SICB Time Again!

18 Dec

The final two weeks of the semester are busy for everyone with stacks of grading, year-end meetings, and preparation for winter break plans, but this year it is even a bit busier for me. I am bringing five of my research students to the annual Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting January 3-7, 2015. I am excited for this conference because my students are presenting on a variety of topics that represent the breadth of my own research program and that of my collaborators here at Milllikin University. In addition, I will be presenting my first talk on raptor ecoimmunology and disease ecology since I started working with birds of prey just last year. As I wrap up manuscripts from the 3-year study of supplemental feeding in a community of songbirds that was my first major research project as a faculty member, I am pleased to have been able to get a new study to the point of presentation at a national meeting.

The dynamic of bringing undergraduates to a national meeting is always an interesting one – this time made more interesting by the diverse interests and motivation for these students to participate. Two of them are already entrenched in the path to graduate studies in physiological ecology, having already made connections with potential graduate advisors, written grant proposals, and submitted application materials. Those two know that this meeting offers a chance to connect with some of those potential advisors in person and get great experience and feedback that will facilitate their transition to graduate school. I suspect they will spend much of their time outside of their presentations taking in as many talks and posters related to their field of interest as possible. The other three are pursuing professional programs (Veterinary, Physical Therapy, etc) and for them, I am sure they will approach this meeting much differently: give their presentations and go explore West Palm Beach.

If they are like my last pre-professional students I brought to a national meeting, however, they will likely find themselves drawn to a few presentations here and there because they wouldn’t have made the commitment to this meeting if at some level they didn’t love biology. What I always look forward to is the conversations we have about what they learned during the day, either from their own presentations or from listening to others, and that I NEVER have to look at them and say “So, what did you learn today”. Those conversations spontaneously arise and seems as if they just can’t help but to want to talk science at these conferences.  The best part is that I really get to see them putting the knowledge they gained from their coursework to use.

 

– T. Wilcoxen

Diversity on Campus: How does it matter?

3 Dec

Background

I started this blog in mid-November and got busy…now it is the end of the semester. I hope you are ending your semester nicely and have some time to read my entry below.

This theme of “Diversity on Campus” is not directly related to ecological research. But it is a major issue on many Liberal Arts campuses. Our campuses are not exceptional. Diversity Indices from U.S. News for our campuses are 0.38 for Millikin, 0.32 for Allegheny, and 0.29 for Bucknell. In contrast, top 5 Liberal Arts colleges are Pine Manor College, MA (0.77), Pacific Union College, CA (0.75), University of Hawaii-Hilo, HI (0.75), SUNY College-Old Westbury, NY, and Agnes Scott College, GA (0.68). It is interesting that the geographic distribution of these colleges with high diversity is not necessarily linked with the geographic distribution of ethnic diversity in this country.

Here’s the explanation for this Diversity Index from U.S. News.

“Our formula produces a diversity index that ranges from 0 to 1. The closer a school’s diversity index number is to 1, the more diverse the student population. In other words, the closer the number is to 1, the more likely it is for students to run into others from a different ethnic group. Conversely, the farther away from 1 a school’s diversity index is, the more likely it is that any student that another student meets will be of the same ethnic group.”

This means that not only predominantly White but also predominantly Asian, Black, or Hispanic colleges have lower Diversity Index, which makes sense.

Diversity among Students

Last week, I attended a dinner event with an underrepresented group of ~100 senior high school students from various regions who are considering coming to Bucknell. This was part of an overnight event called “Journey to Bucknell”. It was my second time to attend this dinner event, and quite honestly, I was baffled for the first time by the way the event was set up. All the students were students of color, mostly Black and Hispanic and some Asian. A few black staff members welcomed all of us and faculty members invited to the event were mostly either faculty of color or foreign faculty members. It was very odd to see the artificially condensed diversity in one room on this predominantly white campus. But I became aware of and appreciative about the effort that the University has made to promote diversity on campus. Indeed, I very much enjoyed the event this year as I knew what to expect. My conversations with the students this year were all positive and made me think that this campus actually may change in the near future.

From an ecological standpoint, diversity at any level should be good. What about diversity on campus or in college classroom? We assume they are all good too. I personally think it is neat and exciting to see diverse classroom. But I’ve been wondering whether and how diversity in science classroom benefits students’ learning. In humanities classroom, I can see how diverse background of students can enrich learning experiences. In contrast, for example in math class, would diversity among students enrich learning experience? What about ecology-related classes? I do not doubt that learning any subject in a diverse classroom setting would have profoundly positive effects on students’ perceptions of the world and the way they interact with people with different background. But does diversity have proximate positive effects on learning in a science classroom?

