31 July 2020

Animal Behavior Society virtual meeting, Day 4

Today, I tried to see more cool science!

Unfortunately, one talk I thought was very cool began and I to blog about began with, “Please don’t share these results on social media.”

Mike Smotherman, who once was nice enough to host me at Texas A&M, had a very cool talk about bats using echolocation to detect texture. He suggests that bats’ auditory detection of texture is very like human touch detection of texture.

Susan Finkbeiner showed butterflies could distinguish different wavelengths of ultraviolet light. But only the females could do it! The males could not do this, because only females express two photoreceptors.

My colleague Kelly Weinersmith gave a great summary of her work on crypt keeper parasitoid wasps.  I’m just going to share this screenshot because it looks like she is kung fu fighting.

Kelly Weinersmith

Thienthanh Trinh presented some new work on the increasingly famous fungi that parasitise and manipulate ants. She showed a very cool maze she created to monitor the behaviour of infected ants, and was able to show infected ants wandered more, at all times of day, unlike uninfected ants, which had more of a daily rhythm and focused on food rewards.

My favourite title for a talk today was “Ants Dance Revolution,” and the presenter, Andrew Burchill, ran with that, and created a talk with lots of fun references and sound effects to Dance Dance Revolution.Andrew showed that you can do more with a video presentation than recording a narrated PowerPoint deck. The tank, however, was more about ant-mimicking spiders than ants. He showed that not only do spiders look like ants, they walk in the same weird patterns that some ants do.

I get the impression that there are more presentations about the underlying physiology of animal behavior than in past Animal Behavior Society meetings (but then, I don’t go every year). But there seemed to be much more endrocronology than neurobiology.

One thing that is similar in the virtual and face-to-face conferences: you start to lose track of all the stuff you saw very easily. It might be worse in a virtual conference because of interruptions and such unless you are closely tracking what you have seen in real time.

I did manage to get in to some more of the live Q&A sessions on Zoom. They are turning out to be very variable. Moderators need to make sure there are questions read for each speaker so there is no “dead air” waiting for questions to be typed into the chat box.

I also couldn’t help noticing people’s skill in camera placement. I saw lots of people’s ceilings. Some people, I couldn’t see all their face. Some people were so close I could practically see their skin pores.

Nice piece of news is that the Animal Behavior Society (US) and the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (UK) will be hosting a world-wide conference on Twitter in January 2021!

The talks are all up until the end of August, so I am hoping to catch up with a few more talks thatI didn’t catch in their scheduled time slot!

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