2017 Candidate Statements


The Society for the Study of Evolution announces the election of officers and council members to be in place on January 1, 2017. The election will be conducted online from October 19 through November 6, 2016. SSE members will be contacted by email and directed to a balloting link. Members who do not have an email address will be sent a paper ballot.

Review the candidate information using the Quicklinks below, note your choices and cast your vote by clicking on the "BALLOT" link below. Thank you for your participation!

Candidates for President-elect:      Hopi Hoekstra     |     Tracey Chapman

Candidates for Executive Vice President:      Andrea Case Click here for special Executive Vice President Ballot

Candidates for North American Vice President:      Jenny Boughman     |     Maria Orive

Candidates for Council:    Trisha Wittkopp     |     Daniel Matute     |     Tanja Schwander     |     Matt Rockman


BALLOT     « vote here


Candidate for President-elect

Hopi Hoekstra, Harvard College Professor (5-year Endowed Chair) Faculty of Arts & Sciences



As a first year graduate student, I joined the Society for the Study of Evolution.  That same year, I attended my first Evolution Meeting, and didn’t miss a meeting for the subsequent 12 years (and then, roughly, every other year for the next 10 years). I also had the pleasure of serving as an Associate Editor of Evolution (2007-2010) and on the SSE Council (2009-2012).  To say that SSE played an important role in my scientific career and development is a profound understatement.  This is why being asked to run for SSE President is such a great honor.

As SSE President, I will strive to forward SSE’s mission, support SSE’s successful programs and work to encourage ideas for new innovative programs to best serve and expand the SSE membership. Below, I briefly discuss some areas that I feel are of particular importance: career development, undergraduate engagement, outreach and communication.

Career development:  Graduate student funding opportunities, networking opportunities, panels on WiSE and Diverse Careers are all important components of SSE’s support of early career scientists.  These efforts should continue and expand in the coming years. I will solicit input, especially from graduate students, for additional career panels and scientific workshops geared towards promoting and supporting a diverse population of next-gen evolutionary biologists.  

Undergraduate engagement:  Most of us started our research careers as undergraduates, and some of us even attended a scientific meeting. Attracting and retaining the very best and diverse undergraduates is key to growing a vibrant society.  Therefore, I will work to create additional opportunities for undergraduates to participate in and contribute to the SSE community as well as provide mentoring opportunities to graduate students and postdocs.  I am eager to help build an engaging, diverse and inclusive scientific community.

Outreach: Being a passionate teacher (of a large introductory Evolution and Genomics course), I will be an ardent supporter of science education, and continue to work to improve SSE’s outreach efforts.  There is room for SSE to play a more prominent role in evolution education. I will work to help SSE and its membership to better convey the basic principles, excitement, and importance of evolutionary biology to teachers, funding agencies, and the general public. 

Communication:  SSE should play a prominent role in communicating the excitement and importance of evolutionary biology.  At one level, this involves communication among the SSE membership, both via the annual Evolution meetings, but also throughout the year.  The latter can be improved, especially in this era of social media to better highlight new scientific advances, new opportunities in evolutionary biology (from funding to career opportunities), and to promote early career scientists. In addition, SSE should continue to partner with sister societies and institutes, both within and outside of North America – from combined meetings to stronger outreach efforts – collaborations are important.

In sum, I am excited to work with the SSE Council and contribute to the advancement of SSE’s mission: to foster communication among its diverse members, support scholarly publication in the Evolution and Evolution Letters journals, promote education and outreach in the field of evolutionary biology, and to help build an exciting, diverse, and inclusive scientific community.



Candidate for President-elect

Tracey Chapman Professor of Evolutionary Genetics, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK



Dear Colleagues,

It is with some surprise and deep honour that I find myself writing and even being considered for nomination for SSE President. I am fantastically pleased to have been nominated (and this is from a Brit with an advanced degree in understatement).

It is clear that the study of organic evolution continues to thrive and to provide profound insights into the process and mechanisms underlying how the world comes to be as it is. It is really pleasing to see the extent to which an evolutionary understanding is being increasingly adopted in the study of medicine and the control of crop pests and diseases. In this, evolutionary biology is enabling novel routes for tackling grand challenges in global health and development. This supports the view that an evolutionary approach is essential to tackle biological problems (you will know that Theodosius Dobzhansky said it much more eloquently).