Once I taught an upper level course “Conservation Genetics” in which 5 out of 15 students were non-white or had international background. This was as high as diversity in classroom can get in my department. The diversity made discussions and presentations very interesting with some accents and unique comments/ideas. Meanwhile, the diversity created some challenges. Some international students became very shy about speaking out. I totally understand how they feel as I was an international student. Another trend was that variation in quality of presentations and papers became much larger in the class. It was difficult to grade anything without having any biases; understanding and accepting cultural and language challenges are important but how much of the environmental factor should we take into student’s performance? I remember the interesting comment raised by a professor at one of the Teaching/Learning sessions: some students with different cultural background lack sense of plagiarism.

Diversity among Faculty

The same argument can be applicable to “diversity among faculty”. If I am teaching courses related to Japan or Asia, my background would be an asset to me as a teacher. In fact, I was invited to a “Religion in Japan” course as a live Japanese specimen (my friend who is American teaches this course). Of course, I am not an expert in the field. But I lived in Japan for 27 years until I came to the US. So my experiences and opinions were invaluable to the class. Does my background help me teach biology courses? Probably no. Can my background negatively affect my teaching? Probably yes. My English will never reach at the native speaker level. My perception of the world is not culturally tuned to the American standard and will never be. On my teaching evaluation last year, one student commented that I criticized Americans too much when we discussed ecological footprint, resource consumption, and CO2 emission. It was shocking to read this comment as our discussions were based on the data. Then, I realized that this student might have felt that (s)he was attacked by this foreign professor.

Well, I still don’t always get American jokes. I still lack some of the common senses (e.g., I recently found that I can’t read kid’s books in English). I am sure that I misinterpret subtleness of some student’s comments. These are presumably some of the reasons why we have less diverse faculty members in science departments than in humanities at Bucknell and probably at other liberal arts colleges that prioritize teaching. I am sure that applicant pool is quite different between science and humanities too.

I do want to think that unique background of science faculty members strengths their teaching so that it offsets possible disadvantages. But I don’t have evidence, and thus I am not convinced so far. When our focus is on individual faculty, the issue becomes difference but not diversity. So student’s learning experience may become more enriched by a department with more diverse faculty members even in science, which however is difficult to be assessed.

Summary

My assessment above is far from comprehensive, neutral, and organized. This US News article lists 8 reasons why diversity matters at college, with which I agree. But my point is that diversity may function differently at a different level in different fields. An automatic acceptance of stereotypical positive effects of diversity may deprive us of chances of appreciating what diversity really does to our classroom, department, and college. Or maybe diversity is not an issue of good or bad but rather of fairness. In any case, this issue of diversity has interested me and made me think, especially about how I can make a unique contribution to the department and the university.

MT

Taking a Position as a Visiting Assistant Professor

30 Oct

The Scenario

It is December and you’ve applied for a handful [or more] tenure-track positions. Maybe you’ve had some success (short list, phone interview); maybe you haven’t. In some years, there is a second wave of tenure-track postings… but that isn’t always the case. At about this time, you should expect to see an increase in the number of Visiting Assistant Professor (VAP) positions and you ask yourself, should I apply for a VAP? As somebody who took a VAP out of my postdoc, I had many questions about whether this was a good career move… and I quickly found that there weren’t too many answers for my questions. Here is my experience during my application process and my road to a tenure-track position.

My Job Search

I knew that I wanted a position in a liberal arts setting about 3 years into my Ph.D. so I applied almost exclusively to PUIs. I was on the job market for 2 years (the 1st year I was hardly competitive and probably wouldn’t have left my postdoc position at that point anyways). I had guaranteed funding for another couple years as a postdoc and had the luxury of applying at a leisurely pace. My 2nd year, I applied to 5 tenure-track positions and 1 VAP (at Allegheny). I got two offers for tenure-track positions, both of which came about 1 week after I interviewed for the VAP at Allegheny. I immediately turned one down and bought enough time with the second offer to consider my options and ruminate over a daunting question: do I turn down a second tenure-track offer without an offer from another school? After talking with the chair of the department regarding the VAP position, I did the unthinkable — I turned down a second tenure-track offer for a potential offer… for a non-tenure track VAP. My feeling about the VAP at Allegheny paid off and I was shortly offered the position. That position turned into a tenure-track position at Allegheny and I rarely think about how chaotic those couple weeks in 2013 were.

