Another conference? Yes please! – The Banff Inflammation Workshop | By Tim Jayme

With an opportunity to attend another conference, how could I not apply for an HPI travel award? As I have grown as a Masters student, I really appreciate the opportunities that come from attending these conferences which enable self-development, scientific training, and networking. This conference in particular was one that I was excited about; my work focuses on intestinal inflammation and the program had a lot of big names in this field attending. I also heard it was a lot of fun, a “what happens in Banff stays in Banff” kind of fun.

As I said, there are many big names coming to this event from all over the world with visitors such such as Dr. Linda Chia-Hui Yu from Taiwan National University who was here to speak about LPS receptor signaling andUntitled Dr. Steven Proulx from ETH Zurich who was here to about in vivo imaging of the lymphatic system in mice (both of which were really amazing and interesting talks), to name a few. Seeing the global contributions from researchers all over the world in studying inflammation was empowering for me. I also quickly realized that many of these researchers have known each other for quite some time. Dr. Linda Chia-Hui Yu, for example, was a former student of one of our very own HPI professors, Dr. Andre Buret. I am all about staying connected with people who have had a great influence on your growth and career. Seeing this really inspires me as I journey through my career in science.

Of course, you cannot have a conference without poster presentations. Every presenter had amazing research on display that focused on different areas of inflammation. Some science was based on pain and inflammation, cancer and inflammation, or my personal favorite, gut inflammation. It was a very relaxed 2 hours where I got to share my work while holding a nice beverage in hand. All in all, it was quite a great night.

To conclude the event, we had Jay Ingram speak about science communication. I was very happy to see we invited Jay Ingram to speak because I am also an advocate for science communication and education. So you can bet I was certainly writing notes during his presentation.

I am constantly trying to grow as a scientific researcher so I am very thankful to HPI for the opportunity to have attended this conference.

 

 

Banff Inflammation Workshop 2017 | By Christina Amat

The Banff Inflammation Workshop (BIW) has been taking place every other year for 20 years now, with the latest one, on January 26-29th 2017 being the 10th biennual conference. The conference is small, with only about 90 people in attendance (~ 20 trainees), but it allows for well-recognized researchers in the field of inflammation to get to know eachother and the trainees, who are ready to learn.

On Thursday night, we began the conference with an intimate reception dinner where we had the great opportunity to hear from keynote speaker Karsten Gronert about autoimmune responses in the eye – a fascinating topic with lots of gruesome eyeball pictures to finish off with dessert! Friday morning we got right to work, hearing speakers from around the world talk about the various areas of inflammation, including in the areas of cancer, microbiology, and in the human airway system. We had a poster session to conclude the day, where us trainees got to show off our stuff – I received lots of fantastic feedback and had a great time learning from the experts! Saturday was back at it again with many more talks, hearing about musculoskeletal inflammation, inflammation and pain, and different mechanisms of inflammation – all very interesting! The second poster session was later that evening, with more trainees presenting their work.

To conclude the event, Saturday evening was another great dinner with an award session – where I was grateful to receive a second-place prize for my poster presentation. We were also able to hear from guest speaker, Jay Ingram, about the importance of science communication (with a couple of Donald Trump jokes thrown in). All in all, it was an absolutely fantastic conference with a ton of information and so much for me to learn. I am grateful for HPI for the opportunity to be able to go to conferences like BIW where I can learn from the experts!

