Physiological Ecology Section Newsletter, July 2004


Business Meeting and Mixer:
The mixer and business meeting of the Physiological Ecology section in Portland will be on Monday, August 2, from 6:30-8:00 PM, in the Oregon Conference Center, Portland Ballroom, Room 257. There will be a cash bar in the lobby to be shared among sections holding mixers at that time. The refreshments will be highlighted by chilled prawns with citrus vodka cocktail sauce, tomato-basil and Oregon bleu cheese tarts, bruschetta with roasted tomato and basil, and assorted smoked seafood. We're looking forward to seeing everyone there!

At the Mixer and Business Meeting I would like to set aside a few minutes for open discussion of some of the issues raised by the survey results that Gretchen and I sent out earlier this year. We won't have time to go too deeply into the issues, but I would like to get your response to some ideas about a couple of new initiatives.

Gretchen North took over as Secretary of the Section on January 1, 2004. Gretchen is Associate Professor of Biology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Russ Monson continues as President of the Section until the end of this year. Announcement of an election for a new President will be made at the annual mixer in Portland. Continuing thanks go to Past Secretary and continuing invaluable consultant Zoe Cardon for her volunteer efforts in getting Gretchen up to speed and in serving as a great advisor on certain key issues. Also, thanks to former section president and current webmaster, Rob Jackson, for maintaining our outstanding section website.


The Billings award (for the outstanding oral presentation by a student member of the Physiological Ecology Section) and the Best Poster Award (for the outstanding poster presentation) seek to recognize significant advancements in physiological ecology, with entrants judged on the rigor, creativity, importance, and presentation of the research. Each award carries a prize of $500, and, new as of last year, a book award.

In August 2002, the Section arranged with Charles Crumly of Academic Press (Elsevier) for AP to make available a free book of student's choice to the winners of the Best Poster and the Billings Awards, as well as to the students receiving Honorable Mentions in these contests. We are grateful to Academic Press for this new commitment to honor the efforts and support the education of outstanding students.

The New Phytologist Trust continues its commitment begun in 2000 to contribute $500 annually towards the Billings Award. New Phytologist, a broad-spectrum plant science journal, was established in 1902 by the pioneer ecologist Arthur Tansley. The goals of the non-profit Trust are to promote education and research in plant sciences. More information and links to the journal New Phytologist can be found at

Student award winners, Savannah 2003:

Congratulations to Katherine McCulloh, winner of the 2003 Billings Award, for her talk "The application of Murray's law to Psilotum nudum, an analogue of an ancestral vascular plant" with John Sperry, coauthor. Kate's work was conducted at University of Utah.

Honorable mention went to Jennifer Funk for her talk "Variation in isoprene emission from Quercus rubra: sources, causes, and consequences for estimating fluxes" with coauthors Clive G. Jones, Manuel T. Lerdau, Dennis W. Gray, Heather L. Throop, and Laura A. Hyatt. Jennifer's work was conducted at SUNY Stonybrook.

Congratulations to Patrick Herron, winner of the 2003 Best Poster Award, for his poster "Divining Rods: Pseudomonas putida as a microbiosensor of fine-scale osmotic potentials in soil" with coauthors Daniel J. Gage and Zoe G. Cardon. Patrick's work was conducted at University of Connecticut.

Honorable mention went to Will Bowman for his poster "Influences of sapflow and sapwood respiratory activity on CO2 efflux from woody stems in a New Zealand Podocarp forest" with coauthors Margaret M. Barbour, David T. Tissue, Matthew H. Turnbull, David Whitehead, and Kevin L. Griffin. Will's work was conducted through Columbia University.

Section booth at the annual meeting:
The Section took the initiative a few years ago to help consolidate student awards programs at ESA. We will continue to sponsor a dedicated student awards booth each year, with winning posters shown from the previous year, and with boxes for ballots (and judging information). This helps us highlight the excellent research that students are doing across ESA.

Judging for student Physiological Ecology Awards:
Thanks to all of you who volunteered to judge student oral and poster presentations at the Portland meeting. Each person will be asked to judge 2-3 student presentations in her or his area of expertise. Gretchen is completing a spreadsheet with the names of the presenters, the times of their presentations, and the titles, and she will send this out soon so that you can sign up for those that you would like to judge.


In 2003, the Section sponsored a symposium organized by Miquel Gonzalez-Meler (University of Illinois, Chicago) and entitled "Respiratory Control of the Global C Cycle in a Changing Environment: A Search for New Integrative Tools". The symposium included very enlightening talks by Joe Berry, Mike Ryan, Dave Bowling, Jim Raich, Sue Trumbore, Julie Jastrow and Evan DeLucia.

This summer, the Section Symposium was organized by Bill Bowman (University of Colorado, Boulder) and is entitled "Functional Significance of Mountain Biodiversity". The symposium will bring together scientists working in a variety of ecological disciplines to present their research linking the role of biodiversity to the functioning of mountain ecosystems. The symposium is part of a series of thematic workshops supported by the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment, a program within DIVERSITAS and GCTE. Contributors include Steve Schmidt (University of Colorado), Richard Bardgett (University of Lancaster), Christian Rixen (Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research), Christian Körner (University of Basel), Bill Bowman (University of Colorado), Molly Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and Rüdiger Kaufmann (University of Innsbruk).

