Spring 2023: Division of Neurobiology, Neuroethology, and Sensory Biology

Message from DNNSB Chair

Jim Newcomb, chair.dnnsb@sicb.org

Jim Newcomb
Jim Newcombe, DNNSB Chair

A couple of days ago, we received over two feet of snow in my area of NH, and I can currently climb up the snowbank by my house and walk onto the roof. This sounds like a perfect time to contribute to the SPRING SICB newsletter!

Thank you to all who planned, coordinated, and participated in this year’s meeting in Austin, TX, and the virtual SICB+ component. I would like to give a special thanks to our DNNSB Executive Officers – Jessica Fox (Secretary), Jeff Riffell (outgoing Program Officer), Jamie Theobald (incoming Program Officer), and Loranzie Rogers (Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Representative) – who filled in for my absence during the meeting, as I finally succumbed to a bout of COVID-19 for the first time, and was forced to isolate in my hotel room for the majority of the meeting. (Aargh!) I was soon back to health and all of the DNNSB events, meetings, and sessions went off without a hitch, so all is well that ends well. If you, like me, missed our DNNSB Members Meeting, please check out the minutes of this meeting on our divisional website.

DNNSB co-sponsored several major symposia this year and we encourage DNNSB members to consider proposing symposia for upcoming SICB meetings. We also had a full slate of contributed talks and posters. Thank you to all of the people who volunteered to chair sessions, judge presentations, and help contribute to the success of the DNNSB sessions. It takes a village!

We had another strong group of speakers for our Best Student Presentation (BSP) talks and posters. Please join me in congratulating our 2023 BSP winners, Kristianna Lea (Case Western Reserve University; talk), and Tanner Mierow (University of Tulsa; poster), and the 2023 BSP Honorable Mention, Alexandra Venuto (East Carolina University; talk).

DNNSB’s Program Officer, Jeff Riffell, finished out his term at this year’s meeting in Austin. Please join me in both thanking Jeff for his service to DNNSB over the last several years (during a pandemic, mind you!), as well as welcoming our new Program Officer, Jamie Theobald (Florida International University). Thank you and welcome!

In this year’s election, we will be voting for two DNNSB Executive Officer positions. My term as Chair is wrapping up this year, and while we revised our bylaws last year to add Elect positions to our Executive Committee, they did not kick in until this year. Therefore, we do not have a Chair-Elect and we will need to simply elect a Chair, to start in the spring of 2024. That said, our Secretary, Jessica Fox, has two years left on her term, so it will be time to vote for our first Elect position – Secretary-Elect. This person will start in the spring of 2024, getting to learn the ropes from Jessica before she passes the baton in the spring of 2025. We have excellent candidates for each of these positions, so please vote in the upcoming elections!

Message from DNNSB Program Officer

Jamie Theobald, dpo.dnnsb@sicb.org

Jamie Theobald
Jamie Theobald, DNNSB Program Officer.

Thanks to the organizers of the excellent symposia that were co-sponsored by DNNSB in Austin. And in Seattle, 2024, we are looking forward to co-sponsoring: “Convergent evolution across levels of biological organization, organisms, and time” hosted by Emily Lau, Jessica Goodheart, and Rebecca Varney, “Moving in an uncertain world: adaptive locomotion from organisms to machine intelligence” hosted by Jean-Michel Mongeau, and Kaushik Jayaram, and “Evolution, Physiology, and Biomechanics of Insect Flight” hosted by Lisa Triedel, Jon Harrison, and Caroline Williams.

We encourage graduate students to sign up for best student presentation and best student poster competitions. Although we limit the number of presentations, we decided at the last business meeting not to limit posters. As a result, we will need poster judges for the best student posters. Postdocs, please consider signing up to judge; the students really appreciate it and we are working to create an incentive for doing it. PIs, of course, please sign up as well.

Spring 2023 Elections

DNNSB is electing a new Chair, and a new Secretary-Elect, in this Spring’s SICB elections. See below for the candidate biographies. We are also voting on several bylaws amendments, posted here. Please vote – the ballot is at this link!

Candidates for DNNSB Chair

Megan Gall

Megan Gall
Megan Gall, candidate for DNNSB Chair.

Current Position: Associate Professor, Vassar College

Education: B.A., Biology, Pomona College, 2005; MS, Biology, California State University-Long Beach, 2008; PhD, Biological Sciences, Purdue University, 2012

Professional Experience: Post-doc, Georgia State University, 2012-2013; Assistant Professor, Vassar College, 2013-2020; Associate Professor, Vassar College, 2020-Present

SICB Activities: I first joined SICB as a post-doc and have been a member since 2012 (and through 2039!). I have affiliations with DNNSB and DAB. I regularly attend meetings with my undergraduate students and have served as a poster judge for multiple divisions. In recent years I have participated in two symposia and published in ICB. I have also served as a meeting mentor and session chair.

Other Memberships: I am also a lifetime member of the International Society for Neuroethology and the Animal Behavior Society.

Research Interests: Research in my lab focuses on auditory processing and acoustically mediated behaviors of songbirds, owls, and frogs. Broadly, I am interested in the factors that influence the properties of auditory processing at both comparative and within-individual scales. Vassar is a small liberal arts school with no graduate students. Therefore, I see my research not only as scholarship, but as a fundamental aspect of my teaching and training of undergraduates. Many of the questions we ask in the lab stem from their curiosity.

