American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists 61st Annual Meeting (August 6-9th, 2016) | By Russel Avramenko

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 61st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists in San Antonio, Texas. This is my third time attending this conference, having attended every year since 2014. This year, like every one before, did not disappoint.

Getting to the AAVP this year, was definitely more of a challenge than it has been in the past. Just before the AAVP this year, I was on vacation at my in-laws’ cabin in Northern Saskatchewan, which is a 2.5 hour drive from the nearest airport in Saskatoon. I had to get up at 6AM (a feat for me!), to drive to Saskatoon, then I had flights from Saskatoon to Calgary, Calgary to Houston, and then finally Houston to San Antonio. I finally arrived at ~10:30PM, a very long day of travel.

I must say, San Antonio in August is HOT! The high each day was ~38oC, but it cooled down to a breezy 31oC at night. Needless to say, I mainly stayed in the hotel, as a born and raised Canadian, I would have probably died of heat exhaustion if I had stayed out too long!

I had the pleasure of giving two oral presentations at this conference, which was a first for me. The first presentation that I gave focused on part of my PhD thesis work, which I have currently drafted into a publication. It focuses on applying a new sequencing assay to assess parasitic gastrointestinal nematode species proportions. I have used this assay to assess parasite species prevalence in Canadian cattle, as well as cattle in both the United States and Brazil. We have also used the assay to assess changes in species proportions following drug treatment (which gives us an idea of which species are surviving drug treatment, indicating a lack of drug efficacy). My presentation was well received, and I got multiple interesting questions and further discussions after my presentation.

After giving my first presentation, I discovered that I was giving the second presentation later that afternoon, rather than the next day as I had mistakenly thought! Oops! I managed to make the last minute changes to the presentation that I needed, as well as run through it a couple times, so it all worked out just fine.

The second presentation was on data generated with a collaborator, rather than myself. Over the past year, the Gilleard Lab has had a PhD student, Murilo Bichuette, visiting from Brazil. Murilo and I have been working closely together over the past year to apply the sequencing techniques that I have developed to various samples that he collected from back home in Brazil. I had the opportunity to present a small fraction of the work that Murilo has been working on, on his behalf. This was a good opportunity for me, as I have never had the opportunity to present work that I was not been completely familiar with before. Overall, the presentation went very well!

I was also invited to moderate the “Large Animal: Diagnosis/Epidemiology” session in the afternoon on August 7th (in between giving my first and second presentations). So the first full day of the conference was definitely busy to say the least!

After the very busy first day, I was able to relax a bit and enjoy the rest of the conference. I was able to attend numerous interesting talks, and was able to reconnect with numerous students, professors and industry professionals that I had met previously. The conference is a fantastic place to network and make connections. Previous AAVP meeting have sparked numerous collaborative opportunities for the lab, so it will be interesting to see what comes from this meeting!

After another successful AAVP, it was time to head home. Coming home was also an adventure! I was travelling with both my supervisor Dr. John Gilleard and another PhD student in the lab, Camila Queiroz. Our layover in Houston before heading home to Calgary was very short to begin with (~1 hour), but our flight leaving San Antonio ended up being 40 minutes late on departure (leaving just 20 minutes from the time we landed in Houston, till takeoff of the plane to Calgary!) When the plane landed in Houston, I immediately took off to try and catch the flight, as both John and Camila were seated further back in the plane (every man for themselves?). I found out that the connecting flight was on the other side of the airport, which you have to take to take a shuttle train to get to. Ugh! I managed to make it just in time! I then saw John make it on to the plane. A moment later, I get a text from Camila, saying she’s on her way. I tell her to hurry! She should only be a minute or two behind us! Moments later, I see the jetway pull away from the plane. Camila is still not on board; uh oh. Unfortunately, Camila got left behind. It all worked out in the end, as the airline set her up in a hotel, so at least she wasn’t stranded. But I definitely felt a little guilty (sorry Camila)!

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at the AAVP this year. Thank you to HPI for providing me with the funds necessary to attend the conference. It would not be possible without your continued support.

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