FSU - Biological Science

Biological Science News

Number 1, Winter 2002
Welcome ...

. . . to the inaugural edition of the Department of Biological Science Newsletter. Did you know that for several years running, the department has been the most popular major at FSU? As a result, we now have a broad base of B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. alumni spread across the country. We plan to publish this newsletter regularly as a way of keeping in touch and showcasing the accomplishments of our current students, faculty, and alums. For example, our feature story in this edition is about Fran James. Many of you will recall courses that you took from Fran in ecology, higher vertebrates, or conservation. Or, if you were one of our graduate students, Fran may have been on your committee. Fran is already the holder of a Named Professorship and is an FSU Distinquished Research Professor. This year she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a particularly prestigious honor. We are all proud of Fran.

Three other faculty have also received Named Professorships. This program, which Florida State launched two years ago, not only provides a way to recognize our top current faculty but allows them in turn to honor former mentors and colleagues in naming their positions. We are proud that all four have chosen to honor past members of the department. For example, Fran is the Pasquale Graziadei Professor of Biological Science. Marc Freeman is the Lloyd M. Beidler Professor of Biological Science, Bill Herrnkind is the Robert K. Godfrey Professor of Biological Science, and Walter Tschinkel is the Margaret Menzel Professor of Biological Science.

At a time when many of our faculty are being honored for their contributions, we are also undergoing some dramatic changes. Six faculty have retired in the past two years and five more will retire by 2004. Overall, we will experience a 50% turnover of our faculty over a six-year period. This year alone we have added five new faculty members, whom we profile in this issue. Last fall, we initiated a nationwide search to fill a senior professorship named in honor of a former colleague, the late J. Herbert Taylor. This new position was established by Herb's wife and scientific collaborator, Shirley.

We hope this newsletter will provide a forum for the exchange of news among alumni and friends, including what you are doing and how your time in the department has affected your life. So talk to us. In future issues, we plan to include an Alumni News section. You can contribute by returning the form on page 4 (of the print version) by mail or fax (850-644-9829) or by simply sending an e-mail message to biology@bio.fsu.edu. We also want to enlist your support. The department continues to be a campus leader in both undergraduate training and graduate research. If you encounter bright students interested in the life sciences, please point them in our direction. Bob Reeves (reeves@bio.fsu.edu), our Associate Chair for Undergraduate Students, and George Bates (bates@bio.fsu.edu), Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, will be happy to discuss how you can actively assist in our recruiting efforts.

The events of September 11 and their impact on the economy have severely strained the budgets for higher education. Your financial support has never been more important to our continued progress. As one example, in this issue we have included a list of this year's recipients of several scholarships that alumni, friends, and faculty have established to support our best undergraduates and graduate students. If you would like to contribute to any of these or to the general development of the department, please refer to the information at the end of this newsletter.

We hope to hear from you and look forward to keeping you informed of what's happening here in Biological Science.

Tom Roberts, Department Chair

Fran James Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

In 2001, Dr. Frances C. James, the Pasquale Graziadei professor of Biological Science, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an international learned society composed of the world's leading scientists, scholars, artists, business people, and public leaders. Dr. James received her Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas in 1970, after raising three daughters. Since then, her contributions to research, teaching, and professional service have been prodigious, sufficient to make up two or three ordinary academic careers.

Her research has included studies of the contributions of genetic and environmental factors to bird development, the logic of science and the tools of data analysis in ecology and ecomorphology, the relationship between variation in habitat and bird distribution, long-term trends in bird populations, and ecology of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Her work has produced landmark results in all of these fields.

In addition to this research work, a full undergraduate teaching schedule, and a graduate teaching program that has produced a number of distinguished ecologists, Dr. James has contributed enormous service to the scientific community. She has served as president of the American Ornithologists' Union and of the American Institute of Biological Science, on countless committees for professional organizations, and on the editorial boards of several journals. She currently serves on the Board of Governors of the Nature Conservancy. She has traveled extensively and contributed to several major reports sponsored by the National Research Council.

Needless to say, as a result, Dr. James has received many professional awards and honors, and we are pleased that the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has chosen to recognize her accomplishments.

Student Awards

The department is very proud of the 10 scholarships that have been endowed by its alumni, faculty, and staff. Even a small award can make a big difference to a deserving student, and such an endowment is an ideal way to honor a departed family member or an inspiring teacher.

Undergraduate Awards

John Mark Caffrey Memorial Scholarship: Cyrus Monroe (senior, Tallahassee, Fla.), Kristy Montini (senior, Tallahassee, Fla.), Tace Steele (senior, Vero Beach, Fla.). Faculty Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship: Danielle Lafond (senior, Conway, Ark.). Francenia E. Fisher Scholarship: Eric Jones (senior, Tallahassee, Fla.). Charles M. McAllister Endowed Scholarship: Dan Warren (senior, Norman, Okla.). Vaughn-Jordan Endowed Scholarship: Marshawn Hay (junior, Jacksonville, Fla.). Biological Science Alumni Endowed Scholarship: Heather White (junior, Tuscaloosa, Ala.).