Statement of Goals: The thing I enjoy most about SICB is the diversity one encounters at every meeting: diversity in research interests, types of academic institutions represented, stages of academic careers, and participant backgrounds. In this position I would like to continue the commitment of DNNSB to student research through our poster and oral presentation competitions and continue our commitment to innovation through our sponsorship of society-wide symposia. Additionally, I am interested in expanding our division’s resources for teaching development in comparative neurobiology, neuroethology, and sensory biology as well as our engagement with division members throughout the year, potentially through online workshops and seminars. Finally, I am interested in exploring with the graduate student representative and other members of the division how we best increase our membership and divisional recruitment efforts.

James Alan Murray

James Murray, Candidate for Chair-Elect.
James Murray, candidate for DNNSB Chair.

Current Position: Prof. of Biology California State University East Bay

Education: B.S. in Neuro & Behavior Cornell 1988, Ph.D. in Zoology U. Washington 1994

Professional Experience: Post-docs at Scripps Oceanography & UCSB Biology.  Faculty at Colby College, U. Central Arkansas

SICB Activities: My first meeting was ASZ in Boston, December 1989.  I’ve bee attending most years since, and have served as the neuro-Division chair, as division secretary but never as program officer.  I have also served on the society-wide Education and Public Affairs committees, and have organized a couple of symposia for the division.

Other Memberships: Member of SFN and of FUN.  I am also an organizer of our local Brain Bee.

Research Interests: My research is not focused, like SICB, it is diverse and inspired by curiosity.  I am investigating neural mechanisms of navigation, the function & mechanisms and sniffing in sea slugs, the sensory basic of magneto reception, and the evolution of feeding on toxic prey.

Statement of Goals: My goals are to support the division members, to reflect their interests, to collaborate with other divisions to create a program of talks, posters, and symposia that are of division and society-wide interest.  I am always concerned with the support and recruitment of younger scientists to SICB and our division, so I would encourage presenters and symposia to focus on young faculty and their student research projects.  SICB should always remain a place where younger scientists are comfortable and encouraged.  In that vein, SICB has welcomed a diversity of people, but inclusivity must be emphasized and improved upon at every opportunity.  

Candidates for DNNSB Secretary-Elect

Josh Martin

Josh Martin
Josh Martin, candidate for DNNSB Secretary-Elect.

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Biology, Colby College

Education: BS Ohio State University (2003); PhD University of Arizona (2011)

Professional Experience:  Postdoc, Case Western Reserve University (2012-2016); Adjunct Research Scientist, Cleveland Museum of Natural History (2014-present)

SICB Activities: Member since 2018; Presentation judge for DNNSB

Other Memberships: Internationals Society for Neuroethology; Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience; Maine Society for Neuroscience

Research Interests: Research in my lab revolves around the choices that animals make to obtain food and mates in their environment; how those choices are encoded in the brain, translated into descending commands to the body, and converted into movement.  I use insect species (moth, cockroach, mantis, dragonfly)  to connect anatomy, neurophysiology, and motor behavior to the animal’s natural environment and the evolutionary history of the species.

Statement of Goals: I am relatively new to SICB, having joined and attended my first meeting just before the pandemic. I’m glad to have found this diverse and vibrant community, and I’d like to participate more and give back. I teach at an undergraduate institution, and I’ve found SICB to be the ideal conference for undergraduate students to not only engage with others in their field, but to discover the breadth of biology research.  I would like to help the division continue its tradition of excellence and inclusion, and help to communicate that excellence to members and the wider community of science.  A primary goal of mine is to expand outreach and communication to undergraduate students, especially under-represented students, to promote their work, to help them become part of the community early in their careers, and to find mentors and opportunities.

Dan Speiser

Dan Speiser
Dan Speiser, candidate for DNNSB Secretary-Elect.

Current Position: Associate Professor, University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC, USA)

Education: B.A. Biology, Carleton College, 2003; PhD, Biology, Duke University, 2010. Professional Experience: Post-doctoral Fellow, University of California Santa Barbara, 2010-2014; Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina, 2014-2020.

SICB Activities: Member of SICB since 2006; Primary affiliation with DNNSB and secondary affiliation with DIZ; Assistant Editor (ASTED) for Integrative and Comparative Biology (2019-current); Reviewer of many SICB talks and posters and at least several ICB manuscripts.

Other Memberships: International Society for Neuroethology (current).

Research Interests: The Speiser Lab uses integrative and comparative approaches to study the evolutionary physiology of marine invertebrates. Our areas of emphasis include: the visual ecology of marine invertebrates; the neuroethology of distributed visual systems; and the co-evolution of complex physiological traits.

Statement of Goals: SICB 2006 in Orlando was my first science meeting and I have attended every SICB meeting since then. Now that I am bringing my own lab to SICB, I am more grateful than ever that SICB is student-friendly and I will work to uphold that tradition. Should I be elected to a leadership position, I will focus on two areas. The first is facilitating matches between researchers and jobs. Over the past few years, I have noticed that undergraduates, graduate students, and post-docs have been struggling to find positions while labs and schools have open positions that are going unfilled. It seems to me that there are barriers here that we need to identify and address to secure the future of our field. The second is communicating why integrative and comparative biology is a vital pursuit. Specifically, I would like to see us more proactively promote hypothesis-driven empiricism as a method of inquiry and highlight how comparative, mechanistic approaches to biology address contemporary challenges in engineering and design, as well as inform us about the evolution of life on Earth.