Vol. 60, No. 2 | May 2015

ABS Meeting Plenary Sessions and Symposia

ABS 2015: Plenary Sessions

Assoc. Prof. Alison Bell
University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign
Insights into plasticity and individual differences in behavior from stickleback genomic data.

Summary: Over the past 10+ years, genomics has been alternately heralded, hyped and dismissed. Until recently there has not been a sufficient number of studies using genomic tools to address important questions in animal behavior to allow us to assess whether genomics has lived up to its promise. In this talk, I will use examples from studies of behavior in sticklebacks to illustrate the opportunities and challenges associated with applying genomic tools (especially genome-wide expression) to the study of animal behavior.  In particular, I will highlight insights we have gained into the causes of individual differences in behavior and limited plasticity from measuring brain gene expression. Some of the main findings include: (1) pleiotropy is rampant; (2) the molecular correlates of individual variation can be different from the molecular correlates of plasticity; (3) the way fathers behave toward their offspring can be an important source of epigenetic variation with consequences for offspring.

Prof. Bennett Galef
McMaster University
ABS Distinguished Animal Behaviorist

Social influences on food choice: behavior, neuroscience and molecular biology.

Summary: What has kept me interested in the social transmission of food preference (STFP) for more than 40 years is how accommodating the phenomenon has become to different levels of analysis. I plan to describe some of the many behavioral sensory, physiological and molecular studies of STFP carried out both in my laboratory and those of many others in response to three of Tinbergen's four questions about behavior.



Prof. Susan Alberts
Duke University
Advantage and adversity: the influence of social environments on fitness in social mammals.

Summary: How does an organism's social and ecological environment affect its fertility and survival? These are major questions that cross the disciplines of animal behavior, biodemography, and medicine. To gain insight into these questions, we are taking advantage of longitudinal data from a well-studied wild primate population, the baboons of the Amboseli basin in southern Kenya. This population, one of the best-studied wild mammal populations in the world, has been under continuous observation since 1971, and represents a robust natural population that experiences extensive natural variation in the social and ecological environment. We have investigated the effects of early life adversity (both social adversity and ecological adversity) on fertility and survival, and we have also investigated the effects of the adult social and ecological environment on fertility and survival. Our data indicate that early adversity carries lifelong costs for both fertility and survival in these primates, and that the adult environment offers some opportunities for these costs to be mitigated.

Prof. Regina Macedo
University of Brasilia
ABS President
Animal behavior: Time travel through science.

Summary: The role of science in today´s world cannot be emphasized strongly enough. In a planet where societies effectively exist in different time periods, conflict seems unavoidable. In this talk, I will explore how research, specifically that developed by us as behaviorists and members of ABS, has contributed toward accelerating global progress in science. These efforts can effectively decrease the knowledge and cultural gaps and lead to greater understanding and development.



Steven Swartz
Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program
The Behavior and Conservation of Breeding Gray whales in Laguna San Ignacio: A Forty Year Perspective.

Summary: Each winter North Pacific gray whales migrate south along the coast of North America from their summer feeding range in the North Pacific, Bering, and Arctic to their winter breeding range along the Pacific Coast of Baja California, Mexico. Bahia Ballenas and Laguna San Ignacio is one of three major winter aggregation areas where adult grays breed and give birth to their calves. Systematic studies of the use of this lagoon by gray whales began in 1977, and have continued to the present to document the abundance, distribution, calving rate, and behavior of the gray whales that occupy the lagoon each winter. During this time the gray whale population has fluctuated, presumably in response to environmental factors, and these changes have been reflected in the number of whales utilizing Laguna San Ignacio. The lagoon lies within Mexico’s Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve and, as a managed marine protected area, it has become a focus of whale-watching eco-tourism in Mexico, and for the whales' "curiosity" with whale-watchers. I will discuss the history of the gray whale’s use and the conservation of Laguna San Ignacio over the past four decades, the breeding behavior of the whales, and their relationship with the eco-tourism community that operates within the lagoon.