A short and compact conference on Amebiasis in a warm city in India | By Sharmin Begum

The very short AMOEBAC conference 2016 (November 1-2 2016) was held in New Delhi, capital city of India. This was my first conference on the Asian Subcontinent, and I was really happy to have the opportunity to give a 15-minute talk about my research. To attend the meeting I started my journey two days earlier, as India is so far from Calgary. It was really long journey and after a 20-hour flight with two layovers, I reached India early in the morning. The gentle weather in the morning refreshed all my tiredness from the long journey. I took a taxi to the guesthouse (Indian National Science Academy, INSA) where the conference was arranged. In the morning, we had a good traditional Indian breakfast, and as I am from this part of the world I really enjoyed the food. After breakfast, I had a chance to explore New Delhi, and so I took a taxi to visit famous places close to the science academy. The very well known Delhi Gate was very close, and after that I visited Red fort, Raj Ghat, and Firoz Shah Kotla. I was walking through the streets and really enjoying the city. After having lunch with delicious Indian food the conference started. It was a small conference but so intense. Scientist, students working on Entamoeba histolytica from Japan, USA, Mexico, Canada, and host country India were present their research work, published work and new ideas. On that evening we had 6 talks and among them two were related to the newest findings in amoeba. The dinner was nice and I talked to a lot of students from India. They told me about places to visit, shopping and restaurants. The following day, sessions began after breakfast and it was a fully packed day.

The first talk was given by Dr. Nancy Guillen and after her powerful talk my supervisor Dr. Kris Chadee gave his talk with answering some unknown facts about amoeba infection. I was also presenting my research approach and interest and received some good opinions about my project. It was really very interactive conference and because of the small number of people within one day we all became familiar to everyone.

At the end of the day the organizer of such a dense, short and, well-designed conference Dr. Alok Bhattacharya gave his thank you and closing remarks. Then, we had a dinner and after that me and my supervisor left the guest house for the airport to catch our flights back to Calgary.

sharminThe conference was short, but the content was really remarkable. Hospitality from the local people was really warm. The conference was well organized, and allowed us to talk and get familiar with everyone while sharing our research interests, and ideas. Personally, for me it was a great experience, and if anyone ever has a chance to visit India, they should not miss that opportunity. I am looking forward to attend another such conference again. I would like to give my heartiest thanks to HPI NSERC CREATE for providing funding for me to attend such an impressive and knowledgeable conference.

Oxford Nanopore Technologies mini… user meeting | By Jenneke Wit

My first response when arriving at the meeting was that I took a wrong turn. The venue was very flashy, polished and professional. So much so, I felt like I ended up at an Apple launch event! But my nametag was there, and listening more closely it transpired I ended up in Little Britain. Not surprising, given Oxford Nanopore Technology (ONT) hails from overseas.

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MinION versus Nokia 5110 – an approximation

ONT, the company organising this meeting, is probably best known for their hand-held sequencer, the MinION. This fancy machine, about the size my first mobile, a – yellow – Nokia 5110, can be used in the lab as well as the field to generate long reads, thousands to over a hundred thousand bases in length. A great feat, but also something that still requires a lot of tweaking and troublesooting, which is why this community meeting was so beneficial for both ONT and its users.

When the talks started it quickly became clear there was more to the meeting than an amazing venue. Talks were of a wide diversity and good quality. We were introduced to technological improvements, including an even smaller sequencer (SmidgION), new reagent kits and molecular protocols as well as a wide range of topics where ONT sequencing played an important role. Diagnosing malaria in India, looking for complex genomic rearrangements in Caenorhabditis elegans and sequencing the human genome were but a few of the exciting topics.

Over the two-day meeting, I got most out of the breakout sessions where there was ample opportunity for discussion following a set of flash talks. These were talks of the people that were getting their hands dirty. Be that in the wet lab, in the field, or behind their computers.

Arwyn Edwards, from Aberystwyth University, gave the talk that stood out most to me. He started out introducing us to cryoconite, a dust partially made up of microbes. When this dust builds up on glaciers, its dark appearance accelerates melting. For studying which microbes are present, he uses the MinION. I have a warm, well-equipped lab at my disposal, but was intrigued by what must be the most high-tech lab-in-a-bag ever. Everything from sampling, DNA-extraction, sequencing and analysis fits in this army-style rucksack and allows Arwyn and his team to study the microbe composition on site (dubbed extreme metagenomics). Evidenced by twitter, I was not the only one enthralled by this travelling lab!