Consider These Before Taking a VAP

After I selectively applied to colleges and universities that met my specific set of requirements for what I wanted in an institution, I had a couple of “must haves” before I would even consider taking a VAP.

Is the position a 1-, 2-, or 3-year position? To me, this was probably the biggest factor and I would not have taken the position at Allegheny (in fact, I likely would not have even applied for it) if it were not a 3-year position. A 1-year was out of the question for a number of reasons (one of which I discuss below). A 2-year position didn’t even make my cut because the last thing that I wanted to do was have to start immediately applying for new positions within my 1st year on the job. I think that a 3-year is enough time so that you can establish some type of cohesive story in your CV, be that starting and finishing a research project and an opportunity to teach a course more than a single time.

Will you have any lab space and/or start-up funds? To me, this went hand-in-hand with the previous question and was a deal breaker. Although I knew my priority as a professor at a PUI would be teaching, I was not going to abandon my research program in any way, shape, or form. Thus, it was a requirement that I would be offered some type of lab space (shared was OK) and some type of start-up package to fund my research. I knew that I would be on the job market again during year 2 of my 3-year position and it was my goal to start and complete at least 1 project with Allegheny students.

Can you see yourself growing as an instructor and researcher? Your goal is to land a tenure-track position and you should only take a VAP if you can see yourself benefiting from the position. During my interview for the VAP, I identified 2 faculty that could potentially serve as informal teaching mentors and 2 faculty that could potentially serve as research mentors were I to get an offer. This was important to me because I wanted to learn from their experiences on how I could be a better professor.

Is there any possibility that the position could be converted to a tenure-track position? Before I even started preparing my application for the VAP, I asked the chair 3 questions: would I have lab space? would I get start-up funds? is there a possibility that the position could be converted to a tenure-track line? I was open from the get go and our chair was just as open back: yes, yes, and possibly. I gently pushed the issue a couple of times and learned more about the hiring history at Allegheny (one that includes a track record of retaining VAPs by converting them to tenure-track lines). By scanning CVs of the faculty in Biology, I also noticed that at least 2 tenure-track faculty started off on VAP contracts. This was enough for me and felt about as good as anybody could about there being at least a possibility that my position could be converted.

Is This Common?

Well, I don’t know how common, but I know of a couple of folks in our department who were converted from VAPs. I also know that at least 1 other tenure-track professor in our department did a VAP at another institution before coming to Allegheny. I also know 2 very good friends who took VAPs before tenure-track positions, and they both ended up as highly competitive candidates and landed very nice tenure-track jobs (one of which is at an R1).

So, would I recommend doing this? Yes… but it depends. My guess is that with the bleak outlook for landing tenure-track positions, this route may become even more common than it is already. It worked for me and I landed my dream job. Best of luck to you all as you search for yours.

-Venesky

Strong connections with the past and an eye to the future

12 Sep

Motivation

One of the things I love to share with my students is how my own academic path has influenced how I teach and what research questions I pursue. I don’t do this because I am one of those people locked in the ‘glory days’; instead, I use it in hopes that I might inspire them to look around and appreciate the journey on which they are traveling. Sometimes implied, and sometimes explicitly stated, I also try to convey to my students that it is important to maintain strong connections with people, places, and things that were an important part of one’s past. When we put the grown-up pants on after completing graduate school, we all have to move forward and move into our realized niche given that large parts of our fundamental niche are excluded by occupation by the advisor who trained us, but if past experiences have been positive ones, it is a good idea to maintain a spirit of collaboration and cooperation with the individuals who facilitated those experiences

Background

I was privileged to work in an excellent study system (with Florida scrub-jays) while working on my dissertation. Although the benefits of working with such a well-established system are immense, I found that the value of my scrub-jay research has gone well beyond simply answering the questions I had within the field of physiological ecology. Not only was my study species an excellent one, my study site, Archbold Biological Station, was phenomenal as well. The P.I. in my lab encouraged collaboration with other graduate students within our lab as well as with other individuals at the university and at the field station. Although I think the collaborative spirit is important at all universities, I find it particularly important at PUI’s given the challenges we face with course loads and equipment availability. I still work to maintain professional relationships with individuals with whom I collaborated in graduate school while also welcoming new collaborations, but I can say with certainty that the quality of my own research, and my teaching, is greatly improved by keeping those strong connections that were developed many years ago.

