American Society of Naturalists

A membership society whose goal is to advance and to diffuse knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles so as to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.

ASN Election, 2021

Posted on by ASN

The ASN 2021 Elections are open through March 18 for the offices of President, Vice President, and Secretary. Email was sent to ASN member to access the election website. Please let us know if you think you are a member and you did not receive the email. The election website randomizes the order for each person voting. The names below are in alphabetical order.


The PRESIDENT leads the ASN Executive Council and selects the membership of the award and officer nomination committees. The President selects the President’s Award for the “best” paper in The American Naturalist in the past year, gives the ASN Presidential Address and presents the Society’s awards at the annual meeting, and represents the ASN in multiple other ways through the year. The President serves on the Executive Council for five years, including one year as President-Elect and three years as a Past-President.

Anurag Agrawal

I am an evolutionary ecologist with interests in community ecology, plant defense, phenotypic plasticity, and coevolution. With collaborators, I have worked on combining comparative and experimental approaches as a means to link natural history, convergence, and strong inference towards understanding organismal function and ecological outcomes. You’ve got to love being in the field, identifying plants, and watching caterpillars—even better when we can connect these to conceptual research questions. I have been at Cornell University for more than 16 years and have had the privilege to work with amazing students, postdocs, and staff, as well as helping to lead an interdisciplinary center focused on sustainability. Over that time, it’s been an honor to receive awards from the Ecological Society of America (MacArthur Award), Entomological Society of America (Founders Memorial Award), and ASN (EO Wilson Award).

I am especially keen to continue to work with ASN (I was a former VP and associate editor of The American Naturalist) as the society’s goals, research sphere, and commitment to community fit well with my own. If elected president, I would be pleased to continue to carry on and advocate for the mission, take input from members, and push on achieving goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, advancing the frontiers of science, and training the next generation. I can commit to being open, self-reflective, and responsive in advancing our communal goals. A small but specific goal would be to renew the connection between ASN and the Ecological Society of America (especially in terms of meetings), something that was started by previous ASN presidents.

Maria Servedio

I use theoretical models to explore questions in evolution and behavior, concentrating on the evolutionary effects of sexual selection and on the process of speciation. Of particular interest to me is the interaction of these two processes, namely the role that sexual selection plays in speciation with gene flow. I also concentrate on the evolution of learning and the effects that it has on other evolutionary processes, especially in mate choice and speciation contexts.

I earned a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Biology from Harvard College in 1993, and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998. After a year-long lectureship at Cornell University, I held a Center for Population Biology postdoc position at the University of California at Davis. Currently I am at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was a recipient of the ASN Young Investigators Award in 2000 and received a Fellowship from the Swedish Collegium of Advanced Study in 2017.

I have served as one of the Handling Editors for Evolution from 2015-2019 and have been an Associate Editor or on the Editorial Board of journals that include The American Naturalist, Evolution, The Quarterly Review of Biology, and Behavioral Ecology. I was also a council member for the Society for the Study of Evolution (2010-2012), served on the Operations Committee at NESCent (2012-2015), and was on the meeting organization and program committees for the Evolution Meetings in 2014.

Regarding my activities with the ASN, most recently I served as the Vice President of the ASN (2018) and as a member of the Executive Council (2017-2019) as part of this role. In my capacity as Vice President I organized the Vice Presidential Symposium at the joint meeting of the ASN/SSE/SSB and ESEB at Montpellier in 2018, as well as the accompanying symposium section in The American Naturalist (published in 2020). Previously, in addition to authoring or co-authoring several papers in The American Naturalist and being a recipient of the ASN Young Investigators Award, I also served the society as an Associate Editor for the journal (2010-2013, with a yearlong sabbatical in this timeframe) and from 2013-2016 I served on the Sewall Wright Award Committee, acting as chair in 2016.

Over the past year there have been a myriad of changes in academia, science, and society, posing challenges to the scientific community, but also creating opportunities for the ASN to make changes for the better. In addition to renewing the ASN’s commitment to diversity and equity, I see the coming years as an opportunity to double down on science advocacy and outreach. Plans to accomplish this would include increasing the participation of the ASN on the Public Policy Committee, generating opportunities for feedback from our community in order to create more ownership by ASN members to scientific policy advocacy and outreach initiatives, and exploring options for a more permanent and sustained structure (with more institutional memory) and funding around which to organize such initiatives.

Vice President

The VICE-PRESIDENT organizes the Vice-President’s Symposium for the annual meeting and edits the special supplement to The American Naturalist that contains the papers derived from the VP Symposium. The Vice-President is also the Society’s liaison for the organizers of the annual meeting. The Vice-President serves as a member of the Executive Council for three years, two as a regular member and one as ex officio member. 

Priyanga Amarasekare

I am honored to stand for election as Vice President of the ASN, the society that I consider my home, whose journal I consider to be the pinnacle of excellence in publishing, and whose goal of conceptual unification has been the driving force of my own career.

I received a B.Sc. Honours degree in Zoology from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of California Irvine. I am currently a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. I was elected a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America in 2017. I have served on the Editorial boards of Ecology Letters, Journal of Animal Ecology, and Theoretical Ecology. I am currently the co-Chief Editor of the Models in Ecology and Evolution section of Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

My research focuses on the ecology and evolution of species interactions in variable environments. Within this broad theme I have investigated a number of issues from spatial dynamics of multi-trophic interactions to the evolution of thermal reaction norms. My work is defined by a strong mechanistic focus and a tight integration between theory and data.

I have been a member of the ASN since 1998. I was awarded the society’s Young Investigator Prize in 2001. I served as an Associate Editor of The American Naturalist for three consecutive terms (2007-16). I was a member of the Young Investigator Award committee (2010-11), and chaired the committee in 2012. I have participated in all but the last of the stand-alone ASN meetings in Asilomar, and look forward to more. I have published more papers in The American Naturalist than in any other journal.