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Lab-in-a-Rucksack, ready for the “MetaGenomadic” life – by Arwyn Edwards

Having done a lot of optimizing myself, it was interesting to listen to the approaches others took to tackle the same issues, and, often, come to the same conclusions. This was valid for both the molecular work as well as the concerns we were having about the computational analysis. Especially with regards “what is good data?” when sequencing longer fragments. Consensus is: with long read technologies coverage gives way to longer reads when assembling new genomes. Aiming for fewer but longer reads rather than more “short” (few kb) reads is the way forward.

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Souvenir: Personalized sleeves!

Finally, a blog on this conference wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the amazing care they took of our nutritional needs. From breakfast to dinner, everything was equally tasty and well prepared. For vegetarians and meat lovers alike, there was plenty for everyone. The eye for detail was amazing, and provided an excellent souvenir for avid tea-drinker James.

I look forward to further collaborations with those I connected with at the meeting, and would like to thank HPI and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary for supporting my attendance.

ArcticNet, Winnipeg, December 2016 | Fabien Mavrot

From the 5th to the 9th December the ArcticNet conference was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba (http://www.arcticnetmeetings.ca/asm2016/pages/program.php). Arctic Net is a network that aims at bringing together different stakeholders in order to share information and collaborate on research in the Arctic. A particular focus is put on the impact of climate change and human activity on the environment and its inhabitants.

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Thanks to HPI, I was able to attend to the conference and present a part of my work on muskoxen health and diseases. This conference was the largest that I have ever attended and reflected the diversity of the research supported by ArcticNet: there were oral presentations and posters from fields as diverse as physics, social science, medicine or ecology. In addition to researchers, governmental agency and industry, there were also representatives from Inuit communities. For instance, Matilde Tomaselli. my colleague from the Department of Ecosystem and Public Health co-presented the result of her participatory research on muskoxen and its value for Inuits together with Eva Kakolak and James Hanilak, two delegates from the community of Cambridge bay (Victoria Island, Nunavut). In a context of reclamation of their right to self-government and co-management of natural resources with the Canadian government, I found upstanding that Inuit community members were not only spectators but also actors during this conference.

 

As a veterinarian working with wildlife I was of course very interested in presentation related with my line of work, and I was impressed not only by the quality of the research presented at the conference but also by its originality. For example, Molly Ingemney and Sean Perry sought to assess ecological stress in young polar bears by measuring facial asymmetry on close-up pictures. In another talk, Jacqueline Verstege explained why lemmings build their nests directly on top of fox dens (and it is not because they are suicidal…)

Finally, the last evening of the conference the annual Arctic Inspiration Prizes were awarded (http://arcticjournal.ca/aip-winners-announced/). Those prizes are granted to projects proposing concrete solutions to challenges arising in a changing Arctic. The first prize was awarded to “Qarmaapik House”, which provides a safe house for children and help and support for parents during family crises. The joy of the team developing the project when they received the prize was contagious and really touching.

Altogether, what I took back from this conference is a feeling of positive energy, innovative thinking, and a strong commitment to better understand and preserve the Arctic and improve the life of people living up there. It was a very positive experience and I hope I’ll be able to attend to the International Arctic Change conference that will be held in Quebec in December 2017 and will mark the 10th anniversary of ArcticNet.

ASTMH 2016 in Atlanta | Ken Gavina

I recently had the pleasure of attending my first international conference, the 65th Annual General Meeting for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference was held at the Marriott hotel in the heart of downtown Atlanta. This being my first trip to Georgia, I was absolutely spoiled by the warm weather (+20ºC in the middle of November), the delicious food, and the southern hospitality I received when visiting different venues and walking around the neighborhood. A definite highlight of the trip was visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the David J. Sencer Museum.

The conference itself spanned over five days and was easily the largest one I’ve ever attended. The conference started with a pre-meeting course I registered for titled, “The Science of Disease Elimination”, which I found to be quite enlightening. The course featured several different speakers and covered a wide range of topics from statistical modelling to political and financial support. The day only got better as the opening reception and keynote address was given by Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), who spoke about Zika.

