Dr. Cassandra Extavour and Dr. Allen Rodrigo organized a National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored workshop (grant number DBI-1249112), and circulated a community interest survey to over 600 scientists interested in Evo-Devo, as well as to the EvolDir, US Evo-Devoand European Evo-Devo (jiscmail) listservs. After receiving nearly 300 responses from scientists interested in attending, Cassandra, Allen and the organizing committee (Ehab Abouheif, Pamela Diggle, Ryan Earley, Brian Hall, Manfred Laubichler, Armin Moczek, Karen Sears, Chelsea Specht, Angelika Stollewerk, Trisha Wittkopp) invited 25 participants representing the broad range of scientific backgrounds and approaches within the Evo-Devo community. Participants came from the USA, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Israel, Spain and the UK. Program officers from the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems of the NSF (Steve Klein, Amy Litt, and Anthea Letsou) were also in attendance.
Although the NSF grant could support physical attendance of only 35 participants, an online portal was set up so that anyone interested in participating could follow and/or participate virtually, both in the general discussions and in the breakout discussions.
The major goal of the workshop as stated in the meeting proposal was to address and identify the major needs and concerns of the Evo-Devo community, as follows:
Meeting participants strongly supported the establishment of a new professional society, provisionally named the “PanAmerican Society of Evolutionary Developmental Biology.” Ehab Abouheif (McGill University), and Karen Sears (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) were appointed as President and Vice President, respectively. This society is meant to serve the needs of the Evo-Devo community in the USA, Canada, Central and South America, and to link these communities with the European and other international communities by interfacing with the thriving European Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology (EED).
Our first goal as a society is to put up a website to give us a virtual home to co-ordinate among all the Evo-Devo activities and opportunities (Research, Education, Meetings) in Canada, USA, Central and South America, and beyond. The second goal is to hold an inaugural meeting during the summer of 2015. The hope is that at this inaugural meeting, all interested members of the community will participate in discussion and election of council members for the society.
Other outcomes of the NESCent workshop included the development of two new manuscripts addressing the current conditions of Evo-Devo. One of these, coordinated by Manfred Laublicher and Billie Swalla, will highlight the past accomplishments of Evo-Devo and demonstrate the progress we have made as a field. A second manuscript, coordinated by Armin Moczek, will focus on the future of Evo-Devo and highlight Evo-Devo’s promise in tackling some of the fundamental questions in biology in the 21st century.