The Lizard Log

The Langkilde Lab in Action


Leave a comment

Conference time for the Langkilde lab!

The Langkilde lab has recently returned from its annual pilgrimage to the SICB (Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology) meeting, which this year was held in beautiful New Orleans! All our lab members presented talks, and had a great time networking, catching up on top research, and telling people about our own.

Below are some of our thoughts on the meeting, summaries of what we presented – and some tips for conference-goers from all fields!

15873375_10103989036505928_1779203805688443315_n.jpg

Langkilde lab members past and present reunited at SICB (photo: Cate Pritchard)

15873231_10100896645088222_3883041671748102747_n.jpg

Beautiful New Orleans (photo: Kirsty MacLeod)

IMG_1580.JPG

Cam and Tracy hang out at the Data Blitz (photo: Cate Pritchard)

Kirsty MacLeod
“I talked about a paper I’ve been working on from our field season in Alabama last summer. Animals encounter environmental stressors daily; how does frequent, low-level stress influence survival and reproductive success? We show that, in Eastern fence lizards, a daily dose of low-concentration stress hormone led to increased adult mortality, and decreased hatching success of her eggs. This was the first conference I’ve been to where animal behaviour hasn’t been the primary focus – this reflects my broadening interests – I’m really excited by integrative research, so this meeting was a great way to see what other people are doing in more mechanistic fields (physiology, genetics, etc). It gave me lots of ideas for taking my own work forward!

My top conference tips are to contact people in advance that you want to talk to – that way you’ll be less likely to chicken out of approaching them! And – make use of Twitter before, during, and after the conference. It’s a great, informal networking tool. I met up with loads of top researchers that I’d first contacted on Twitter, and made lots of new friends!”

presentation1

Chris Howey

“I talked about the effect of temperature on the mode of locomotion a snake uses.  As a reptiles body temperature changes, so does its ability to perform specific tasks (digest a meal, sprint away from a predator, etc).  I was interested in how body temperature affected a snake’s ability to move, or slither, across its landscape.  I found that body temperature does affects how well they move, but also affects how they move.  As a snake warms up, it changes its mode of locomotion, uses different muscles, and performs differently.  One could compare this to a horse trotting at lower body temperatures and galloping at warmer body temperatures.  Obviously these are two different types of performances, and the question we raised with my talk is “Can we compare different performances across a single thermal performance curve?”  We argue that it depends on the question being asked.  Are you interested in the muscles, or the mechanisms behind the performance and how temperature affects those mechanisms?  Or, are you interested in the ecological ramifications of slithering across the landscape (i.e., escape a predator)?  Comparing different modes of locomotion along the same thermal performance curve may be flawed if your question is more the former, but may be justified if your question is more the later.
What I enjoyed most about SICB was talking with fellow colleagues and introducing myself to many new people.  SICB is a huge conference, but with a little effort, you can easily cross paths with someone conducting research you are interested in, someone whose research you’ve admired, someone you’ve only talked with on social media, and now you can see that person face-to-face, introduce yourself, and make a new connection.  And who knows, you may even grab a beer with a few of them.
This actually leads into my #1 tip for people going to conferences: Make an effort to introduce yourself to somebody new.  Once you do this, you will realize that it is nothing to be scared of, and you will find yourself talking with more and more new friends and colleagues.” 

cover-slide-for-sicbimg_2370

David Ensminger
“I presented on the impact of a stress treatment on maternal behavior and offspring physiology and morphology. The thing I enjoyed the most was getting to meet not only senior researchers but also new researchers and hearing both of their perspectives. 

My tip is to go to the socials and groups at night. They are fantastic places to talk with and meet people.

85-4-ensminger


Cam Venable
“We already know fire ants are an invasive predator to many organisms, including fence lizards. What I want to focus on is the interaction of Fence Lizards and Fire ants, but as a prey source. This is the first step in my research, by using this study system, to understand how native species adapt to invasive species. The academic side of me really enjoyed meeting other scientist and just chitchatting in informal ways. The 24 year old side of me loved the location of SICB, considering it was in New Orleans!