Presidential Symposium: Social Networks and Animal Societies -- Linking Structure to Function

Daniel Rubenstein, Organizer

Social networks have become a powerful tool for characterizing social relationships that make up animal societies. Until recently, however, networks have mostly been used to characterize the structure of societies. Because individuals can be part of many different types of networks—affiliative, aggressive, kin based, to name a few—linking structure to social function remains a challenge. Speakers in this symposium will provide insights into how the spread of memes, genes and diseases are shaped by features of network structure and their dynamics and in turn, how different patterns of spread modulate population processes.

Daniel Rubenstein, Princeton University
Tanya Berger-Wolf, University of Illinois-Chicago
Lauren Brent, Duke University
Damien Farine, Oxford University
David McDonald, University of Wyoming
Susan Shultz, University of Manchester
Orr Spiegel, University of California, Davis
Andy Sih, University of California, Davis
Tina Wey, New Mexico State University

Warder Clyde Allee Symposium for Best Student Paper

William Searcy, Organizer

This symposium features outstanding graduate student research, with an award for the best paper, and is a highlight of ABS meetings. The session honors Dr. Warder Clyde Allee (1885–1955), an animal behavior researcher who was very influential in the development and direction of animal behavior research in the 20th century. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1951 and ranks among the leading twentieth century ecologists, especially for his work in behavioral and animal ecology. In the 2015 ABS Allee Session, 10 graduate students will present their research to ABS members and talk judges.

Peter Marler Memorial Symposium: Mechanisms of Animal Behavior

Michael Beecher, William Searcy & Robert Seyfarth, Organizers

Peter Marler was a Founder of the Animal Behavior Society and a major figure in the development of the science of animal behavior in the last century. The organizers and speakers in this symposium each have worked in one of the various areas of animal behavior to which Peter made major contributions (in many cases with Peter), including the following: Ontogeny of bird song; primate communication; functional reference in animal signals; neurobiology of bird song; hormonal control of song and song development; functional studies of bird song; environmental selection on animal signals.

Greg Ball, University of Maryland
Michael Beecher, University of Washington
Dorothy Cheney, University of Pennsylvania
Bob Dooling, University of Maryland
Doug Nelson, Ohio State University
Steve Nowicki, Duke University
Sarah Partan, Hampshire College
Susan Peters, Duke University
William Searcy, University of Miami
Robert Seyfarth, University of Pennsylvania
K-lynn Smith, Macquarie University
Jill Soha, Duke University
Haven Wiley, University of North Carolina
John Wingfield, University of California, Davis
Ken Yasukawa, Beloit College

Additional Symposia


Polar Marine Mammals and Climate Change

Deborah Boege-Tobin & Jennifer Burns, Organizers

The Polar Marine Mammals and Climate Change symposium will highlight speakers from academia and management agencies, presenting on topics ranging from behavioral changes due to climate shifts to emergent disease issues, to potential behavioral impacts of changing human activities in the regions.

Todd Atwood, USGS Alaska Science Center
Deborah Boege-Tobin, University of Alaska, Anchorage-Kachemak Bay Campus
Jennifer Burns, University of Alaska, Anchorage
Leslie Cornick, Alaska Pacific University
Verena Gill, BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)
Jan Straley, University of Alaska Southeast
Russ Andrews, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Angela Doroff, Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Rebecca Taylor, USGS Alaska Science Center
Olga von Ziegesar, Eye of the Whale
Kathy Burek Huntington, Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services
More speakers TBA


It’s About Time – Understanding Temporal Variation in Animal Behavior 

Andy Dosmann, Organizer

In animal behavior, when something happens and for how long it happens can be just as important as what happens. Many aspects of animal behavior involve change over time. If researchers do not consider time, they miss a number of functionally important processes. The general importance of timing in animal behavior is widely appreciated, but often not explicitly addressed. Furthermore, researchers who do explicitly address temporal variation do so in distinctly different ways. Speakers at this symposium will outline unresolved temporal issues in animal behavior, present ways to more comprehensively quantify the impacts of time on behavior, and evaluate the impact of temporal variation on fields ranging from animal personality to intraindividual variability to social network analysis.