Already time to organize for next year's symposium and organized oral sessions:
The Ecological Society of America and the International Association for Ecology will be holding a joint Annual meeting and International Congress in Montreal, Canada from August 7 through August 12, 2005. The Calls for Symposium Proposals and Organized Oral Session Proposals, as well as information about the joint meeting, the theme, the Palais des Congres (the Montreal Convention Center) and the city of Montreal are included on the ESA meeting website.

If you want to put together a proposal for consideration of section sponsorship at the 2005 ESA meeting, you will need to e-mail the proposal (1-2 pages) as an attachment to me or Gretchen North by September 1, 2004. You will then need to submit the proposal to the ESA Program Committee through the web-site listed above by Wednesday, September 15, 2005 at 5 PM Eastern Daylight Time. Gretchen and I need to see the proposal by September 1, so that we can organize a review and selection process prior to the official submission date to the ESA Program Committee.

Your proposal should include a description of the proposed theme for the symposium as well as a list of tentative speakers and an indication as to whether any of the potential speakers has already signaled their intention to participate. The overall theme of the meeting will be "Ecology at Multiple Scales". As I state below, the Section leaders will be especially interested to see symposium proposals that reach down to the molecular and organismic levels, and potentially include both plant and animal systems.

Report on Physiological Ecology Survey

Last winter Gretchen and Russ solicited comments from section members in the form of a questionnaire. The aim of the questionnaire was to gain greater insight into the composition and opinions of the section membership, and to lay the foundation for future initiatives within the section. We received 55 completed questionnaires. It was difficult to collate all the varied responses into summary form. However, I have tried to capture some of the more obvious trends below:

1. The Section continues to be populated primarily by people who identify themselves as plant physiological ecologists. Of the respondents, 58% consider themselves plant physiological ecologists; 22% consider themselves animal physiological ecologists; 16% consider themselves ecosystem ecologists; 4% consider themselves a type of ecologist other than these three.

2. Most of the membership depends on the ESA annual meeting as their primary professional meeting venue. Of the respondents, 76% attend the ESA annual meeting as their primary meeting; 11% attend the SICB annual meeting as their primary meeting; 5% attend the AGU meeting as their primary meeting; 8% attend meetings other than these three as their primary meeting.

3. Most people think the field of physiological ecology will continue to diverge in two directions: down toward molecular connections, and up toward ecosystem and global connections. Of the respondents, 33% described this as the current trend and one that is likely to continue; 16% of the respondents expect evolutionary connections, particularly those involving phylogenetic analysis to become more important in physiological ecology; 20% expect connections to molecular biology and genomics to become more important, including 90% of the animal physiological ecologists who responded.

4. Most of the respondents thought that maintenance of the section web site was the most critical component of the section to maintain. Over 50% of the respondents mentioned the web site as one of the most valuable aspects of the section; 22% of the respondents would like to see the web page enhanced to provide better interconnectedness among section members; 20% of the respondents mentioned the possibility of using the web site to post information about courses (e.g., syllabi, reading lists, etc.) that could be used by others to enhance their physiological ecology courses. Several respondents mentioned the need to expand section activities at the national meetings to include small section-sponsored workshops on education or experimental techniques.

How do we use this information?

1. It was no surprise that most of the respondents recognized the trend in physiological ecology toward divergent directions - up and down in scale. Russ and Gretchen have identified two questions that should be asked concerning this recognition. Is the trend detrimental to section cohesiveness? Is there anything we can do about the trend?

2. Clearly, one of the priorities for the section should be to further develop and stabilize the financial support for the web site. This will continue to be one of our priorities and one that Russ will pass on to the next section president.

3. We still have members interested in (albeit a diminishing interest) animal physiological ecology. We should identify a strategy to foster this part of the section and rebuild it. This is most likely to come through continued efforts to strengthen the organismic core of the section. Toward that end, we would like to encourage symposium proposals for next year's meeting that will emphasize connections between animal and plant physiological ecology.

4. There is a need for section-sponsored workshops, especially those focused on pedagogic issues and specialized research techniques and approaches. We will initiate discussions with ESA Central to see if we can get something scheduled for next year's annual meeting in Montreal.

At the Section Mixer this year, we would like to take a few minutes to allow for some discussion of these issues. Furthermore, we would like to encourage the formation of a couple of "committees" to explore further some of these issues. In particular, it might be good to have a few people noodling about issue #1 above, and maybe a couple of volunteers to organize a workshop for the Montreal meeting. We will gather information before the mixer on the feasibility of adding at least one workshop to the Montreal agenda.

Please let us know your ideas and your willingness to contribute in any area to the section. Your input and efforts are important. Thanks, and see you in Portland!

Gretchen North and Russ Monson

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