I had the pleasure of presenting my research via a poster presentation. The poster I presented focused on work I am doing as part of my PhD, using molecular diagnostics to survey the burden and clinical impact of submicroscopic malaria in pregnancy in Colombia. I developed an RT-qPCR based method to distinguish submicroscopic malaria infections at the species level (Plasmodium falciparum or P. vivax) and we used this assay to assess the disease burden in pregnant women. We found that submicroscopic malaria occurs frequently in pregnancy but despite this, is not associated with negative birth outcome20161117_145949.jpgs. My poster was well received and generated a lot of interest from other researchers working in a similar field.

What I got most out of the conference was the opportunity to engage with my peers, as well as meeting and discussing my work with some very well respected researchers in the field. Memorable moments included talking about career paths with Dr. Peter Crompton from NIH, listening to a talk by Dr. Kayvan Zainabadi from the University of Maryland about a new highly-sensitive diagnostic method for malaria using dried blood spots, meeting trainees from Dr. Kevin Kane’s lab (one of our lab group’s collaborators) at the University of Toronto, and discussing my research with Dr. Stephen Rogerson from the University of Melbourne. It was a great overall experience and it would not have been possible without the support from HPI which allowed to attend the conference.

The Innate Lymphoid Cell conference in the heart of Berlin | Edina Szabo

The 2nd EMBO Conference on Innate Lymphoid Cells was held in Berlin, Germany at the end of November, 2016. To support the European scientific communities the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) holds conferences and conference series that cover different and evolving aspects of important subject areas. The conference was held in a historic building in the heart of the city, called Kalkscheune (Limestone barn). The place was already set for Christmas, and had a great feeling about it.

The first day of the conference started with registration in the afternoon, followed by two intensive full days, and closing with the Gala dinner. Dan Littman from the NYU School of Medicine, New York, gave the keynote lecture, and well introduced the topic with his talk entitled “Role of ILCs in integrating host responses to microbiota”. The keynote lecture was followed by a session on “ILC development and activation” with speakers from the US, Netherlands, from the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and McGill University in Montreal.

The second day started early at 8.30 am with talks on “Regulation of ILC fate and functions”, and continued with “ILCs homeostasis” in the afternoon. I have particularly enjoyed the talk by David Withers from the University of Birmingham. His group is looking at the importance of a particular receptor for cytokine production by ILC3 cells in the small intestine. Another talk that caught my attention during the afternoon session was the “ILCs and immune regulation at barrier surfaces” presented by David Artis from Cornell University, New York. His findings showed that commensal microbes have a significant regulatory influence on lymphocyte, innate lymphoid cell, and granulocyte function. After the talks we had a chance to explore the city a little bit in the evening, and try the local cuisine.

The final day started early as well, and by then most of us were pretty exhausted, but we had great talks and the gala dinner to look forward to. Emily Thornton’s talk from University of Oxford, was very interesting, which was exploring how ILC3s are involved in the initiation of acute intestinal inflammation. In the afternoon also several talks were on intestinal ILCs, including speaker such as Henrique Veiga-Fernandes from Lisboa, Arthur Mortha from New York, and David Voehringer from Germany. My favourite talk of the day and the whole conference was the “Innate lymphoid cells and IL-22: functional analysis in zebrafish” by Pedro Pablo Hernandez, whose project is to investigate the existence of ILCs and the conservation of the function of IL-22, which is produced by ILC3 cells.

The highlight of the day was the Gala dinner in the Natural History Museum, right by the dinosaur exhibition.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank NSERC CREATE HPI for funding to attend this conference. I had a great time at the conference, and learnt a lot about ILCs, as well as I had a chance to visit some of my family in Berlin.

 

NALMS | By Michelle Gordy

Two men walk into a bar. The first man tells the bartender “I’d like some good ‘ol H2O”. The second man says “I’ll have some H2O too”. The second man died.