Tim Brick, Penn State University
Ned Dochtermann, North Dakota State University
Andy Dosmann, Stanford University
Elizabeth Hobson, National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis
Krista Ingram, Colgate University
Pierre-Olivier Montiglio, University of California-Davis
Judy Stamps, University of California-Davis

New Frontiers for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior

Dustin Rubenstein & Hans Hofmann, Organizers

As the 50th anniversary of Tinbergen’s seminal essay on levels of analysis in studies of animal behavior has come and gone, efforts to integrate neural, genetic, physiological, ecological, and evolutionary studies of behavior at the organismal level are gaining new prominence. These integrative studies of animal behavior are being facilitated by multiple factors, including new technologies and analytical procedures, as well as the increasing ease of application of these advances to studies in the field. As biologists call for an integration of Tinbergean levels of analysis in studies of animal behavior, the time is right to convene scientists working in this area to discuss how to most effectively do this. Speakers in this symposium will discuss how they use a range of tools in their integrative research programs, and how their work impacts the field of animal behavior.

Dustin Rubenstein, Columbia University
Hans Hofmann, University of Texas
Karen Carleton, University of Maryland
Ellen Ketterson, Indiana University
Jenny Tung, Duke University
Lisa McGraw, North Carolina State University
Tim Roth, Franklin and Marshall College

Poster Sessions & Poster Symposia

Poster sessions provide excellent opportunities for interaction and discussion regarding recent research. Contributed posters will be viewed in two evening poster sessions (Friday and Saturday evenings, June 12th and 13th), accompanied by food and drink. Posters will be grouped according to research categories identified by the presenters at the time of submission.

Poster symposia are clusters of posters curated by the symposium organizer. Any poster presenter with research relevant to a symposium theme can enter their poster for consideration for inclusion in the symposium by selecting the relevant subject category at abstract submission.

Poster Session A: Friday, June 12th  includes:

  • Genesis/Turner Undergraduate Research Poster Symposium. Organizer: Dan Howard
  • Applied Animal Behavior posters
  • Other contributed posters, groupings TBA

Poster Session B: Saturday, June 13th includes:

  • Founders’ Posters
  • Other contributed posters, groupings TBA


The Genesis Award, first presented at the 2000 meeting, was created to encourage undergraduates from academic institutions of all sizes to participate in research and present their findings in a professional forum. Judging criteria are listed on the ABS website and include significance of the research topic, research methodology, research results, and presentation. Presentation encompasses the student's oral discussion with the judges and the poster itself, including clear statements of the question and results, demonstration that there has been appropriate literature review, good organization, and visual appeal. Students should be prepared to demonstrate a mastery of their subject material.



The Founders’ award is given to the best poster paper in the Founders' poster session at the annual meeting and is open to all members of the Society in good standing.


ABS Newsletter

Send general correspondence concerning the Society to Sue Bertram, Sue.Bertram@carleton.ca. Deadlines for materials to be included in the Newsletter are the 15th of the month preceding each issue. The next deadline is 15 April, 2015. Articles submitted by members of the Society and judged by the Secretary to be appropriate are occasionally published in the ABS newsletter. The publication of such material does not imply ABS endorsement of the opinions expressed by contributors.

Animal Behaviour

Animal Behaviour, manuscripts and editorial matters: Authors should submit manuscripts online to Elsevier’s Editorial System (http://ees.elsevier.com/anbeh/). For enquiries relating to submissions prior to acceptance, contact the Journal Manager (yanbe@elsevier.com). For enquiries relating to submissions after acceptance, visit Elsevier at http://www.elsevier.com/journals. For other general correspondence, contact Kris Bruner, Managing Editor, Animal Behaviour, Indiana University, 407 N. Park Ave., Bloomington, IN 47408, USA. E-mail: krbruner@indiana.edu. Phone: 812-935-7188.

Change of address, missing or defective issues: ABS Central Office, 2111 Chestnut Ave., Ste 145, Glenview, IL 60025, USA. Phone: 312-893-6585. Fax: 312-896-5614. E-mail: info@animalbehaviorsociety.org.