Evolutionary biology is, perhaps by it very nature, adapting extremely well to the incorporation of rapid developments in new ‘omics technologies. The ability to look further and deeper than before can be incredibly illuminating. However, the potential to use new methods to tackle questions that we don’t even know about yet represents an exciting prospect for the future.

Set against the health and vitality of evolutionary biology as a research field, is that its teaching continues to be a somewhat sidelined, or even threatened, part of pre-university education. Nevertheless, there is huge public interest in it. This disjunct must be tackled. It is a knotty problem but maintaining and increasing our engagement with diverse audiences is surely a key part of the solution. Hence, I strongly endorse the SSE’s clarity in its statement on evolution and, if elected, I’d keenly support the work of the SSE to promote education, their educational resources (much used by me and my students), outreach and the small grants for outreach programme. I’d like to extend the reach of the latter programme and to increase the visibility and uptake of small grants and the TH Huxley award. Being from outside the US, I’d also like to promote internationalism and increase awareness of SSE activities in Europe (contrary to opinion, almost half of the UK does have an international outlook). 

I have a strong desire to support SSE core activities. I genuinely believe the SSE does great work. The flagship journal, Evolution, is held in great respect due to the quality and veracity of its research and that must be protected and maintained. The journal continues to do a sterling job, as the leader in the field, of both stimulating new research and bringing together the result of studies of organic evolution in an accessible manner. Having been an Associate Editor twice I have seen the strength and rigor of the editorial process and I think this is done really well.

Continuing the invaluable support for students and scientists via travel awards to annual meetings and maintaining the affordability of membership society is also crucial and can be important in widening participation.

A particular focus for expansion that I think is key is to leverage what support we can for early career researchers. With tight budgetary squeezes in place across the globe, the career options for the research leaders of tomorrow are under real pressure. I’d like to focus discussions with the SSE’s Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) and SSE Graduate membership, to understand priorities, concerns and hurdles. As part of an awareness raising campaign we’d aim to publish and disseminate a report from this activity. Continued support for, and awareness raising of, the Dobzhansky, Fisher prizes and Grant awards is also vital.  

A final topic to highlight is broadening equality and diversity. I’ve been involved in this myself through co-ordinating bids for the Athena SWAN Charter in the UK. I’ve observed that tangible advances towards ensuring equality of opportunity can be achieved through awareness raising, and often relatively easy to implement checks, to minimise the expression of the unconscious biases that we all carry.

To conclude, of my credentials for this post, I can emphasise a commitment to knowledge generation to the SSE and plenty of energy. Whether or not I am elected it has been an honour to be nominated.

Tracey Chapman




 Click here for special Executive Vice President Ballot

Candidate for Executive Vice President

Andrea Case Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Kent State University


I am humbled by the nomination to serve as the next Executive Vice President (EVP) of the SSE. Having served for the last two years on Council and as an AE for Evolution, I have come to appreciate the critical role of the EVP in keeping the society running smoothly. I am committed to assuming the myriad responsibilities of this position. I am prepared to serve the membership, represent the SSE to the wider community, and assist the leadership in meeting our collective goals.

It is important that we continue to use our human and financial resources effectively to promote and enhance:

  • the quality and impact of Evolution and Evolution Letters for disseminating research
  • the success of the annual meeting in serving and supporting our members and sister societies
  • the breadth and extent of our activities in outreach, education, and professional development
  • the welcoming, inclusion, and representation of a diverse scientific community along all axes, and
  • the influence and presence of evolutionary biology in broader society



Candidate for North American Vice President

Janette Boughman, Integrative Biology, Michigan State University



I am incredibly honored to be asked to run for Vice President of SSE. This society has been my intellectual home for much of my career. I very much appreciate having a chance to help it continue to thrive. If elected, I would focus my energy on helping the society to address two important issues that I am particularly interested in. I would also welcome the opportunity to work with members of council on other issues that they identify as important.

Enhancing diversity to sustain our vibrant field.