Graduate Awards

Margaret Menzel Endowed Award: Shawnna Buttery (Jacksonville, Florida), Jamie Kneitel (Los Angeles, Calif.). Faculty Endowed Scholarship Award: Jamie Kneitel. The Robert B. Short Scholarship in Zoology: Brian Storz (Eugene, Oreg.).

The Sheila B. Lutz Memorial Scholarship: The 2001 Lutz Scholarship, intended to help an FSU staff member complete a college degree, was awarded to Mary Kate McKee. Mary Kate is a 1976 FSU graduate who left her teaching career to stay home with her children. After they started school and her husband's job brought the family back to Tallahassee, she began work on a master's degree in elementary education, hoping to return to teaching. She has completed many of the necessary hours while working at FSU, and the scholarship will enable her to finish her degree in 2002. Mary Kate embodies the spirit of lifelong learning that characterized the late Sheila Lutz.

The department is delighted to announce the arrival of Dr. David L. Swofford, who has accepted an Eppes Professorship in Biological Science this year. Dr. Swofford received his Ph.D. in 1986 at the University of Illinois. His work addresses the theory and methodology of phylogenetic inference from molecular sequences and morphological data, and he brings with him a distinguished record and international recognition.

In addition, an associate professor and three new assistant professors joined the Department of Biological Science faculty in 2001-02.

Dr. P. Bryant Chase studies the biomechanics of cardiac and skeletal muscle. He earned his doctorate in 1984 at the University of Southern California before spending four years as a research fellow in radiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass. Next, he became an assistant and then associate research professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, before moving to Florida State.

Dr. Brian D. Inouye received his doctoral degree in 1998 from Duke University and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Theoretical Dynamics at the University of California, Davis, before moving to Florida State. The major goals of his research are to elucidate the roles of spatial and temporal variation in population and community ecology and to link theoretical and empirical approaches.

Dr. Nora Underwood got her Ph.D. in 1997 at Duke University, then served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Population Biology at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests are in population biology and in the ecology and evolution of plant-insect interactions.

Dr. Janie L. Wulff's 1986 doctorate is from Yale University. She held postdoctoral fellowships at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and at Harvard University and faculty positions at Williams College and Middlebury College before moving to Florida State. Her research addresses the roles of predators, physical disturbance, and competition in shaping sponge faunas.

Inevitable Naming Contest

What's a new publication without a naming contest, right? What should this newsletter be called? Send us your suggestions by 1 July 2002. The sender of the winning title will receive a T-shirt from the department's award-winning middle-school outreach program Saturday-at-the-Sea, featuring the program's trade-mark fiddler-crab logo. For more information about SATS and its spin-off programs for other age groups, visit the Office of Science Teaching Activities website at http://bio.fsu.edu/eeo/sats.html.

History of the Department

The Department of Biological Science has changed and expanded enormously since its formation in 1956. Even earlier, huge changes took place during Florida State's transformation a little more than 50 years ago into a research university. Because the university expanded so rapidly in the early 1950's, many faculty hired at that time have recently retired, and much of the department's "institutional memory" is leaving with them.

While so much of our past still lives in the memories of our faculty and alumni, we hope to compile a history of the department that can be passed on to future generations. The best of the material collected will be made available on the Internet, so that you watch the history take shape as the project progresses. Watch for it on the department's website, under "Current and Notable."

Alumni News and History Project

Please take the time to return the form below. Your classmates want to hear what you're doing now, and we want to know what you remember about the department when you were a student. If you can include a financial contribution as well, that would be wonderful. The struggle to secure enough funding to maintain the excellence of our research and teaching is never-ending, and anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated.

We would appreciate hearing from you anything you wish to share about your past and current activities. Who was chairman of the department when you were here? What professors made the greatest impressions? What other memories of your experiences stand out? What have you done since? Tell us about your life, your professional recognition, your career changes.

Send your news by letter, fax, or e-mail, to

Dr. Anne B. Thistle
Department of Biological Science
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Florida 32306-1100

Fax: (850) 644-9829
E-mail: thistle@bio.fsu.edu or biology@bio.fsu.edu

Please let us know whether we can included the information you send us in future alumni news columns or on the web as part of the departmental history project or whether you would like it kept confidential.

Read the replies from readers!

Editorial board: Anne B. Thistle (chair, thistle@bio.fsu.edu), Joanna Carter (carter@bio.fsu.edu), and Cathy Oakley (oakley@mailer.fsu.edu).