05 January 2016

SICB 2016, Day 3

This morning, I sat in the complementary talks to the neuroecology symposium, which I blogged about yesterday. My notes are not as extensive, because I had been asked to step in as session moderator just a few days before the conference started. And keeping a close eye on the clock to ensure speakers do not exceed their allotted time consumes a surprising amount of attention.

The neuroecology session faced some competition, because almost all the talks in the session were about vision, and another symposium about non-traditional visual systems was going on at the same time.

Simon Sponberg talked about how moths see in dim light. Hawk moths (Manduca) are crepuscular flower feeders, as are Macroglussum (an exceptionally agile moth) and Deilephila. All have to deal with variable light, which might even be harder than consistently dim light. 

L.J. Fleishman is looking at dewlaps in anolis lizards. As you go to drak habitats, dew laps get lighter and vice versa. The physiology of the eyes plays a role in determining the visibility of the signal. He ended his talk showing how some anoles with light dewlaps exploit not just light colour, but translucent dewlaps that allow backlighting. From the right angle, the dewlap can look spectacular.

Roz Dakin is looking at how birds use vision to control flight, particularly hummingbirds. Birds (budgies) and bees extract speed of image movement to determine distance. They steer away from vertical stripes and towards horizontal stripes. They can get hummingbirds to fly because hummingbirds have to feed so many times a day. Manipulating vertical stripes did not change hummingbird flight, but horizontal stripe manipulation made them fly up. Results were not consistent with the pattern velocity model (well established in bees). She suggested that the differences might be related to birds trying to avoid hitting the ground.

Brian Dalton asked, “What are opsins doing in the eyes of cichlids fishes when they are present in very low levels?” Coexpression seems to enhance contract and detection distance in some cases.

Michael Grace has the only non-visual sensory system in the session: he was looking at thermal imaging in snakes. A 2010 paper hypothesized that TRP channels are involved in transduction. But that was based on data from the brain of the snake, not the pit itself. Michael showed snake TRPA1 is expressed in the pit. Then they put snakes in an fMRI machine, and showed that an antagonist to the TRPA1 reduces fMRI signal to heat induced neural signal. The antagonist also diminishes the snake's thermal behaviour.

Then I gave  my talk on sand crab eyes. This project is still in the early stages, and I wasn’t happy with my talk. I haven't had a chance to pull it all together in my head yet. But I did have some questions at the end, which is always a good sign that I was at least understandable.

The last talk before I left was by I. Thanigaivalen on whether Drosophila use halteres to influence gaze control. Some previous papers suggested haltere removal should affect head movements, but this held true only in certain conditions. The visual stimulus speed matters a lot. Haltere removed flies have smaller responses in flying flies, but only at high visual stimulus speeds. When the flies are not flying, the head angles are random, both with and without halteres.

And with that, I had to start making my way to the Portland airport. I am sorry that this was such a smash and grab visit to SICB an this year. That said, even with only a day and a half, I still got some leads on an interesting potential project.

The highlight of the meeting, though, was walking up to a random poster during registration on day one. I walked up to it because it was the only poster on all the boards on the row, and I thought, “This poor presenter got screwed. I want to make sure at least someone takes to her.” And we were well along chatting about the poster when I realized that it cited a chapter I wrote. Success!

(Additional, 6 January 2016: It was this poster.)

Impressions overall: SICB is growing, and the number of simultaneous sessions feels less manageable than in the past. I think if it grows much more, it may have to start shifting its emphasis to poster sessions, like other large meetings have done.

SICB has struggled with its online presence in the past, and this meeting continued the trend, whereas some years there was practically no wifi, the convention center had wifi throughout - but you had to pay for it, and it wasn’t cheap. 

Similarly, the app was a mixed bag. It worked on my tablet but not on my phone. Because I didn’t want to pay for wifi, this made it only minimally useful. You could add things to your schedule and view it without a wifi connection (although it was slow to load) though, so it wasn't a complete loss.

Portland is a nice city, but not my favourite conference venue. There was a surprising lack of places to eat around the conference center. While SICB does have some food at its socials and such, they tend to be finger fare and small desserts, not really proper meals. Similarly, a lot of the hotels were a bit of a hike / train ride away. These didn’t facilitate the informal and serendipitous networking and conversations that are often the most productive part of a scientific conference.

Related posts

SICB 2016, Day 1
SICB 2016, Day 2

No comments: