American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP) 60th Annual Meeting

The American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP) 60th Annual Meeting was held in Boston, MA from July 11-July 14th 2015. The annual meeting brings people from all over the world who work in academia, industry, government and private practice. Members of the AAVP present their latest research on a variety of animal parasites and the diseases they cause.

I attended the conference with fellow HPI trainees Brad van Paridon and Andrew Rezansoff and our supervisor Dr. John Gilleard. We were also joined by former HPI trainee Gui Verocai, who is now at the University of South Florida, Tampa! The conference started with an informal AAVP student meet and greet followed by a competitive round of “parasite jeopardy”. Even though I have become more diverse in my general parasitology knowledge, my group was still decimated by the dedicated parasitologists! Needless to say, my team didn’t win, but we were able to answer a few questions correctly at least! The conference treated its students amazingly well, providing us a catered lunch every day of the conference! Conference registration was only $75 for students, so I would say it’s a pretty good deal! After lunch, there was a plenary session, in which my supervisor, Dr. John Gilleard, was an invited speaker. During his talk, Dr. Gilleard discussed the progress on my particular research, but deferred in depth questions to my presentation later in the conference (free publicity!). After the remaining invited speakers gave their talks, awards were presented for outstanding graduate students and distinguished parasitologists. Afterwards it was time for a social hosted by Bayer Animal Health (we won’t go into the details of that!).


Dr. Gilleard talking about my results! Free publicity! (Photo credit, Twitter @AnnRuth)

The next two days were filled with numerous engaging presentations spanning a wide variety of topics including parasites of companion animals and livestock animals, anthelmintic resistance, immunology and many others. There were some very interesting talks, with my favorites revolving around novel diagnostics as well as the molecular biology sessions. One talk in particular, by Jessica Scare (University of Kentucky), talked about the use of a smartphone to conduct fecal egg counts in horses, which is an awesome use of new technology to assist with an otherwise laborious task. Another talk by Dr. Raffi Aroian on the last day of the conference, discussed the use of engineered probiotics as anthelmintics, which would introduce a new class of anthelmintics to treat parasitic nematode infections, which is very exciting for the field, as new anthelmintics are few and far between.

The third day of the conference, I gave my presentation entitled “Deep Sequencing Approaches to Study Parasitic Nematode Communities (‘Nemabiome’) in Cattle and Bison”. I fretted that my talk would go over the strict time-limit, as I tend to be quite verbose when I talk. In order to keep everyone within their time-limit, the conference implemented a timer with a series of lights (green, yellow and red), to let you know when time runs out; green, means you are good; yellow, means you are almost out of time; red, means you are out of the time and the screen is going to go blank, and the microphone is going to be turned off, yikes! Despite my worry, I managed to finish my presentation just as the light turned yellow (indicating that it was time for questions; Score!). I received a few thought-provoking questions during the questions period, as well as more questions following the presentation session. Overall, I thought my talk was very well received. Numerous people also came up to me afterwards to congratulate me and ask further questions about my project, as well as my upcoming research plans.

Boston itself was very nice this time of year. The last day of the conference wrapped up just before lunch, so we decided to grab something to eat and then go sightseeing around Boston. For our first stop, we decided to head down to the harbor, and see the sight of the famous ‘Boston Tea Party’.

At the harbor. Site of the Boston Tea Party!

Afterwards, we were meandering down the street, when we stumbled into a local street act. There was a large gathering of people surrounding a group of guys who were break dancing, so we decided to stop and see what all the commotion was about. The guys stopped dancing and started to recruit some volunteers from the crowd and then lined them up in a row. They then proceed to jump over 6 of them in a row! The first jumper almost landed on the last guy in the row, but thankfully didn’t! The second guy cleared all 6 easily.



Local street act

We also got to visit the original ‘Cheers’ bar. In my opinion it was just okay, but nothing special (Maybe it would have been better if you were a huge fan of the show?)



Going to the Cheers bar with Andrew Rezansoff and Brad van Paridon

This is the second time I have attended the AAVP annual meeting, and certainly, one of the highlights of the AAVP conference are the other student trainees. The other students not only have a vested interest in parasitology, but also have a strong sense of community. Needless to say, the students have a lot of fun at the social events and also socialize a lot outside of conference-sponsored events. The students really are amazing people, and it’s always a pleasure to see them at the annual conference.


Dr. Gui Verocai drawing a worm


Some of the trainees the last night of the conference!

I would like to thank HPI for the travel funding which allowed me to attend the meeting again this year! I hope I will be able to go again in the future!


Post by Russell Avramenko, PhD Candidate, Gilleard Lab


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