A Symposium titled "New Frontiers from Marine Snakes to Marine Ecosystems" and an associated Workshop titled "Building Conceptual Bridges between Marine Snake Research and Challenging Frontiers in Biology" will be held during 3-7 January 2012 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Charleston, SC. The Symposium will feature 11 speakers with additional participants contributing to complementary oral and poster sessions and discussions at the Workshop. This meeting will reflect a breadth of involvement including diversity of age, gender, ethnicity, institutions, and international participation.
The proposed Symposium, together with interactions during complementary sessions and the associated Workshop, will provide an important service for students and new research scientists by interpreting the significance of current research, promoting the integration of marine research, and highlighting some intriguing directions for future investigations. The breadth of the symposium, and the diverse interests of people who will come to it, presents unparalleled opportunities for integration of topics and promotion of future interdisciplinary research involving a variety of disciplines.
Several interrelated goals of the Symposium are: (1) Bring together world?s experts who currently investigate the biology of marine snakes and their interactions with marine ecosystems in which they live (principally coral reefs). (2) Establish and promote the use of marine systems as models for investigating conceptual issues related to environment, changing climate, and persistence of biological communities. (3) Identify leading-edge topics for which studies of marine snakes might contribute uniquely to the advancement of research. Examples are: (i) understanding overall patterns of biodiversity in the Indo-Pacific; (ii) applying molecular approaches to advance understanding of evolutionary processes including diverse and prolific radiations; and (iii) better understanding the importance of bioindicators to health and conservation of coral reef ecosystems. (4) Summarize and evaluate current states of knowledge for various topics in a context of moving fields forward and promoting linkages to ongoing research. (5) Build collaborations among the various persons who will participate. Papers from the Symposium will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Integrative & Comparative Biology, and will be followed with publication of a book in the near future.
We convened an international Symposium and two Workshop sessions at the 2012 meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB), held during January 3-7 in Charleston, South Carolina. The Symposium was approved and partially funded by the SICB, and additional support came from the University of Florida, Sable Systems International, Vida Preciosa International, Inc., and Gourmet Rodent, Inc. Fifteen participants gave presentations at the Symposium or led discussions at the Workshops. A collection of research papers resulting directly from the Symposium was published in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology (August 2012). The meeting generated new collaborations among a number of the attending scientists. The Symposium session was held on January 5, and two Workshops were held during the evenings of January 5 and 6 respectively, 2012. Summary information for both the Symposium and Workshops follows. The title of the Symposium was 'New Frontiers from Marine Snakes to Marine Ecosytems.' This Symposium highlighted new and current research on marine snakes including associated ecological systems and conceptual issues. The session was timely due to a current renaissance of research in which new investigators are participants who will be actively pursuing new discoveries into the foreseeable future. The symposium was structured with associated Workshops and was forward-looking with a focus on breadth of timely issues. The speakers brought a diverse group of current investigators in terms of age, gender, topic, and international representation. The associated Workshops were titled 'Building Conceptual Bridges between Marine Snake Research and Challenging Frontiers in Biology.' Both the Symposium and the Workshops provided opportunities for younger scientists to exchange their ideas, meet other workers in the field, and, for some, develop organizational skills. Several interrelated goals of the Symposium and Workshops are summarized as follows. 1. Bring together world's experts who currently investigate the biology of marine snakes and their interactions with marine ecosystems in which they live. The fundamental purpose is to promote interactions and exchange of ideas in relation to the other goals which follow. 2. Establish and promote the use of marine systems as models for investigating current leading issues related to environment, changing climate, and persistence of biological communities, with focus on marine snakes as model examples. This is important because studies are needed for tropical systems, and the majority of sea snakes occur on coral reefs which are in crisis in context of these issues. 3. Identify leading-edge topics for which studies of marine snakes might contribute to advancement of understanding. 4. Summarize and evaluate the current states of knowledge for various topics in a context of moving fields forward and promoting linkages to ongoing research. 5. Build collaborations among the various persons who will participate in, and attend, the Symposium and Workshops. Discussion leaders at the Workshops focused group considerations on questions and updates concerning: why there is so much diversity in biological regulatory mechanisms; the causes of declines and extinctions of sea snakes at certain reefs in Australia; the appropriate techniques for using stable isotopes in ecological studies; and both issues and controversies related to conservation and biodiversity. Some of the highlights in progress toward new understanding of marine ecosystems as results of both the Symposium and Workshops are as follow. Long-term field studies in New Caledonia, Southeast Asia, and Australia have advanced understanding of the functioning of marine ecosystems and the important role of sea snakes that have been proposed as indicators of the health of coral reefs. It was revealed that both low salinity and high seasonal variation in salinity of the Indonesian Basin likely provided a favorable context for the evolutionary transition to marine life in snakes. More generally, ocean salinity is emerging as an important parameter in ecological and evolutionary studies of secondarily marine vertebrates (including turtles, birds and mammals) and should be incorporated into models assessing the impact of climate change on marine vertebrates. Studies of sea snakes also emphasize the importance of physiological attributes in tolerance to temperature and salinity as determinants of abundance and distribution, which carries implications for conservation of these and other marine vertebrates. Some speakers highlighted the dynamic and complex evolutionary history of traits that play important roles in driving the rapid diversification of marine organisms. New genetic studies of the sole species of sea snake that drifts passively on ocean currents and has an extremely broad distribution across the Indo-Pacific provide new insights concerning the dynamics of population structure in marine vertebrates. Finally, historical dynamic changes in climate were examined with implications for understanding the potential future impact of climate changes on landscapes and the organisms that inhabit them.