19 June 2016

Evolution 2016, Day 2

The conference began in earnest Saturday, and some of the notable things were about the conference organization rather than the science.

Bells and chimes. To keep speakers on time, the conference is not relying on unreliable moderators. Each talk begins with a "Setting sail" ship bell. Near the end, there's a doorbell sound that makes me want to say, "Avon calling!" In every talk. Sometimes they chimes are are subtle, and sometimes they'll make you bolt out of your seat and yell, "YES MA'AM I'M AWAKE THE ANSWER IS TWENTY!!"

The conference also has the slickest speaker interface for slides I have ever seen. Instead of a series of strewn out files on the desktop, there is a single clean custom interface with talks and speakers clearly labeled.

The talks are kind of strewn out all over the convention center, and can make it hard to hop between talks on time. Ballroom C is a long way from room 10A! And the difference in room size is puzzling. Some rooms seems to seat 50, while the biggest ballrooms seem to seat 500 or more.

LIkewise, there are long keynote style talks and Ignite style talks interspersed in some rooms, with no clear reason for the variation. It does break up the pacing, but makes it harder to plan how to transition between rooms.

I'll have more to say about the poster session in the Better Posters blog.

Some scientific highlights included a talk by Naomi Pierce on ant symbiosis, mainly with caterpillars, but more recent work with bacteria. Yes, people, the microbiome is one of the hot and inescapable topics at this conference. Very fun stuff.

Scott Solomon gave a talk plugging an upcoming book called Future Humans. I think this book will fill an important niche, because I see so many people outside of biology who start biology questions with, "Because humans aren't evolving any more..." NOPE. Solomon's book will be the one stop source to point to people to show what we know about current human evolution.

I saw a lot of talks on sensory systems (I am allegedly a neurobiologist, after all). There were interesting talks on the variation of eyes in butterflies. And an intriguing talk that showed that eye size alone seemed to provide a fitness advantage in water fleas.

I was super pleased to meet some people I knew from social media for the first time, like Jeremy Yoder and Lenny Teytleman. 

And there is the opening chime for Day 3! Time to stop blogging and start note taking!

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