 

My strategy

I published a couple of papers that were peripherally related to my dissertation which I finished after I started my faculty position, and thus, were essentially a direct extension of my graduate research activities and were coauthored by my advisor and lab mates. Though continuing research very much in line with dissertation work may have some appeal, in many cases, such as my own, this is really not feasible. First, most universities are looking to employ faculty who can come up with their own research program and not appear to simply be an extension of the program they recently left. Second, there was no way I could work at a small university in Illinois and travel to Florida for the entire Spring semester to study reproduction and physiology in scrub jays as my teaching duties certainly prohibit that. I have, however, found that as other individuals who were either in my lab at the same time as I, or those that have joined the lab after, me develop their own, new, projects, our common experiences, different interests and new areas of expertise have really made for interesting new research opportunities.   I will write a blog entry on a future date about strategies for developing in-house and external collaborations at a university like mine, but as blog co-author, Matt Venesky, has noted before, he and I have pursued collaborative opportunities, the senior grad student in our lab during my graduate studies and I have collaborated on many projects, and I have even had a student complete a research internship at Archbold Biological Station, where I completed the field component of all of my graduate research, bringing the connection of my current students with my own past experiences as a student full circle.

In addition to keeping those connections intact for research purposes, I can proudly say that my connection with Archbold Biological Station has also positively influenced my teaching. I have developed an Ecological Journeys: South Florida course (taught in Summer 2012 and Summer 2014), where I take students from Millikin University down to Archbold Biological Station for a two-week field ecology course. Just studying at a place like that for two weeks is an excellent opportunity for students, but my connection to Archbold makes it stronger, and they are given an opportunity for in-depth interaction with other scientists have been an important part of my experience with Archbold from 10 years ago to today.

 

Summary

Building a strong network is critical to success in this field, and I think even more important at a PUI. Maintaining collaborative relationships with individuals from the formative years of graduate school can greatly facilitate transitions into new positions and also initiate new ideas and research opportunities. However, it is also important to nurture new collaborations and a professional identity that sets you apart from your past role as a graduate student for each the purpose of showing your university of employment that you are entirely capable of creating a successful and productive lab and, more importantly, the self-fulfillment of taking what you learned from the past, and making something that is your own.

-TW

Assessing Your Research Program

2 Sep

If you are at a research institution, the assessment of your research program is probably pretty straightforward and my guess is that you primarily use some combination of grant dollars, publications, and the # of students that you finish as the primary metrics in your assessment. Biological research in the liberal arts setting often moves slower than in a R1 setting because the bulk of our research activity comes during the summer and we squeeze scientific writing into chunks of time that we carve out from teaching. Thus, we frequently publish at a slower rate and apply for fewer grants than our colleagues in the research setting (there are certainly other reasons for this difference also). In addition, my guess is that few faculty at PUIs do not get training on how to scale their research down from their graduate/postdoc training to match the skill sets that our undergraduate students bring to the table, the resources that we now have, and the amount of time that we can spend on research. How do we formally assess our research program? How often do we do it? What metrics should we use to guide whether our research program is thriving in the liberal arts environment?

Here are a couple of ideas that I’ve been thinking of as I enter the 2nd year of a faculty position at a liberal arts college. This list is not exhaustive nor is a “one size fits all”, but hopefully it will spark some conversation on the topic.

1. Where are your graduates now? Tracking whether your students make it to tenure-track positions might not be too informative in the liberal arts setting because those data will not be available to you for another 7-10 years. However, we can still track the career paths of our graduates… and I’d argue that we can usually do this easier in the liberal arts setting than faculty at large schools. The atmosphere in smaller colleges and universities is generally more intimate than large institutions and my guess is that we probably keep in touch with a higher % of our graduates than faculty at larger universities do. Keep track of what your students do next. At PUIs, you’ll likely have a students with a more diverse set of career paths than if you were dealing primarily with graduate students. Embrace that difference and think of ways in which their research experience in your lab helped them land the job that they currently have. Be blunt and ask their honest opinion as to whether they felt that the research experience in your lab was important in setting them apart from other candidates for the job that they currently have. If they go on to graduate school, keep tabs on whether their productivity as an undergraduate correlates with their productivity as a graduate student.