Since its inception at the 2012 Ottawa meeting, the Women in Science event at our annual meeting has drawn increasing numbers of our members. The popularity of this event shows the importance of addressing the challenges that women face in pursuing and succeeding in scientific careers. SSE quickly and completely committed to these efforts. The society’s actions have been built around three steps. Acknowledging the challenges people face is an important first step. Providing people with skills to deal with those challenges is an essential next step. And ultimately, helping to change cultures to be more inclusive is the goal. The attention on these issues and commitment of members has resulted in more women in leadership positions, and more optimism on the part of younger members that they can be successful. Hopefully this will retain more women in our field, and help them to succeed. I am proud to have played a role in these efforts. The time is right to broaden our audience and address the challenges faced by minorities, whether they be persons of color, gay or lesbian, or disabled. If elected, I would welcome the input from members who identify with any minority group to develop more inclusive events, and would look forward to working with other members of council on these issues.

Facing the funding challenge.

Many of the basic sciences, including evolutionary biology, are facing serious funding shortages. This debilitates individual research programs and slows progress in our field. Some universities are developing programs to improve grant writing and to find alternative funding sources, which can help individual investigators. However, the underlying problem is that there is not enough money invested in our field, partly because the public and the legislature do not fully appreciate our worth. The Society for the Study of Evolution is in a unique position to help change that, and if elected, I would like to facilitate those efforts. We can help people understand both how evolution can be applied to solve some of our societies great challenges, and the critical importance of the initial basic discoveries to those applications. Clearly the general public needs to know this to increase their support for basic science and our field. But members of the legislature (at all levels) are also an important audience for this information, as they make the decisions about funding. I would like to help the society to make progress on both these fronts.

I have been an Associate Editor for the journal since 2015, served on council from 2010-2013, have reviewed many papers for the journal, initiated the annual Women in Science event, and have been a member of the society since I was a graduate student.


Candidate for North American Vice President

Maria E. Orive, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas



I am honored by the nomination to run for North American Vice President of SSE. It is my strong belief that scientific societies play vital roles in unifying and supporting their research communities, in publicizing the contributions of scientific research to society at large, and in promoting diverse, equitable, and inclusive participation in science and scientific education. The Society for the Study of Evolution serves a vibrant, interdisciplinary, and highly active community of researchers and educators, and I would be proud to serve that community as well.    

Supporting the evolutionary biology research community. There are many key times in a research career where a shortage of science funding can significantly hamper progress – one such time is in the early stages of a PhD. Over the last six years, the SSE has taken an active role in supporting young scientists by awarding the annual Rosemary Grant Graduate Student Research Awards, allowing early PhD candidates to collect preliminary data or to expand their research beyond what is possible with limited funding. The success of this program speaks well of the SSE’s efforts on behalf of the future generation of evolutionary biologists. As North American VP, I will work with the SSE to develop ways in which the Society can expand and broaden its support for science training – for example, considering ways that encourage promising young scientists from less established research universities and programs, and from diverse backgrounds, to successfully apply for research awards. In addition, the future of scientific research support is closely tied to public perceptions of the value of science. A key priority for me will be expanding SSE efforts aimed at improving public support for scientific research –a critical role for the future of scientific societies such as ours.

Publicizing contributions to society at large. A major challenge to the evolutionary biology community is to increase the knowledge and appreciation of evolutionary biology beyond traditional academic settings and into society as a whole. There is much opportunity for our society to expand its reach through the utilization of both traditional media and social media. There are many evolutionary biologists who, through personal blogs, writings for public outlets, or an active social media presence, are already actively promoting and publicizing evolutionary biology. I aim to identify a role for the Society to play in further publicizing these efforts. This could include helping to match media outlets seeking evolutionary experts with society members with both the expertise and the inclination to act as a voice for evolutionary biology.

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity. Discussions of diversity in science are moving beyond questions of diversity alone and are raising questions of how science can ensure both equity and inclusivity in all aspects of its activities. The SSE has begun this important work, with discussions of such difficult but vital topics as implicit bias, and by supporting programs such as the Undergraduate Diversity Program at the annual Evolution meetings. Our annual meetings provide an excellent opportunity to further these efforts. I will work to ensure that our programs are accessible to the widest possible cross section of evolutionary scientists, and to identify other venues (regional meetings, meetings with a focus on diversity and inclusion in STEM) where an SSE presence might encourage individuals to consider careers in evolutionary biology.