 Tips for conferences: Well this was my very first conference and I was worried about how to interact with so many bright and accomplished minds. The best and most cliché bit of advice I have, is simply be you. There is no point in putting on a different face, if you’re not even comfortable in it.”

untitled

 

Michaleia Mead

“The water chemistry of vernal pools are often impacted by the environment. Changes in the pH and UVB impact the larval amphibians that live there. But how? Stay tuned for an upcoming publication! I LOVED meeting new people. I especially enjoyed meeting people who are working outside of my field of study. Their perspectives on my work are often very different than those within my field and I learn a lot from them.

My advice: TALK TO EVERYONE! You never know who you will meet. If you see a poster you don’t usually have an interest in, just stop and ask a question. If nothing else you may make a friend!

michaleia.jpg

Braulio Assis

“Going to SICB for the first time was fantastic, and New Orleans is a peculiar, very musical city, which I appreciated a lot. Being exposed to research from large variety of fields in biology certainly allowed me to appreciate other research areas better, so I definitely recommend attending talks that are out of your comfort zone. You never know what new ideas you might come up with!

Another valuable tip I have is, to never underestimate the power of a 25-minute nap during lunch break. The amount of information you receive over multiple days in a conference can be a bit overwhelming, so it’s important to rest whenever possible. It also helps you enjoy the nightlife better!”

braulio-sicb-presentation

Dustin Owen

0

Caty Tylan

“I presented info on validating the phytohemagglutinin (PHA) skin test in the green anole as a test of cell-mediated immune function. I also discussed how there are different types of PHA, and how the immune response to PHA differed in the anoles between two of these types (PHA-P and PHA-L). I most enjoyed going to talks, and meeting with researchers whose work I’ve been interested in. Also, the food was great.
My number one tip is to contact people to talk to ahead of time, because I certainly wouldn’t have been able to make myself do it during the conference. And take advantage of the lunch and  networking opportunities SICB sent out before the conference.”

sicb-first-page-for-cam

Tracy Langkilde
Many of you would have played with Mexican Jumping Beans as a child. Ever wondered why it is that they jump? I presented some undergraduate-led research revealing what motivates this fascinating behavior.

langkilde_mexicanjumpingbeans


Leave a comment

Portland: Talks and Trolls

The fifth airport of the day was thankfully the last. I opted to save $200 in airfare by selecting a rather awful itinerary, but I’m not sure I would do that again. In spite of traveling during the post-holiday rush, by some stroke of luck I arrived in Portland on time (midnight local time, which felt like 3am!), eager to sleep and then take on SICB!

The 2016 annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) began with a plenary talk by Dr. Terrie Williams from UC Santa Cruz. Dr. Williams discussed a number of her research projects involving the energetics of big carnivores. This of course meant many awesome photos of her study organisms, which include polar bears, pumas, killer whales, and lions. For me, the most memorable part of her talk was about her research on narwhals. Yes that’s right, narwhals.

Group-of-narwhals-swimming-at-surface

Narwhals doing their thing.

Williams described narwhals as “endurance animals.” They cannot swim very quickly and attempt to escape predator attacks by submerging under arctic ice and hoping to “outlast” the predator’s need for air. The normal resting heart rate of a narwhal is about 60 beats per minute (bpm), similar to humans, but this slows to about 20 bpm when they dive. However, narwhals are very sensitive to disturbance, including shipping noise, and, when disturbed, their heart rate slows to as few as 3 to 4 bpm! It takes over an hour to return to the dive rate of 20 bpm. The consequences of this drastic physiological change are unclear, and Williams wonders how these animals will be able to cope as the Arctic is further disturbed by seismic surveys and exploration for oil and other resources. Much of Williams’s other research was just as interesting (polar bears on treadmills!), and her talk was a fabulous opening the conference.

In addition to really cool talks like this, SICB is a great meeting for grad students to attend for several reasons. They have strong financial support to allow cash-strapped students to attend. For instance, SICB offers the Charlotte Magnum program, which gives discounted housing in exchange for volunteering to help out at the conference for up to a half a day (though you should find a friend since you’ll be sharing a bed or sleeping on a floor!). The volunteering involves helping at the registration desk or running A/V for a particular session. This can be a great chance to meet a cool group of scientists who are presenting in a session of special interest, and mostly just involves watching talks you want to see anyways!

SICBToiletPhone

SICB student accommodations often include unheard of amenities, such as the incredibly rare toiletphone, so you can conduct business while….conducting your business.