2. How many students get authorship on your papers? Many liberal arts colleges have explicit guidelines as to what they expect in terms of student involvement in your research. As an institution, they are probably more interested in the number of papers that students co-author as opposed to how many papers you author. What proportion of your papers include undergraduate students from your current institution? Is this on par with your goal (do you even have a goal???)?

3. Where is the bulk of your research being conducted? Related to #2, does the bulk of your scientific productivity come as a collaborator or principle investigator? Does this line up with your vision of your research program? Do you need to start initiating more research projects in which you are lead author? Are you actively seeking out and building research collaborations with faculty at other (potentially larger) universities? Will doing that help or hinder your research program?

4. Are your publications in journals that researchers in your field regularly publish in? No matter what type of institution you are in, the journals that you publish your research in matters. Although faculty in the liberal arts setting might not publish as regularly as faculty at research institutions, I do not see any reason why we still can’t publish our research in the same journals as our colleagues at larger schools. As many of you know, I am a disease ecologist and I use amphibians and the pathogenic chytrid fungus as my model system. One of the ways in which I am assessing my own research program is by looking at the proportion of manuscripts (and even projects that I aim to start next summer) that will have a home in a herpetological journal or a non-taxon specific journal (zoology or ecology journal). While I have nothing against the herpetology journals, the aim of my research program is to understand host-parasite ecology and I wouldn’t be meeting all of my research goals if the majority of my work was geared towards herpetology journals.

5. Ask a colleague for a quick assessment. I have yet to do this, but it is something that I am considering somewhere around Year 3. Chances are good that you’ll be preparing documents for your pre-tenure review at about this time anyways. Whereas the pre-tenure review will give you an idea of what your current institution thinks of your research productivity, you may want to get some external feedback from some of your colleagues within your field. Be frank with them and tell them what you are looking to gain from their assessment. What do they view as your most important contributions to the scientific literature since you’ve been at your current institution? Is their assessment similar to your own? If your view of the quality of your own research is consistently higher than their view of your work, you might consider ways in which you can improve the quality of your research productivity.

Second Year Review

25 Aug

Motivation

I hope that you all had a wonderful summer and are sufficiently charged for the fall semester. As I ended my last blog, my plan was to have a relaxing summer after the busy spring semester. It turned out that the summer became much busier than I anticipated (ya, I really need to calibrate my ability to anticipate). Three major reasons were 1) the first time summer research experienced more challenges than expected, 2) I had to take an unplanned trip back to Japan to see a family member who was in a critical condition, and 3) I had to work on 2nd year review self-statement. Among these three, I suspect that the third point is most appropriate, important, and interesting for this blog.

 

Background

Honestly I do not know the norm of the review process among Liberal Arts colleges, but Bucknell sets three steps for tenure, 2nd year, 4th year, and 6th year tenure review. Review criteria for each step are established both by your department (Department Review Committee or DRC) and the university (University Review Committee or URC) on three standard components of teaching, scholarship, and service. Those criteria largely overlap between the two, of course. But the DRC interprets URC criteria and narrow, expand, or specify each expectation. For example, the URC scholarship criteria for tenure promotion is written as “The candidate’s scholarly or artistic work has matured, earning the esteem of department/school/program colleagues and experts outside the University.” The DRC scholarship criteria, on the other hand, are much more in depth and even state that the department expects generally three publications by the 6-year review, although they also emphasize the balance between quality and quantity.   

Because we have only one academic year before the 2nd year review, the review criteria for the 2nd year review are pretty simple and less demanding. While I was very serious about the review, all the signals that I received from the colleagues told me “Take is easy. You should be fine”, which is probably the reality for the 2nd year review. In fact, I have never heard about anyone rejected by the 2nd year review. But I still think that we should take it seriously. By the time you finish your self-statement, you know the review procedure and expectations well and be already pretty well prepared for the 4th year review. I attended Retention, Tenure, and Promotion Meeting run by DRC in the spring and started working on my self-statement on August 2nd toward August 26th deadline (yes, tomorrow!).   

 

My strategy

My strategy is not unique at all and I am sure that everyone who is up for review does what I will explain below. But if you haven’t gone through the process yet, it is worth keeping reading.

Among a number of documents that you have to submit, a self-statement of your achievements, areas for improvements, and future directions is the most important and time-consuming one.