I believe my own background and past service provides me with the experience and skills to effectively and innovatively develop new avenues to support research and outreach while fostering diversity and inclusivity for the Society. Some of my previous professional service has included serving on the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) Advisory board, where I acted as associate chair, and on the American Genetic Association Council, where I chaired the Special Events Awards committee and served on the Evolutionary, Ecological, or Conservation Genomics (EECG) Research Awards committee (awarded to graduate students and postdocs). Additionally, I have a long history of actively supporting diversity and inclusion efforts, including serving as the faculty sponsor for the Association of Women in Science chapter at the University of Kansas for many years, serving on the European Society for Evolutionary Biology Equal Opportunities Committee, and mentoring many undergraduates in the Undergraduate Diversity Program at Evolution. I would be most honored to use these experiences and skills in service to our society.  


Candidate for Council

Daniel R. Matute, Biology Department, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


I am excited by the possibility of serving the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE) as a council member. SSE has been a cornerstone in my professional development since the beginning of my career, and I would be honored to give back to the community.

I am committed to broadening the participation of SSE in mentoring and promote inclusion of underrepresented minority scientists. My election to and eventual participation in the SSE council would have three immediate effects: increase diversity, generate a bridge between different disciplines, and foster international ties.

Diversity. As it is the case with most scientific disciplines, minorities remain underrepresented in evolutionary biology. From my own experience, the Evolution meetings are excellent opportunities to encourage the participation of nascent scientists from minority groups by giving people a sense of belonging in the academic community. At every Evolution meeting since my first (Minnesota 2007), I have benefitted not only from rigorous academic input but also from mentoring, professional advice, and a generous network of collaborators. As a regular attendee at the Evolution meetings, I can proudly say I have now taken on the task of mentoring younger scientists.

I take diversity seriously. I recruit minority students to my own research program and try to serve as a role model. I have been involved in outreach efforts to showcase evolutionary genetics to underprivileged middle school students. These experiences have revealed to me the power of leading by example and showing young scientists that it is possible to succeed in science as a person of color.

Bridging disciplines. My interdisciplinary research program has led me to interact with and gather expertise from scientists from diverse realms. I use approaches and tools from classical and molecular genetics, field ecology, and evolutionary theory. I speak the multiple languages that these disciplines require and appreciate multiple facets of evolutionary biology knowledge. This will allow me to serve as a connection between members of the society but also between different societies such as the Genetics Society of America (GSA), the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (SMBE) and the society for Biogeography.

International liaison. Finally, I can also serve as an international liaison for the council. I have made the effort of establishing government and academic contacts in multiple tropical countries, most of which are excited about the possibility of outreach and interactions with the global scientific community. As I connect with people with different degrees of education from different places there is one common thread: the enthusiasm for science. For example, I have close ties with Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking scientific communities which will allow me to tend a bridge between the SSE and the scientific communities of Latin America and some portions of Africa.

I have had the chance to integrate multidisciplinary researchers and plan large field expeditions. I have also organized meetings and coordinated work groups. These opportunities and challenges have provided me with a set of skills that I consider would make my tenure on the SSE council an opportunity to engage and develop new connections, new programs, and widen the base of SSE. Thank you for your consideration.


Candidate for Council

Tanja Schwander, Assistant professor SNSF Tenure Track, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne



It is an honor to be nominated to run for the Council of the Society for the Study of Evolution. If elected, I would be particularly interested in developing three topics: promotion of outreach, development of tools that facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations and implementation of additional strategies to promote diversity. 

I would attempt to promote broader participation in outreach, for example through collaboration with science museums or local media. I think societies for the study of evolutionary biology should expand their outreach programs because we are using public money and should be able to convince the community of the value of our research. In the long term, dynamic outreach programs should also translate into better funding because more interest from the public will pressure the funding agencies to support evolutionary biology and may result in private foundations opening their support for evolutionary biology projects. Outreach activities can also offer creative alternatives to academic careers.

SSE could also promote connections between different research disciplines. Interdisciplinary collaborations allow tackling traditional and ‘modern’ evolutionary questions from new angles. Through simple collaboration, researchers from different disciplines can develop novel insights into various topics. Interdisciplinary groups are also eligible for specific types of funding. SSE could facilitate the initiation of interdisciplinary collaborations, for example by sponsoring networks or workshops.

