Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Evolution 2014: Preview

Posted 19 Jun 2014 / 2

header_109-640px Raleigh-Durham Airport After landing at Raleigh-Durham airport today I am ready for Evolution 2014! It has been four years since I last attended the annual meeting that brings together members of the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), the Society of Systematic Biologists (SSB), and the American Society of Naturalists (ASN). I do not always get the chance to attend this conference, so it is a real treat to be able to go this year.

So what am I looking forward to? There is always so much to consume at these conferences that it is difficult for me to plot a coherent course, but I have some priorities. Although I am always on the lookout for new areas of research that I might contribute to, I am mostly focused on seeking out talks and seminars that will aid in my teaching. I am attending (and contributing to) sessions dedicated to pedagogical methods. Because my course offerings in evolutionary biology are pretty broad, I am also seeking out talks that might bring interesting new stories into my classroom. Of particular interest are talks related to the evolution of sex/reproduction and of cooperation.

Here are some talks and events that I am excited about:

On Friday, June 20th I am going to attend the Experiencing Evolution workshop as well as Steve Jones’ Stephen J. Gould Award Lecture “Snails in Art and the Art of Snails” and the opening reception (which promises desserts… but will they be in the shape of dinosaurs?).

On Saturday, June 21st I have a really full day planned. I am going to check out the Symbiosis session first, then jump over to Coevolution of Mutualists/Hosts/ Parasites for the second session, go to Microbiomes and Microbial Symbionts third, and then finish off with the fourth session on Sexual Selection. I have also singled out the “The evolution of bet-hedging and phenotypic plasticity” and “From dogs to apes: does survival of the friendliest lead to smarts?” talks as ones that I will specifically attend. After that full day of sessions there’s the SSB Presidential Address, “Phylogenomics and Next-Generation Inferences: the Future of Phylogenetics in an Era of Big Data” by L. Lacey Knowles as well as the evening poster session. And to top it all, there will be the Evolution Film Festival… quite a day!

On Sunday, June 22nd I am planning to take it a bit easier. I will spend the morning at the “Assessing Undergraduate Student Understanding of Evolutionary Biology” symposium and then jump around to a few talks in the afternoon. In the Experimental Evolution afternoon session I am looking forward to talk by William Harcombe (“Conflict increases cooperation between microbial species“), after which I will rush off to see if I can catch Michael Wells’ “Big groups, bad eggs and biogeography: regional and global patterns of brood parasitism’s effect on cooperative breeding” in the Macroevolution session. I plan to make it a relatively short night by attending Mohamed Noor’s SSE Presidential Address (“Recombination suppression helps hybridizing species persist, and perils of a career in evolutionary biology“), and then ducking into the poster session.

On Monday, June 23rd I will once again be a bit more choosy with which talks I attend. I am going to see John Wiens give his ASN Solicited Symposium talk “A twisted view of ecology and speciation” in the morning. During the afternoon I am going to see jeff smith’s “Looking for signatures of social conflict in secondary metabolites of cooperative amoebae” talk, Erol Akcay’s “Fitness feedbacks and alignment of interests in mutualisms” talk, and Tracy Douglas’ “Battle of the sexes? Investigating the evolution of multiple mating types in Dictyostelium” talk. I will finish up the evening with Trevor Price’s ASN Presidential Address (“Social selection and the evolution of color patterns“) and the poster session.

On Tuesday, June 24th I am going to keep it simple and park myself at two overall sessions. In the morning I will attend the various Education talks as well as give my talk. In the afternoon I will attend the SSE Symposium “Seeing the forest for the trees: the contributions of synthesis to evolutionary science”. If the stars align and I have enough energy and time, I will head over to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences for the Super Social.

As you can see, there is a lot of good stuff at this year’s meeting; I wish that more people were contributing talks related to how cooperation evolves, but that is about my only disappointment.

Beyond attending a ton of talks, I am also presenting my own work in a talk entitled “Visualizing cooperation theory in the non-majors evolution classroom: free tools for teaching the evolutionary dynamics of the Prisoner’s Dilemma” on Tuesday, June 24th at 11:15 am in Room 303.

A Major Post, Conferences, Evolution, Society for the Study of Evolution

2 Comments to "Evolution 2014: Preview"

Gregory Tague 20th June 2014 at 8:48 am

Thanks for the update, and keep us posted! Am particularly interested to know if any non-biologist or non-science people are there – any panels on cultural evolution or the like? And do you know of NEEPS IX in Boston. Enjoy the conference!

Chris Jensen 20th June 2014 at 11:15 am

Thanks for your interest Greg!

This is definitely not the conference for “applications of evolution” — this is pretty much hardcore basic evolutionary biology. I think a lot of the participants are interested in application of evolutionary theory to questions such as “why does culture change?”, but I have not found any talks in this area. At this conference sessions such as those dedicated to teaching evolutionary biology are about as fringe as it gets.

I was not even aware of the NEEPS conferences. I am willing to bet there’s little overlap between participants in Evolution meetings and NEEPS!

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