To begin with the preparation, I acquire an example of the 2nd year review self-statement from my good friend. One departmental colleague advised me to get an example from one of the departmental colleagues who have been through the 2nd year review recently, which I think is a great idea. But I got an example from my friend in a different department simply because we are close friends who can talk about anything. My friend also gave me an example of the 4th year self-statement that he just finished a year ago. I examined both to create my own structure of the self-statement. Mine ended up with having more tables, indents, and paragraph structures than his probably because of the difference in our training between science and humanity. It was also interesting and valuable to learn some of the expressions and terminologies that my friend used in his self-statement. So, I think getting familiar with an example from a different department has its own benefits.

I can imagine that some can finish writing a self-statement within a few days. But my way was to take it slow and proceed step by step. This is because of my personality and the fact that English is my second language, but also because it is a challenging process to face and respond to all the student’s comments. I am sure that many of you feel the same, but I am sensitive about student’s comments! Some of them are painful to face. Some of them are, at least to us, somewhat unfair. And Bucknell students, based on my own assessment and others, tend to be demanding. So what I did was to self-evaluate the most successful course first to build the momentum and then tackled the more challenging courses. I definitely spent more time, space, and effort developing a teaching component of my self-statement, which is most challenging and critical for Liberal Arts professors.      

In addition to student evaluations, our department sends a request to students for an individual evaluation letter about a professor. In the spring, I received a list of all students who took my courses and the department asked me if there are any students who may provide a biased view on me to remove potential outliers. I had one student who I had an issue with. So I marked this student off. It was interesting to find out that other departments even on the same campus do this process slightly differently. For example, my friend in a different department was asked to put a list of students together from whom he wanted evaluations …..clearly goes against random sampling but good for them! Anyway, I received 11 reducted individual letters without student identifies. Fortunately, all of the letters were positive. So I did not have to respond to particular criticisms. Students seem to understand the importance of these letters and write a letter in a more dispassionate, neutral, and formal manner. Also their feelings about us professors and our courses probably change since the ends of the semesters when students are busy and stressed out and some of them are not happy with their performance in our class.    

To finish up the self-statement, I asked a specialist at Writing Center to go over it sentence by sentence to make sure that my English was written in an appropriate manner (sorry for any errors in this blog!). I recommend this to anyone who has English as a second language. I also asked one of the tenured members in our department to review it. She should get back to me shortly.

 

Summary

Getting a job is one thing. Getting retained and tenured is another. Fortunately, the latter process is not as laborious as the former at most colleges. But if you don’t do the latter right, you will have to repeat the former again, which is the last thing we would want to happen. Finally, the more important thing than self-statements is obviously to do your work between the review steps. I hope that the fall semester goes well  for all of us.

 

-MT

A division of our own.

17 Aug

I have been an active member of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) since my first year of graduate school in 2005. I have found that this scientific organization is incredibly well run, extremely student friendly, and very inclusive with regards to the diversity of research topics that can find a home at their annual meeting. For at least the past nine years, however, those of us working in ecoimmunology and/or disease ecology were regularly shuffled around and placed in (sometimes odd) sessions apart from one another. Placements varied pure ecology sessions, stress sessions, pure immunology sessions (often with a strong molecular theme), parasite sessions – and coblogger Matt Venesky was even placed in an Evo-Devo session for a talk about chytrid fungus simply because he was studying tadpoles. Overall, we had a strong presence at SICB, but that presence was largely diffuse. I am extremely glad that we now have our own division and I am even more excited to serve as a founding board member of this division.

The SICB Division of Ecoimmunology and Disease Ecology (DEDE) was officially approved as a division at the January 2014 SICB meeting in Austin, Texas. Elections were held in May 2014 for the officers of this new division. Lynn (Marty) Martin from the University of South Florida had largely spearheaded the efforts to make our division official, and he was elected as chair of the division. Someone who I have shared a session with for at least half of my SICB meetings, Sarah Durant of Oklahoma State University, was elected as Program Officer.  I was honored to be elected as Secretary of the Division. The three of us were excited to appoint Cynthia Downs, who is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Nevada-Reno, as our Graduate Student/Post Doc Representative, and thus, we have our officers.

As I look forward, I am excited that our field of study will have a more unified presence and, undoubtedly, this will improve collaborations and scientific advances in our field. I am also excited to be bringing five of my own research students to the first meeting where we will have our own DEDE program in January 2015 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Service as a division board member and having my lab so well represented are two goals I have had for my role as a SICB member for a very long time. If your research involves ecoimmunology or disease ecology and you are not a member of SICB, I encourage you to join.  I hope to see many of you in West Palm Beach!

– Travis Wilcoxen