SICB also offers special support for women grad students and post-docs as well as competitive grants for graduate student travel and research. The divisional structure of SICB also offers lots of chances to meet big-name scientists at smaller events, like socials, and provides great opportunities for networking or figuring out possibilities for your next position, either in a grad program or as a post-doc.

Lastly, SICB is one of the better-organized conferences out there (maybe due to all the brilliant grad students helping to run it!). Testing and posting your presentation is very easy (our lab’s videos of lizard behaviors always work at SICB…unlike at some other meetings…). This year, for instance, with registration, SICB included weekly passes for unlimited rides on the Portland public transit system, including the convenient MAX light rail, which made getting around Portland really easy.

Chris T and I were up for student awards in our respective divisions (the Division of Ecology and Evolution (DEE) and Division of Comparative Endocrinology (DCE)), and our talks were back-to-back on the first day of the conference. Our talks were well received, and we were in good company–the other talks in our sessions were great!

Also quite memorable was the Division of Comparative Endocrinology’s Data Blitz, which took place during the DCE social. In this event, speakers have 2 minutes to describe research results, and they usually do so in unconventional ways. Poetry, photoshop, and Star Wars references abounded. One speaker also told a story of a research assistant meeting–and leaving field work for–a unique and sensual man. Suddenly my field stories don’t seem so exciting!

11225264_10101614068895273_3562736720079729282_o

DCE’s flyer for the Data Blitz. I’ll be sure to attend next time I’m at SICB!

I also took the opportunity to explore the area. My first stop was to the unfathomably large Powell’s Bookstore, which boasts an inventory of over two million books. Two million!! I spent time in two of their eight rooms but easily could have spent hours perusing their stock. They also had a great quantity of board games and other novelty items. I should have brought a larger suitcase!

powells-image

Don’t be fooled, Powell’s takes up the entire block!

Just down the street from Powell’s, I stopped in at Billy Galaxy, which has an impressive display of (overpriced) vintage toys and collectibles from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I drooled over some Star Wars and Jurassic Park toys and continued onward with my bank accounts intact.

Billy-Galaxy

Billy Galaxy’s small but impressive store, with plenty of collectibles from Star Wars, Smurfs, Transformers, Jurassic Park, Nintendo, Godzilla, and more!

I also stopped at Voodoo Doughnut, a Portland staple. They had all kinds of novelty doughnuts, stuffed with colored cream and topped with cereals. I took on peanut butter oreo doughnut, which was delicious but horribly sweet. Definitely something to be shared. Next time I’ll bring a friend!

The unique and protruding neon sign at Voodoo Doughnut and the squished peanut butter oreo doughnut that I conquered.

The unique and protruding neon sign at Voodoo Doughnut and the squished peanut butter oreo doughnut that I conquered.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to investigate at least one antique store while in the area. I rather enjoy visiting antique shops and even have an instagram account dedicated to some of my more “unique” finds (h/t to Chris for the name!). I visited Antique Alley, which was only one light rail stop away from my hotel. As a troll collector, I was pleased to find more than a few to add to my collection, including the santa trolls pictured below. I can only imagine TSA’s reaction to scanning a bag lined with trolls…

Some recent acquisitions. I heart my trolls! | Antique Alley, Portland OR

A post shared by Antiques Freakshow (@antiquesfreakshow) on

All in all it was a successful trip, full of good science talks, satisfying food places, and even a few trolls.

 

Thanks to Chris T for adding in why SICB is such a great conference!


1 Comment

Gearing up for SICB!

Happy New Year!

lizard

New year, new beginnings. And hats. Lots of hats.

As we start to wrap up our holiday break, Chris T. and I are preparing for a trip to Portland, Oregon for the 2016 annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB). We will both be presenting talks on Monday.

I will be expanding on results I presented at ESA in August, which address how stress (fire ants) experienced in early life or in previous generations affect adult physiology and immune function in lizards. My talk is Monday, January 4th at 11:15 in room B110/111.

Gail_titleslide_SICB

Chris will be sharing his results from SSAR with a new audience. He will discuss how invasive fire ants have reversed geographical patterns in fence lizard ecology, including their behavior, stress responses, and morphology, across their range in less than 75 years. Chris’s talk is also on Monday, January 4th at 11:30 in room B114. A determined Langkilde Lab follower could attend both talks back to back in nearby rooms! 🙂

CThawley_SSAR2015_Title

Come say hello if you will be there!