I have lived a life both hampered by my origins and color, and blessed beyond my dreams by the opportunities that have come my way. Making those dreams come true for the next generation is my greatest passion. If elected, I will develop measures to increase the representation of scientists from developing countries, particularly Asia, Africa and the Middle East, both as members of the society and contributors to The American Naturalist. These countries have many brilliant scientists working under conditions of minimal resources and political instability. They have much to offer, and ASN can help bring their contributions to the world stage.

I will organize the Vice President’s symposium on one of the grand challenges in ecology and evolution—maintenance of genetic variation and adaptive change in response to rapidly changing environments, including a range of topics from genomics to biogeography, and representing the best scientists from all over the world. Through these goals I hope to help ASN enhance its standing as an organization with local roots and a global reach.

My long experience with the society and my contributions as an author, editor, and committee member will serve me well in helping the society realize its goals in this new world of changing sociopolitical and economic climates, and at this time when the ground is shifting beneath us to pave the way for a more diverse and inclusive society. I believe that, as an immigrant, a woman, a person of color, and a theoretician who also conducts experiments, I bring a unique perspective that can help ASN represent the best of what America has to offer to the global scientific community.

Hanna Kokko

I think of myself as an evolutionary ecologist with particular skills in building new theory, with interests ranging from anything to do with sex (evolution of sex, mating systems, sex ratios, sex roles), or, in general, involving conflict between entities: social behaviour, dispersal, migration. I also love enhancing the interaction of empiricists and theoreticians.

I obtained my Ph.D. in Helsinki (Finland), worked in the UK as well as Australia at various career stages, and am now a professor at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. I am an elected member of two national academies of science (Finland and Australia) and, in 2020, was elected to the American Academy for Arts and Sciences. I also received the Per Brinck Oikos Award for world-leading ecological work in 2010.

I worked as councilor for the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) 2011-2015 and also did plenty of work for grant panels, e.g. European Research Council 2012-2018 and Swiss National Science Foundation 2018- ongoing. I have also held various editorial positions in journals over the years (Science, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B., etc.).

I have published in The American Naturalist a total of 22 times (including the paper that won the 2015 Presidential Award), reviewed countless times, and got a nice note from The American Naturalist recently about being one of those highlighted as having produced a particularly useful review in 2020.

Looking at today’s publishing landscape, I find myself increasingly fond of the work that scientific societies do—it is a legacy worth keeping alive. Also, I have contributed lots in Europe and Australia, never so much in North America. The topic I would like to consider for the Vice President’s symposium is how selection on individuals does or does not improve population fitness.


The SECRETARY records and publishes the minutes of the annual meeting of the Executive Committee and ensures that elections for Society offices are conducted in a timely manner. In addition, the Secretary works closely with the President with respect to the normal running of the Society, documents the Executive Committee’s actions, sees that the ASN Officer’s Handbook and website are up to date, and coordinates communication between the Executive Committee, other societies’ Executive Committees, the University of Chicago Press, and ASN membership. The Secretary serves for a three-year term, and then remains a voting member for three years as Past Secretary.

Mercedes Burns

I study the evolution of sex and sexual conflict, especially in arthropods. I am particularly interested in the ecological conditions that lead to conflict between the sexes. My work has focused primarily on the arachnid order Opiliones—also called “daddy-longlegs” or “harvestmen,” which are extremely recognizable in North America and yet quite understudied.

Supported by NSF Pre-doctoral and Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant awards, I earned my Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2014, and received an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship, which I did at San Diego State University. I began my faculty appointment at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country, in 2017.

I am currently the senior director for the American Arachnology Society (Fall 2019-2021), a position on the executive council. In this position I attend council meetings, assist in distribution of student travel grants, and lead the nomination committee for council positions.

Though I have attended several joint conferences of the ASN, the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), and the Society of Systematic Biologists, hold membership with the SSE, and regularly read manuscripts published by The American Naturalist, I have never been a member of the ASN, nor have I ever published in The American Naturalist.

The current social climate of the United States has begun to spur positive change within the sciences, evidenced by organizations shifting budgets and priorities towards diversity, equity, and inclusion programming. As a Black female, I want to help promote this change in evolutionary biology. As an assistant professor, I also hope to improve my national network, for the benefit of my professional development and that of my research group.

Joel McGlothlin

I am an evolutionary biologist broadly interested in the evolution of complex phenotypes. My work uses quantitative genetics, molecular evolution, and evolutionary theory to understand how natural selection assembles adaptations and how physiological mechanisms and genetic variation shape evolutionary outcomes. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2001, I received my Ph.D. in 2007 from Indiana University. I did postdoctoral research at the University of Virginia before starting my current position at Virginia Tech in 2012. In 2010, I was the recipient of a Jasper Loftus-Hills Young Investigators Award from ASN and was awarded the Theodosius Dobzhansky Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE) in 2011.

I believe that strong societies are crucial to the health and diversity of scientific disciplines, and I have tried to give back to the societies that helped me so much in the past. From 2016-2019, I served as chair of the Hamilton Award Committee for SSE, organizing the competition for best student talk at the annual Evolution meeting. Since 2020, I have served as an SSE Councilor and member of the Diversity Committee. Because my work tends to be interdisciplinary, I identify with ASN’s goal to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences. I have been a member of ASN since graduate school and am now a lifetime member. I have been fortunate enough to publish three papers in The American Naturalist over the years, and last year, I became an Associate Editor at the journal. It is a great honor to be nominated to run for ASN Secretary and I look forward to the opportunity to become more involved in the society if elected. As Secretary, I would faithfully serve the society and look for ways to continue to make ASN a welcoming, inclusive group.