The Canadian Society of Zoologists (CSZ) is an organization dedicated to zoological research across Canada and this year I had the pleasure of attending their annual meeting held at the University of Calgary. Having just completed my first year as a graduate student at the University of Alberta, this was my first national science conference. Our lab drove down from Edmonton packed away in the back of Patrick’s Jeep listening to CCR. We arrived at UofC in the evening, checked into our hotels and had just enough time to register and attend the opening reception. I was excited to get started, in part because I was excited to experience my first conference, and in part because I was really tired of listening to CCR. After the reception we attended the social at the local campus bar, and met up with a number of our friends. A few of them were frantically putting their final touches on their talks for the next morning, and the rest of us were browsing through our programs looking at the lineup of talks.
I was really astounded by the breadth of research that the CSZ conference encompasses. The society has four sections: Comparative Morphology and Development (CMD); Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry (CPB); Ecology, Ethology and Evolution (EEE); and the Parasitology, Immunology, and Environment (PIE) section. The society encompasses research pertaining to anything from fish biology to parasitism, and everything in between. The talks started early on Tuesday morning, so after a quick Americano, my lab mates and myself made our way to the first of the PIE section sessions entitled Disease and Immunity. This series of talks focused mainly on the host immune response when challenged with changing environments, or pathogens. This theme was continued in the afternoon with more talks on the same subject. As a new graduate student I found these talks incredibly useful because my fellow students provided great examples of how to effectively communicate their research. Later that afternoon Dr. Cameron Goater from the University of Lethbridge spoke to a full house on the parasite Dicrocoelium dendriticum and how it turns the ant intermediate host into zombies! The talks that followed played on the theme “Pathogens Distribution, Diversity and Detection “ In the evening my lab was graciously invited to dinner coordinated by Brad van Paridon with his lab and a number of other HPI members. A few of our friends from UofA joined us and we had a great evening relaxing and chatting about science with our colleagues. Wednesday morning started off with the HPI symposium where we heard from Drs. Derek McKay, Constance Finney, Patrick Hanington and Roger Prichard, as well as two brief student talks. After the PIE section lunch we attended the RA Wardle Award ceremony and talk, an award given for outstanding contributions to Canada-based research in parasitology, immunology and the environment. This year’s awardee was Brian Dixon from the University of Waterloo who spoke about his diverse career studying immunology, parasites, and their interactions in the environment. After a short coffee break I was off to the poster session to present my work entitled “A qPCR diagnostic test to detect Enterobius vermicularis present in wastewater”. As it was my first national conference I was a little afraid that no one would come to my poster! Thankfully I didn’t have to hustle very hard for an audience, and had a steady stream of fellow students, professors, and HPI members stop by for a chat. I would like to thank everyone who stopped by my poster for their feedback, kind words, advice and discussion. As a new student it really felt great to share my work in such a positive environment. In the evening students were treated to a workshop entitled “How To Be the Best”, the title was a bit abrasive, but it proved to be useful as we circulated between stations getting career advice and tips for surviving and thriving in grad school. It was also an excellent opportunity to mingle with professors and other students! On Thursday we attended the last PIE session full of more excellent student talks, and my colleagues went off to the Hoar Award Presentations while I attended the HPI Faculty Council Meeting. That night we attended the closing banquet which was a fun opportunity to get dressed up and celebrate everyone’s achievements. Notably, Michelle Gordy and Brad van Paridon co-won the Murray Fallis Prize for best talk in the PIE section. Both of them gave exceptional talks that showcased their hard work and exceptional communication skills. It was a joy to see two of my friends receiving an award they so deserved! After a few celebratory beers and some serious dancing the conference ended high note.
I am extremely grateful to HPI for the funding to attend this conference. CSZ proved to be incredibly student centric conference and I’m glad I went. CSZ is a diverse conference highlighting the breadth of Canadian zoological research. It was an excellent learning opportunity, and I had a great time connecting with researchers from across Canada.