Leave a comment

#ESA100

Earlier this month, the Chris’s and I traveled to Baltimore, MD for the centennial meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Because it was their 100th meeting, a great diversity of ecologists were in attendance. It was big!

I received a student travel award to help support my attendance at the meeting. Thanks ESA Physiology Section!

Thanks ESA Physiology section!

Thank you!

I am happy to report that all of our talks went well. It was also so great to see Langkilde Lab Alum Renee Rosier, who gave a talk on fence lizard nesting behavior.

Renee and I at the "photo booth."

Renee and I at the “photo booth.”

Penn State was very well represented at the meeting, and we frequently ran into our colleagues from the Shea, Miller, Post, and many other labs. We hope that their talks and posters lead to fruitful conversations!

We also attended many interesting talks, and Howey moderated a session. One of my favorite talks was given by Paul Abram from the University of Montreal who was investigating why some stink bug eggs have a darker pigment. The answer, it turns out, is very complicated, and it was fascinating to see the results of a number of small studies trying to pinpoint the nature of this pigment (which isn’t melanin!).

The Baltimore Convention Center houses many model ships. This large model was once used in the movie Ben Hur.

The Baltimore Convention Center houses many model ships. This large model was once used in the movie Ben Hur.

In the Exhibit Hall, the newly formed Science Communication Section encouraged passersby to #SketchYourScience. Thawley and I collaborated on this fantastic work of art:

#SketchYourScience

#SketchYourScience

Perhaps one of the most notable incidents occurred when the fire alarm went off during a session on Thursday. The Convention Center comfortably held a few thousand ecologists, but less so the surrounding streets! Luckily, this occurred near the end of a session, and the last few talks were squished into the remaining time.

While we were there, we couldn’t resist the chance to explore Baltimore. Chris and Chris partook of a dinner of invasive species at Alewife. Thawley had the Snakehead fishcakes, and I’m told Howey’s invasive boar sliders were excellent!.  After dinner, the Chris’s won trivia in a bar full of ecologists. Way to represent!

Thawley diving into his Snakehead fishcakes at Alewife.

Thawley diving into his Snakehead fishcakes at Alewife.

Howey enjoying his invasive boar sliders at Alewife.

Howey enjoying his invasive boar sliders at Alewife.

Renee and I had some fabulous gelato from the Little Italy neighborhood. We also took a science break one morning to check out the National Aquarium. We particularly loved the Australia exhibit, and we couldn’t resist sitting in on one of the dolphin demonstrations!

At the National Aquarium.

At the National Aquarium.

Everybody drools.

Everybody drools.

Moon jellies!

Moon jellies!

Behavior demonstration!

Behavior demonstration!

We had a great week in Baltimore, and we’re all looking forward to our next conference—for some of us, SICB! Hope to see you there!

#ESA100

#ESA100


Leave a comment

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore…

…but we were last week! Tracy, Chris (Howey), Mark, and I roadtripped it from State College, PA to Lawrence, KS to attend the 2015 SSAR annual meeting, where we presented our research, heard lots of other exciting presentations, and had a great time. While the following is a travelogue of the past week for us, you can also check out the content of the research that we presented on.

Our travels began despairingly early (5:55 am) on a Thursday morning with Tracy picking me up from my place, subsequently rounding up the rest of the lab, and obtaining our fleet vehicle (a newish Chevy Impala named “Vlad”). One look at the GPS revealed how far we had to go: 1,021 miles to Lawrence.

Map

It doesn’t look very far on this map…

The drive was filled with all sorts of fascinating sights and occurrences:

CarSelfie

We started out with high levels of excitement!

OhioCorn

The corn in Ohio was beautiful for the first hour or so….

Ohio

but we were soon grateful for a change of state.

CornIllinois

However, the corn in Indiana looked almost exactly the same as that in Ohio.

Upon seeing the vasts swathes of corn billowing across the landscape, Mark Herr, resident undergraduate student extraordinaire, asked perhaps the most profound question of the trip: “Is popcorn corn?” The older and wiser among us proceeded to explain that popcorn is indeed corn (Zea mays, though there are specific varieties that make the best popcorn) that has been heated until enough pressure builds in the kernel to pop out of the hull. The group also made use of our phones to learn other fascinating popcorn facts, including: popcorn has likely been eaten by humans for over 6,000 years and that popcorn is the official snack food of the state of Illinois. Speaking of Illinois…

Illinois

We rolled into the Land of Lincoln, the 5th state on our trip.

