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For Members 2020 SVP Election Slate vice-president

margaret lewis

Current Position: Professor of Biology, Biology Program (= department), Stockton University, Galloway, NJ, USA. 

Education: PhD, Anthropology (DPAS: Anatomy, Anthropology, and Ecology & Evolution), State University of New York at Stony Brook 1995; MA, Anthropology, State University of New York at Stony Brook 1992; BA, Anthropology, Rice University 1988.

Previous SVP Service: Ex Officio Member, Standing Committee on Diversity, SVP (2017-present); Member, Diversity & Professional Conduct Committee Working Group (2016-2017); Member, SVP Awards Committee (2013-present); Chair, SVP Membership Committee (2010-present); Member, SVP Membership Committee (2005-2010); Northeast Regional Editor, SVP News Bulletin (2003-2010); Member-at-Large, SVP Executive Committee (2001-2004); Graduate Research Fellowship Review Committee (1999-2002); Member, Education and Outreach Committee (1998-2010). 

Other Professional Service: 2019-present    STEM Chair, Sea Pines District, Boy Scouts of America (2019-present); Co-Organizer, Sea Pines District Annual Scouts BSA Merit Badge Academy at Stockton University (primarily STEM MBs) (2016-present); External Consultant for biology departmental reviews, new degrees, etc. (2015-present); NIH Research Supervisor-Postdoctoral Fellow, Nathaniel Hartman, Ph.D. (2013-2015); Supervisor, Outside Member, External Thesis Examiner, etc. on various graduate theses at other institutions (my university does not have a graduate program in my discipline) (2000-present). 

Research Interests: My research involves reconstructing the behavior and ecology of carnivorous mammals to better understand patterns of change in morphological adaptations, species diversity, and guild structure, etc. in a given area through time, as well as patterns of speciation and extinction.  The relationship between postcranial morphology, behavior, and ecology in vertebrates fascinates me, as does the impact of body size on skeletal morphology. While my primary focus has been on African Carnivora and Hyaenodonta from the Miocene to the present, I also work on Eurasian and North and South American carnivores from across a wider time range to better understand convergence within carnivorous mammals and their historical biogeography.

Goals for SVP: When I was growing up, my dad instilled in me a love of fossils, nature, and travel.  We would hear about dinosaur footprints or other finds and we would go rattling off across my home state of Texas to see them. When I joined the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology as a graduate student in 1989, I quickly realized that SVP meetings are where you can recapture that feeling of childhood wonder and be reinvigorated while being surrounded by an incredible array of research projects presented by researchers from around the world.  

Since joining SVP, I have held a series of positions within our society.  Early in my career, I joined the SVP Education and Outreach Committee because of my commitment to public STEM education.  I then ran successfully for Member-At-Large of the Executive Committee.  Being on the Executive Committee provided me with insight into the day to day running of a professional society and helped me develop a sense of where SVP was going and what role I could play.  I became particularly interested in how we were navigating our push to become an international society, the meaning of professional ethics, and issues related to diversity and representation within our Society. 

When my time on the Ex Comm was done, I was invited to join the Membership Committee. For the last ten years, I have been the Chair of that Committee.  (As Membership Chair, I also serve ex officio on our Standing Committee on Diversity and as a member of the Awards Committee).  Over the years, I have watched as our Society grew in size.  At the same time, jobs within our profession have become harder to find and it is more and more difficult for many members to attend meetings or even pay dues.  I hear from students and early career members who go without basic necessities so that they can afford to come to meetings.  I also hear from retired long-time members whose low or non-existent pensions made the cost of continued membership unaffordable.  

For those reasons, I have led the Membership Committee in the development of lower-cost memberships to help retain and support our members who are in the earliest stage of their career (e.g., memberships for everyone from students to those in post-graduate positions) and those in the later stages of their career (e.g., emeritus memberships).  I have also helped guide and develop international initiatives to expand our membership and to bring electronic JVP access to institutions that might not otherwise have access to our journal.  I have also petitioned successfully over the years for increasing funding for the student travel grants awarded by my committee so that we can provide funding for more students to travel to SVP meetings each year. During my tenure, we have changed the type of data collected on members so that we can better understand how our society is structured and answer questions about changes in diversity and representation.

As members of SVP, we face a variety of challenges right now.  Within the USA, we have suffered reductions in public lands, particularly those with paleontological significance.  Around the world, vertebrate fossils continue to be auctioned such that they are no longer part of the public trust and are often lost to science. Despite the public exposure of sexual harassment, assault, and bullying within our field and other scientific fields, these behaviors continue. We also have an increasing number of members experiencing significant economic instability.  

I have held leadership positions through three different Business Offices and have had a lot of input from members about what they like and dislike both within our Society and our field.  I also have experience working with US federal regulatory bodies in my university positions. I understand how our professional society works, but I also see how we can improve to better serve our members and our science and to better protect the public trust.

My vision for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is that we are not just a Society that provides a place for those interested in paleontology to learn about and share new discoveries, but also a place where like-minded individuals from an ever-increasing number of nations work together to protect public lands and vertebrate fossils worldwide and to educate the public about our science and the importance of keeping fossils and fossil localities in the public trust.  We should be a society where all forms of scientific misconduct are eschewed, where bullying, harassment and assault of any type are viewed as scientific misconduct, and where we continue to find creative solutions to support our most economically vulnerable members.  I am committed to having a society that does not exclude, harass, harm, or otherwise negatively impact the careers and personal lives of individuals due to their sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, nor due to their race, ethnicity, ancestry, nationality, or age.  I look forward to working with SVP members to further the mission and goals of the Society and to help our Society meet current and future challenges.