57th Annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Zoologists in St. John’s | By Kaylee Rich

Last week, Chenhua Li and I, representing the Wasmuth lab, had the pleasure to travel to St. John’s, NB, to attend the 57th Annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Zoologists (CSZ). CSZ_usThe CSZ has four main sections: Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology (CBP); Parasitology, Immunology and Environment (PIE); Comparative Morphology and Development (CMD); and Integrative Ecology and Evolution (IEE). HPI was well represented in the PIE section, with trainees presenting talks and a poster on their research happening in Alberta. James Wasmuth chaired the first PIE session and also talked about the research happening in his lab. Chenhua talked in the first PIE session about her research on Dicrocoelium and Sarah Unrau (Goater lab) added to the Dicrocoelium knowledge with her talk in the second PIE session the same day. Cam Goater talked in and chaired this session, where Micky Ahn (Goater lab) gave a great talk on trematode-host interactions. HPI was represented in the poster section by me and my poster on trematode microbiomes.

John Gilleard received the R.A. Wardle award and presented on the work his lab is doing on drug resistance in parasitic nematodes. HPI also won the CSZ 2018 award for public education, for our efforts in outreach to high school students and the general public.

john_talk

The rest of the conference was a lot of fun and very educational. Since this meeting has a very broad scope, we were able to attend lectures by other amazing scientists on diverse topics. My favorite was the talk by Dr. Laura Ferguson on her research into how temperature can affect the microbiome of insects.

We also had the opportunity to do some sight seeing around St. John’s, and it was beautiful (if not a bit windy). We walked up Signal Hill to Cabot Tower and visited the Johnson Geo Center, where we learned a lot about the Titanic and different rock formations unique to Newfoundland and Labrador. And the day before we left I had a day to look around some of the local shops and talk to people in the city.

We are looking forward to next year’s meeting, which will take place in Windsor, ON. James is the new vice-chair for the PIE section and Chenhua is the new student representative.

Advertisements

Prairie University Biodiversity Symposium at the University of Calgary | By Micky Ahn

At the end of February, I had the opportunity to attend the Prairie University Biology Symposium (PUBS) held at the University of Calgary. PUBS is a research symposium organized by students and has been bringing together researchers from the Canadian prairie provinces for over 50 years.  Along with my lab mate and fellow HPI trainee, Sarah Unrau, and other graduate students of the University of Lethbridge, we made the drive up to Calgary to attend the meeting.

PUBS at the U of C was a rather large event with over 50 presentations and 50 posters, all from graduate students. There was a lot of diversity in topics, with 3 concurrent sessions running all day ranging from cell biology to ecology. Even within each session the huge variety of study systems and projects were exciting. Both Sarah and I had the privilege of presenting orally in the “Species Interactions and Dynamics” session during which I spoke about the effects of parasites in fathead minnows in a presentation titled “Consequences of parasitism: Reproduction of a population of male fathead minnows in northern Alberta”.

The symposium was very well organized and the efforts from the organizing committee to put together a smooth event were evident. One of the most exciting features of the event was the keynote talk given by Dr. David Suzuki. Being a major activist for the protection of our natural environment, Dr. Suzuki gave a talk that was just as much inspiring as it was humorous. Even though his presentation was open to the public, attendees of PUBS were given preferential seating and it was a great privilege to hear his talk in such close proximity.

Attending the meeting was an amazing experience and a great opportunity for me to share my interests for parasites with my peers. Thank you very much to HPI for giving me the chance to present my work in Calgary!

WorldLeish in the historic city of Toledo by Camila Meira

My journey in leishmaniasis research started a while ago, when I still was an undergrad student starting the first internship in a prestigious research institution in Brazil. At that moment, I felt so excited about the work with a fascinating and intriguing parasite that I could not wait for a chance to be with those that were carrying out most of the published works I had as reference for my own projects.

18817686_10213461499035668_1569561104_o

Two weeks ago, I finally had this opportunity at the 6th World Conference on Leishmaniasis (WorldLeish) and I cannot stop saying: it was worth every second! The WorldLeish Conferences are held every four years in countries where leishmaniasis is one of the major health issues. This year, the conference was in Toledo, Spain, and brought together almost 1500 leishmaniacs from all over the world to present and attend oral or poster sessions on numerous topics on leishmaniasis, ranging from taxonomy and molecular studies on Leishmania spp. to advances in treatment and diagnostic tools for both anthroponotic and zoonotic diseases. I was scheduled to present in the first poster session, when everybody is clearly eager to discuss and share valuable ideas on your research topic hahaha. As a young scientist that started a MSc project on an innovative and challenging topic, which is the interaction between Leishmania and its host cell via exosomes, I was really looking forward for this moment, surrounded by experts in this field. I was surprised in seeing how the research on exosomes have expanded so quickly and how many good concepts and models are coming up from it. It was easy and enjoyable to get myself engaged in endless conversations with other grad students on personal experiences and novel ideas that we could develop together in collaborative projects. The WorldLeish was also an excellent chance to meet my Brazilian fellows from Oswaldo Cruz Foundation-Bahia. It was more than a pleasure to see again these friends of mine that were back there helping me out in the lab when I was giving my very first steps towards this moment of my life.

18817451_10213461495155571_63805752_o

The WorldLeish was a fantastic experience that I had the opportunity to share with my supervisor, the famous Lash, “the flash”, and his wife, Rani, who were also attending it. Believe it or not, I never saw Lash so excited about meeting a bunch of old friends before this conference hahaha! Regarding the city, there is no doubt that the organizers could not have chosen any better place than Toledo. This city is spectacular! A peaceful and historical countryside was all I was asking for after a busy term. I truly miss the amazing view from the terrace of the Congress Center El Greco, where we had our daily Spanish meals outdoors, admiring the landscape. I will definitely come back one day and get lost in the narrow streets of this charming city!

18870271_10213461495195572_1183914742_o

To sum up, I could not be more grateful for participating in the 6th WorldLeish! I learned so much during these five days of conference that now I feel more confident to move forward, incorporating new and exciting concepts in my project. I am very thankful to Lash and HPI for making this possible!

 

 

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.

minion_nokia
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!

rucksack_pic
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.

cup3
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.

photofabienmavrot

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.