I would also like to implement additional strategies to promote diversity, for example via mentoring programs and by collecting information from departments with strategies that have proven successful in the past. The importance of diversity starts to be broadly recognized - heterogeneity among personnel in gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and race/ethnicity are known to promote innovation - yet minorities are still severely underrepresented in science.


Candidate for Council

Matt RockmanAssociate Professor, New York University


I have a terrible autobiographical memory, but twenty years later I remember how I felt when the lights dimmed. The crowd went silent but somehow the anticipation seemed audible. A researcher a few years older than me took to the overhead projector and began to explain new results in experimental evolution. As an undergraduate sitting in the audience at the Evolution Meetings in St. Louis, I knew I’d found a home. I am excited to have the opportunity now to help shape my home society’s future.

As a new councilor, I would spend much of my time at first listening and learning. The Society has a long and distinguished history and I see the job of the council as stewardship of this legacy, maintaining the society’s core activities, its journal and its annual meetings. In particular, I world seek to protect the low barrier to student participation in the meetings, which has helped shape SSE’s unusually collegial and nonhierarchical culture.

Many aspects of our field are undergoing rapid change and the society should adapt. I support establishment and promotion of a pathway for direct submission from bioRxiv to Evolution, as already available for journals from peer societies. Such a pathway will promote open science and rapid dissemination of knowledge while preserving the important role of the society in curating our discipline.

I hope to work with the Education and Outreach Committee to strengthen and expand the society’s public presence. The leading professional organization of evolutionary biologists should have the ears of policy makers and journalists on the topics within our domain, including strategies for combating infectious diseases and accommodating the biotic response to climate change. Peer societies, including the Genetics Society of America, have strong media and policy advocacy activities that we would do well to emulate.

Finally, the SSE has an exemplary record in working to broaden participation, increase diversity, and combat bias. The society’s success is conspicuous with respect to gender but less so in other dimensions. I would like to work with the society’s leadership to increase our push to bring talented scientists into our discipline from historically underrepresented demographics. Simple steps, such as SSE representation at the AMRCMS conference, will go some way toward reaching underrepresented populations.

The Society for the Study of Evolution has been a major influence on my career, hosting the meetings that brought me into the field and that annually renew my enthusiasm for our project, publishing the papers that pointed me to my research program, and providing a venue to publish my best work. I am eager to repay the society.


Candidate for Council

Trisha Wittkopp, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan


With new avenues opening for addressing long-standing questions about natural history and the evolutionary process, and evolutionary perspectives being incorporated more explicitly into many areas of basic and applied research, this is an exciting time to be an evolutionary biologist. It is also a critical time for conveying the importance of evolutionary research to the general public, recruiting and training a talented and diverse group of future evolutionary biologists, and working with funding agencies to increase support for evolution research. As a nominee for Council member of the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), I welcome the opportunity to work with the SSE in these areas.


In addition to supporting the society’s activities that members are likely most familiar with (i.e., the journal and annual meeting), I would be an advocate for outreach efforts directed toward undergraduate and K-12 students, where I think there is the greatest opportunity to shape perspectives of evolutionary biology and science in general. I would also be an advocate for programs designed to increase the participation of members of underrepresented groups in evolutionary research. This includes supporting existing programs as well as investigating the feasibility of a program for evolutionary biology similar to the Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) program run by the Ecological Society of America that provides hands-on activities for undergraduate students to get involved in research, education, and community outreach. I believe that improving the visibility of contemporary evolutionary biology among a diverse group of younger students is the best way to foster a broad pool of future researchers as well as a more informed public audience.


The experience and perspective I would bring to this position have been developed though (i) 21 years of research in evolutionary biology (especially evolutionary genetics and genomics); (ii) service on the editorial board for Evolution as well as eLife, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Genome Biology and Evolution, Heredity, and Proceedings of the Royal Academy of Sciences B; (iii) participation as an advisor, member and chair of departmental Diversity committee and programs at University of Michigan, (iv) member of the educational committee for the Genetics Society of America, and (v) founding Council member and Education Officer for the recently formed PanAmerican Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology. I am excited about the possibility of working with SSE to maintain and expand the vibrant community of evolutionary biologists it serves.


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