07 August 2012

Tenth International Congress for Neuroethology, Day 2

Ack! Can't believe we're already past the 40% mark for this conference! Some highlights from today...

Opening the day was Ole Kiehn on tracking the spinal cord circuits for locomotion. Ron Hoy’s talk from yesterday clearly made an impression, as Kiehn referred to humans as “the fifth evil species.” Keihn's work also echoed Hoy's talk in that it showcased how people trained in traditional electrophysiology are increasingly using genetic techniques, like optogenetics.

And I got “Bingo!” during Ole's talk when I saw someone a few rows ahead of me checking Facebook.

The second half of the morning was taken with the Young Investigators symposium, with four great talks, one of the highlights of the meeting so far.

Antoine Wystrach lit it up with a talk on ant navigation. I particularly enjoyed how he hinted that his lab bought something clandestine to generate... Vibrational stimuli.

Basil al Jundi had some more navigation with insects using celestial cues, with some particularly fun videos of dung beetles, which use light to roll their balls of dung in straight lines.

Michael Yartsev gave a talk that in other meetings, might be very controversial. He was showing a series of experiments in bats that showed that one of the major theories for how place cells work (developed using rats and involving theta rhythms) could NOT explain place cells in bats (no theta rhythms in bats). It was a strong demonstration of the limitations of using single model organisms and the power of comparative methods.

Lauren O’Connell had what was arguably the quote of the day, explaining monogamy: “Monogamy is tolerating your partner being around you.” Again, Lauren's work had a huge genetic component, showing how neuroethology in increasingly becoming neurogenetic ethology.

The afternoon plenary had Malcolm Burrows showing a wide array of videos of insects jumping. Insects that were good at it, bad at it, legs bending like archer's bows, insects jumping off water. But the highlight was perhaps when he went to pull out ap cicada that he had found that morning, a relative of the frog hopper he was talking about.

"Oh no, it's gone." It had escaped, and could be seeing flying around the lights near the ceiling. "If he gets hot, maybe he'll sing to you."

There were three symposia on the afternoon; I happened to go to one on mating signals. this was followed by another featured lecture by Ed Kravitz. Ed used to work with animals close to my heart, crustaceans, but in the last decade or so turned to work almost exclusively with one of “the evil four,” fruit flies, primarily because of the advantages of genetic tools. Afterwards, Ron Hoy got up and complemented it as one of the best examples of actual ethology cal work he’d seen using fruit flies. (Peer pressure, maybe?)

Now, as you may have gathered, there are a lot of plenary and special lectures at this meeting. I had some discussions about this over dinner. I am not sure it is all that good to have so few voices given the lectern. It must be nice for those who get it, I’m sure. But it certainly doesn’t help diversity when so much of the meeting is by established voices, many of whose have give featured lectures at this meeting before. Now that this meeting is every other year rather than every three years, this sameness may become a bigger issue than in the past.

I also had a short but very animated chat with Kathryn Knight, the news and views editor of The Journal of Experimental Biology and keeper of their Facebook page about scientific publishing. Key phrases: “collateral damage of push for open access,” the relative quality of PLOS One, American attitudes towards taxes, and how different kinds of biological researchers view their budget totals (especially regarding open access fees), and how much sense people other than scientists can make of the primary literature.

Would live to elaborate, but have to get up in not too many hours.

No comments: