacts development, behavior, ecology, and evolution. As a postdoc, I am investigating host-microbiome and virome interactions in Nematostella, a model sea anemone. My Ph.D. research was focused on understanding how hydrozoans integrate sensory information at the genetic level and how that mediated organismal behavioral responses where I investigated three closely related hydrozoan species.

Meet the Best Student Presentation Winners

Kate Garland (Oral)

Kate Garland “sciencing”
Kate Garland “sciencing”

I am a PhD candidate at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. I am fascinated by growth processes underpinning the evolution of the diverse morphologies across the tree of life. For my PhD, I am studying how one such universal model of growth may influence the evolution of bird beak shape. I am currently working with Associate Professor John Abramyan at the University of Michigan Dearborn, under the Postgraduate Fulbright Victoria Scholarship.


Gaga Atake (Poster)

Gaga Atake
Gaga Atake
The little skate (Leucoraja erinacea).
The little skate (Leucoraja erinacea). Photo: Gaga Atake.

I’m currently finishing my PhD research in Brian Eames lab at the University of Saskatchewan. My work focuses on characterization of skeletal tissues in living representatives of earlier-diverged vertebrate clades like Chondrichthyes (aka cartilaginous fishes).  Modern chondrichthyans are generally considered to have lost bone, but I’m using several approaches to test the hypothesis that they make bone. As much as I like doing research, I also like to watch and play football (soccer) and I am a Manchester United fan.

DEDB Program Officer-Elect Candidates

Kate Buckley

Kate Buckley
Kate Buckley, candidate for DEDB Program Officer-Elect.

Current position: Assistant Professor of Biology, Auburn University

Education: B.A., 2002, Hood College; Ph.D., 2008, The George Washington University

Professional Experience: Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Auburn University, 2019-present; Research Associate at Carnegie Mellon University 2016-2019; Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Toronto 2008-2016.

Other Memberships: Pan-American Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology (PASEDB), International Society for Developmental and Comparative Immunology (ISDCI)

Research Interests: My research program is aimed at understanding the evolution of animal immunity from the perspective of immune cell development and immune system activation.  I am also interested in understanding how immunological stimuli can influence development.

Statement of Goals: The field of evolutionary developmental biology and the community of evo-devo researchers have been extremely important in shaping my research program and my career.  I look forward to contributing to the Division of Evolutionary Developmental Biology and helping this Division continue to grow.  Serving as the Program Officer will provide me with an excellent opportunity to facilitate this growth and help foster the next generation of scientists.

Dave Plachetzki

Dave Plachetzki
Dave Plachetzki, candidate for DEDB Program Officer-Elect.

Current Position: Associate Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham NH.

Education: BS in Biology, Northern Michigan University (1995); PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology (2009).

Professional Experience: Assistant Professor, University of New Hampshire (2014-2020); Associate Professor, University of New Hampshire (2020-2023); Howard Hughes Medical Institute postdoctoral fellow, University of California at Davis (2011-2014); Center for Population Biology postdoctoral fellow, University of California at Davis (2009-2011).

SICB Activities: Member of DEDB and DIZ since 2005. Assistant editor of Integrative and Comparative Biology (2018-present).

Other Memberships: Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, Society for the Study of Evolution.

Research Interests: Sensory biology and evolution, Metazoan complexity and genome evolution, Phylogenetics

Statement of Goals: I first attended SICB way back during my first year of grad school. To me, inclusivity has always been the most salient feature of the society. While we are a major scholarly society, we are also very graduate-student oriented, providing support and a nurturing environment for grad students of all backgrounds. In addition, the SICB meetings are themselves a nexus for integrative research that spans a vast phylogenetic diversity, and many dimensions of biological organization. The types of insights that come from bringing people of different backgrounds together to approach a common problem have always driven the major advances in science. SICB is a natural incubator for this process, and I am happy to contribute to the ongoing success of the society and DEDB. As a Program Officer, my goals will be to support symposia that bring integrative and comparative perspectives to the study of Evolution and Development.

DEDB Secretary-Elect Candidates

Austen A. Barnett

Austen Barnett
Austen Barnett, candidate for DEDB Secretary-Elect.

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, DeSales University, Center Valley, PA.

Education: B.S. in Biology, University of Southern Indiana (2008); Ph.D. in Zoology, Southern Illinois University (2013).

Professional Experience: Assistant Professor, DeSales University (2017-present); Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University (2014-2017); Postdoctoral Fellow, Albert Einstein College of Medicine (2013-2014).

SICB Activities: Member and presenter in DEDB and DIZ since 2009; DEDB Best Student Oral Presentation (2013); DEDB Best Student Poster Presentation (2011).

Other Memberships: Society for Developmental Biology, Pan-American Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology, The Pennsylvania Academy of Science

Research Interests: Arthropod body-plan evolution; chelicerate evo-devo; the developmental basis of eye-loss in arthropods; the evolution of axial patterning mechanisms in arthropods.

Statement of Goals: I joined SICB and the DEDB as a graduate student and have benefited greatly from the society. SICB has always felt like home to me, and I still look forward to attending yearly to touch base with my science family. SICB has always been a society that has put students first, and as a professor at a PUI, I greatly appreciate the resources that DEDB offers young trainees and PIs alike. I now lead a lab full of promising undergraduates and bring them to SICB when possible so that they may reap the benefits of being part of such an amazing body of researchers. As the DEDB Secretary, I hope to contribute by broadening participation in evo-devo, and to bring ideas about further building the DEDB community.

Heather Bruce

Heather Bruce
Heather Bruce, candidate for DEDB Secretary-Elect.

Current position: Research Associate, Nipam Patel lab, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole MA

Education: B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology at University of Arizona, Lisa Nagy lab; Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology at University of California, Berkeley in Nipam Patel lab

SICB Activities: Member and presenter starting in 2013

Other Memberships: Society for Developmental Biology, Pan-American Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology, The Crustacean Society, Entomological Society of America

Research Interests: I am interested in the developmental basis of morphological diversity, the origin of novel structures, and questions about homology, using molecular, embryological, morphological, and comparative approaches. My research is focused on arthropods, and I have done embryological work with at least one species from each of the four main extant arthropod groups. However, I am interested in evo devo questions across all of the weird and wonderful invertebrates.

Statement of Goals: As a participant at several SICB conferences since 2012, I am excited about this opportunity to learn how societies like SICB facilitate the science and connections that have been instrumental to my progression as a scientist. I am eager to learn from and contribute to SICB’s efforts towards broadening diversity in science. The Secretary position for SICB’s Division of Evolutionary Developmental would provide me with an excellent opportunity to do this.