Despite this horribly punny joke, I think it’s safe to say, we can all agree that water quality is important, whether it is your drinking water, or the water used for recreational purposes, like lakes. In consideration of our changing climate, our increasing demand and use of freshwater sources, and our ever-expanding anthropogenic impact on the environment around us, it is pertinent that we work to protect the fresh water we have and make sure it is sustainable for generations to come. Such a task cannot be done in isolation, but requires the collaborative efforts of everyone. Hence, this year’s theme of the North American Lake Management Society’s (NALMS) International Symposium was “Science to Stewardship: Balancing Economic Growth with Lake Sustainability”.

I recently had the pleasure to attend the annual NALMS meeting in Banff, Alberta. Held at the Banff Springs Hotel, the conference literally took place in a castle in the mountains, and the views were outstanding! (Insert pics here)

The conference started out on a high note—literally—as the pub crawl on the first night ended at a karaoke bar with a mechanical bull, and yes, I rode it. Let me just give big props to all the cowboys out there and to NALMS for really knowing how to get a conference off to a good start!

Of all the conferences I’ve attended, this one was quite unique, in that the attendees were a conglomerate of scientists, government representatives, lake managers, members of watershed associations and stewardships, and environmental consultants. Topics spanned all areas of lake health and management, from the molecular level to the involvement of stakeholders and citizen scientists. The conference provided a unique perspective into applied research and all levels of opportunity to be involved in protecting our lakes. It was particularly interesting and encouraging to see the level of community involvement in accomplishing much of the data collection for many studies.

What I found most appealing about many of the talks was the practicality around them. I learned some useful things about how to best use maps to communicate data to the public, as well as how not to use maps…probably a much more important skill. I learned about the importance of involving the community in lake-based monitoring projects early on, to attain a common ground and understanding about the importance of the data collection on top of maintaining a healthy lake ecosystem.

While this conference was not parasite-focused, and perhaps the only talk about parasites was the one I gave, it was such a great opportunity to gain a new perspective outside of the little box that is my research. I am incredibly thankful to HPI for funding my attendance to this conference.

 

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.

American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists | By: Camila Almeida Queiroz

Hello everybody! My name is Camila Queiroz, I have just arrived to University of Calgary so maybe few people from NSERC CREATE Host-Parasite Interactions (HPI) group know me. I am a first year PhD student at the UofC, working on sheep nematodes under the supervision of Dr. John Gilleard and Dr. Michel Levy. My project focuses on investigate sheep nematodes benzimidazole resistance in Western Canadian farms.

The last month I had the opportunity to attend the 61st American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP) annual Meeting at the Westin Riverwalk, in San Antonio, Texas, US. The AAVP annual meeting is one of the most important gatherings of researchers, students, and clinicians for the dissemination of the new information and insightful perspectives on the biology and control of parasites of veterinary importance. The conference was held for four days from August 6-9, 2016.

I was excited because this was my first time attending the AAVP Meeting, and I have only attended the UofC for 3 months, and I was going to present my PhD project in an oral talk. The Meeting exceeded expectations, the student talks were excellent and covered a variety of topics including New vistas in HPI; Ectoparasites; Heartworm; Molecular and Biochemical; Treatment, control, diagnosis and epidemiology for dogs, cats and large animal; Anthelmintic resistance and Immunology of Haemonchus contortus.

Overall, it was a really friendly environment, and I was so impressed with having the chance to meet and talk with other students and professors whose articles I had read many times! The many social sessions provided opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge. I enjoyed a lot this Meeting! I also got free time to explore the city, visiting the Alamo and the Riverwalk region.

NSERC CREATE HPI supported all the expenses associated with the trip. I therefore want to highly thank my supervisors, Dr. John Gilleard Dr. Michel Levy, our program coordinator, Teresa Emmett and HPI executives for providing me this opportunity.

 

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