Twitter image from Hernán @HVazquezMiranda “The next generation of #phylogenetic biologists celebrating the wrap of #phyloweek #SSB2015”

The Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE) held its first standalone meeting at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor May 20 - 22, 2015.

Some 200 participants explored the latest advances in phylogenetic approaches and interacted through workshops, hackathons, debates, topical discussions, lightning talks and a software school. There was a tour of accessible areas of the new facility for the U-M Museum of Zoology and Herbarium collections, while other areas are still under construction.

Primary event organizers were from the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Professors Lacey Knowles, Dan Rabosky and Stephen Smith. The National Science Foundation provided grants to Knowles and Rabosky to help fund students' travel costs to the meeting. The meeting also included sessions organized by iEvoBio’s Dr. Brian O’Meara, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Dr. Karen Cranston, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) and Duke University. O’Meara and Dr. Stacey Smith, University of Colorado, Boulder, took charge of the website and more.

Rabosky, Stephen Smith, and Jeet Sukumaran, a postdoctoral fellow in the Knowles lab, presented workshops. Other presenters hailed from the NESCent; Duke University; Harvard University; Iowa State University; Ohio State University; Temple University; University of British Columbia; University of California, Berkeley; University of Connecticut; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; University of Texas, Austin; and University of Wisconsin, Madison. The full program is on the SSB 2015 Standalone Meeting website.

The research of systematic biology is attempting to wield better models on more data, according to Stephen Smith. “More data is inevitable but we need to be able to understand it and that requires better models and better questions,” he said. “For most, that means being able to develop your own methods or techniques to answer more pointed questions.”

An advantage of holding these somewhat smaller events is that they allow for more contact between senior and junior scientists, Smith said. These smaller forums also allow for different types of activities, such as the debates. 

About half of the attendants were graduate students, with the rest almost evenly split between postdocs and faculty, and a handful of others such as undergraduate students and program officers.

Read more on Twitter #SSB2015 Scroll to May 20 - 23, 2015 to see over 400  tweets from this event. Right: 100-word cloud from Susan Perkins @NYCuratrix on Twitter. Sample tweets:

Brian O’Meara @omearabrian “#SSB2015 is trending: above Letterman, below #Eurovision2015. I hope @NSF_BIO considers this broader impacts”

Hernán @HVazquezMiranda “#ssb2015 is a great example of #girlswithtoys as the scientists leading the phylogenetics field are #womeninscience”

Karen Cranston @kcranstn “Love inclusion of all participants in discussions of imp. issues in systematics +1 to #SSB2015 format.”

Brian O’Meara "'There be dragons here'” regarding difficulty/limits of comparative methods. #SSB2015"

Katharine Marske @KAMarske “Final discussion at #SSB2015 interspersed with audience survey and haiku interludes. This meeting is awesome.”

Thomas Buckley @t_buckley_nz  “Overwhelming message from #SSB2015 we need better models and can't hope to DNA sequence our way to the right answer!”

Katharine Marske “Amazing how many slides packed into 4min talks, @NickJMatzke probably sets the record with 28 #SSB2015”

Nico Cellinese @ncellinese “Amazing how much you can learn even just following the tweets. Thank you guys! #SSB2015”

Gregg Thomas @greggwcthomas "'Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes.' Great tour of the new UMich zoology museum. #SSB2015

Tracy Heath: "Great to be home after 4 days in Ann Arbor at #SSB2015. One of the best meetings I've ever attended! Thanks to everyone who made it so fun!"

Matthew Miller: "#ssb2015 was a model meeting. Boutique, no frills (budget friendly). Laser focus on science & interactions. Kudos to @omearabrian & UM crew!"

Jeet Sukumaran @jeetsukumaran "#SSB2015 was FANTASTIC! Thanks to everyone, and EXTRA special thanks to ALL the organizers for selfless work behind AND front of the scenes"

James Mallet @eratosignis "#SSB2015 One of the most interesting meetings I've attended!"

Vanessa Apkenas @NessaTweetsBio "Had a wonderful time and learned so much at #SSB2015 – big thank you to @omearabrian, Lacey Knowles, Dan Rabosky, Stephen Smith & @NSF_BIO!!"

View the program and more on the SSB website

Professor Stephen Smith talks shop during a break. Image credit: Dale Austin.