Florida State’s Travis to lead national biology group

Joseph Travis

Joseph Travis, dean of The Florida State University’s College of Arts and Sciences and a distinguished researcher in the field of ecological genetics, has been named president-elect of the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). The institute has a combined membership of more than 250,000 scientists nationwide.

Joseph Travis

Travis will serve as the president-elect in 2009, president in 2010 and past-president in 2011. The American Institute of Biological Sciences is comprised of about 5,000 individual biologists and the members of 200 professional societies and scientific organizations.

"One of the most important themes for the American Institute of Biological Sciences is the unity of biological science as a discipline, even as biology research and teaching are done at many levels from the molecular to the ecosystem," Travis said. "We are in an exciting time when insights into ecosystem processes are coming from new findings in chemistry and when advances in developmental biology are helping to answer questions in evolutionary biology, and the AIBS promotes this kind of integration within the life sciences."

Among its many current initiatives, Travis said the institute would work with the National Academies and the National Science Foundation to shape the next generation of research directions in biological science.

"Many important problems in biological science require interdisciplinary approaches from areas such as mathematics and engineering, so the AIBS will aim to rally the scientific community to help foster such approaches and train the next generation of students to think about biology in an integrative manner," he said.

"The election of Joe Travis as president-elect of the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Biological Sciences reflects the high regard the U.S. science community has for his scientific abilities and judgment," said Lawrence G. Abele, Florida State University provost and executive vice president and, like Travis, a faculty member in FSU’s Department of Biological Science. "He is simply a great colleague both as a scientist and an administrator."

Abele noted that with Travis now in such a high-profile position, Florida State University’s name would garner added positive exposure nationwide.

"Because Florida State programs, faculty and students are so strong, that exposure should enhance the university’s reputation and help us to continue to attract the best new faculty members and most promising new students," Abele said.

In addition to heading the College of Arts and Sciences, Florida State University’s largest academic unit, Travis holds the title of Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor, the highest honor bestowed by the FSU faculty on one of its own.

Before he became a dean in 2005, Travis served as chairman of Florida State’s Department of Biological Science and director of the university’s School of Computational Science and Information Technology. A member of the Florida State University faculty since 1980, Travis earned his bachelor of arts degree in biology from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in zoology from Duke University, and held a postdoctoral position in biology at the University of Virginia.

His own research has been focused on population biology (i.e., which factors create fluctuations in numbers of individuals and how crowding affects the growth, development, mating and reproduction of individuals). The work addresses basic questions in ecology and also sheds light on several applied problems such as the effects of habitat alteration and harvesting on fish populations. To learn more about Travis’s research in the laboratory and in the field, go to bio.fsu.edu/~jtravis.

Travis currently serves on National Science Foundation advisory councils that oversee the biological sciences and environmental research and education. In addition, he served on the National Marine Fisheries Service Recovery Science Review Panel that advised the agency on recovery plans for endangered and threatened Pacific salmon populations. Among many professional awards and recognitions to date, Travis was named a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1991 and was president of the American Society of Naturalists in 2005.

For more information on the American Institute of Biological Sciences, visit its Web site at www.aibs.org.