When Janis Weeks joined the team of JEB Editors in 2005, the journal was a very different place: Hans Hoppeler had been the Editor in Chief for less than a year, the average number of annual submissions was less than 900 and the journal had only six Monitoring Editors. Since then, Weeks has been an active member of an expanding editorial team, handling manuscripts in a diverse array of fields including neuroethology and the role of steroid hormones in neurobiology, and organising two highly successful JEB symposia, one on neuroparasitology and the other on neurosensory ecology. However, Weeks sadly came to the recent decision that she can no longer sustain her commitment to the journal and so in December 2013, she accepted her last manuscript as a Monitoring Editor and stepped down.
Weeks began her career in 1976 in the lab of William B. Kristan, Jr, at the University of California, San Diego, USA, where she studied the neural control of swimming in the medicinal leech. ‘The first scientific paper I published in the field of neurobiology was in JEB in 1978 [J. Exp. Biol. 77, 71-88], so I've always been a fan of the journal, with its emphasis on comparative physiology’, she recalls. Moving on to a postdoc with Jim Truman at the University of Washington, USA, Weeks became interested in the hormonal regulation of neural circuit reorganisation during metamorphosis, which results in the behavioural changes associated with pupation. ‘This was where I started working on […] the hawkmoth, Manduca sexta’, says Weeks. After 4 years in Seattle, Weeks moved to her first faculty position at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, before taking up her current position in the Department of Biology at the University of Oregon, USA, in 1989. There, she continued studying the hormone modulation of behavioural change associated with metamorphosis, using approaches ranging from electrophysiology and anatomy to endocrinology and behavioural studies, before switching to working with Drosophila in the mid-2000s and nematodes in 2010.
Weeks also has broad teaching interests beyond the University of Oregon, which have seen her teach for more than 25 years at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA, as well as is in Africa, where she has contributed to programs run by the International Brain Research Organization. According to Weeks, her experiences in Africa also sparked her interest in parasitic diseases. She says, ‘My lab is focusing on new technologies at the intersection of nanotechnology and electrophysiology, to seek new drugs for parasitic worm infections of humans and animals.’ As a result of this new interest, Weeks co-founded a company, NemaMetrix, with a colleague to make these technologies more broadly available and she recently received a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund her research. ‘I'm still an invertebrate neurobiologist at heart, but my research goals are more applied than in the past’, she explains.
Reflecting on her tenure at the JEB, Weeks says that she has thoroughly enjoyed working with the JEB Editors and staff in addition to learning about unfamiliar areas of biology at the annual JEB symposia. ‘I was honored to be asked to join the Board,’ says Weeks, ‘but after 9 years as a Monitoring Editor, it seems appropriate to step down and allow new blood to rotate on.’
With the loss of a valued member of the editorial team, Hoppeler was faced with the task of identifying an experienced and respected neuroethologist to take Weeks' place. ‘We needed to identify a scientist with a strong background in neuroethology. We were looking for somebody with an active research agenda and broad interests outside of his or her immediate field of research’, says Hoppeler. After months of thought and discussion with the other Editors, Hoppeler eventually approached Almut Kelber, a sensory neurobiologist from Lund University in Sweden. ‘I was surprised and pleased when I was invited to join the journal’, laughs Kelber, who published her first paper in JEB in the mid-1990s (J. Exp. Biol. 199, 245-252). ‘JEB has always been my favourite journal,’ says Kelber, adding, ‘I think it is a friendly journal. One gets a lot of help with everything at all stages and it is always worth reading. It is the only journal where I always read the contents list because there is always something that I find interesting.’
Studying landmark use by bees during her Masters degree project with Tom Collett at the University of Sussex, UK, and flight control and visual orientation in stingless bees in southern Brazil during her PhD with Jochen Zeil at the University of Tübingen, Germany, Kelber then took a few years out of her career to have her children. However, during her PhD, she became interested in hummingbird hawkmoths. ‘I was curious about their colour vision and I thought it was easier to stay where I was, where people knew me, so I wrote a grant and got money to study their colour vision in Tübingen’, explains Kelber. But then, in 1997, she transported her young family to Canberra, Australia, to work on spatial vision in hummingbird hawkmoths. Unfortunately, Kelber was unable to find any of the 13 species of hawkmoth that live on the continent; however, there was no shortage of orchard butterflies. So she switched organisms, spending 2 years studying the butterflies' colour vision before moving to the University of Lund, Sweden, where she was eventually appointed as a professor in 2000. And it was in Lund that she made the remarkable discovery that nocturnal elephant hawkmoths can see colour even in the dimmest light: starlight.
Since then, Kelber has expanded her horizons to encompass vertebrates as well as invertebrates, studying colour vision in species as diverse as horses, seals, birds, geckos, frogs and toads. Explaining her interest in colour vision, Kelber says, ‘If you look at bright sunlight or moonlight, that has one light colour, but if you go to dawn and dusk illumination, the colour changes quite a lot.’ According to Kelber, this shift in light colour makes it difficult for colour-blind animals to recognize objects against the background. For example, if you had no colour vision, a yellow flower would stand out from a dark background in bright light but merge into the background at dusk. ‘The origin of colour vision must have been to permit recognition of objects in changing light conditions,’ says Kelber, ‘and that may have been important in evolution.’
Welcoming Kelber to the journal, Hoppeler says, ‘Almut fits the bill perfectly,’ and adds that he is keen to begin working with the new member of the team in January 2014. For her part, Kelber is looking forward to her new role and says, ‘I am always curious to learn new things; getting to know fields outside of my own narrow experience has always been challenging and I think it is such a nice journal and there are such nice people working with it that I am going to have fun.’