Highest

We kept our eyes peeled for the highest point in Illinois, and we’re mostly sure this is it.

Topo

At this point, it seemed that the populace had become so bored with their landscape that they were digging holes and making hills in the middle-of-nowhere just to produce some topographical variety.

Miss

Crossing the wide Mississippi River, was a good indication that we were getting closer to our final destination!

Traffic

At least until St. Louis foiled us with traffic…:(

Rush hour in the St. Louis area meant that our best move was to pull off of the cursed Interstate 70 to stretch our legs and fill our bellies with some much needed grease and starch. We accomplished this in the most delicious manner by checking Yelp for reviews of local fast food restaurants and settling upon Freddy’s Frozen Custard.

Custard

The crew destroying steakburgers, shoestring fries, and various custard concoctions in the balmy St. Louis evening.

Custard2

‘Nuff said

The final leg of the trip saw us reach our destination at the University of Kansas and the Oread Hotel just in time to grab a glass of wine at the opening social and then drop off to sleep with visions of the next day’s talks dancing in our heads.

Our three days at the conference were a whirlwind of talks, poster sessions, chats between researchers, good food and drink, and late nights. Some of the highlights were:

A visit with “grandpa” Rick Shine, Tracy’s former advisor and eminent herpetologist, who also happens to be the president-elect of SSAR.

ShineFam

One big, happy, research family.

Enjoying the beautiful weather and gorgeous campus.

UK

View from the top of the Oread Hotel, where the closing picnic was held.

At the annual SSAR herp auction, there were many amazing finds to be had, including lots of herp-themed artwork, rare books, and the highest-grossing object of the night, legendary herpetologist Bill Duellman‘s personal machete from the 1960’s (with a winning bid of a cool $700).

I took home a selection of anuran auditory history with vinyl of Charles Bogert’s Sounds of North American Frogs and 78’s of Voices of the Night, the first frog song recording release in the U.S.

Auction

A sexy face for sexy frog songs.

The keynote speaker, David Hillis, showed the rest of the crowd how it is done by arriving with a cardboard box bar for making margaritas and martinis.

Auction2

Auction revenues increased in direct proportion to the number of drinks dished out from David Hillis’ bar.

And of course we actually did discuss our research occasionally.

TracyTalk

Tracy discussing the benefits of stress for fence lizards when dealing with fire ants.

We also did not go home empty-handed in the awards category, with Mark Herr taking 2nd place in the Herpetological Quiz (undergraduate division).

MarkLaugh

Mark enjoying being the only male lucky enough to snag a seat at the “Eminent Female Herpetologist’s Table” during the picnic.

The final night ended with a party in the backyard of local host, Rich Glor, an exceptionally fashionable gentleman.

Stubbies

Rich rockin’ the stubbies.

And no herpetological systematist function would be complete without David Hillis schooling some youngsters in leg wrestling.

LegWrestling

Another one bites the dust (after being flipped over completely). Photo courtesy of Kelly Zamudio.

The return trip was, not surprisingly, very similar to the outward journey. We were denied the opportunity to visit recent lab graduate Brad Carlson (via a slight detour), due to Brad becoming a father for the second time <48 hours before our trip…congrats Brad!

Sleep

Most of us were exhausted from the trip, but Howey proved to be a tenacious driver, powering through the boredom of I-70.

We also fulfilled a wish of Mark’s by getting a drive-by glimpse of the St. Louis Arch.

Arch

Perhaps the least scenic photo of the Arch ever taken.

As day faded into night we were hit with dramatic thunderstorms and downpours, but nothing could dampen our enthusiasm for the next herp meeting (New Orleans!) or the fact that we were closing in on a return to our own beds.

End

The home stretch.

We’ve got one more lab conference this summer, a visit to the meeting of the Ecological Society of America (just next week!) so keep your eyes peeled for a final set of conference proceedings coming soon!


2 Comments

Langkilde Lab Road Show

While I just went to the Evolution meeting solo, we’re entering an exciting period of conference attendance for the Langkilde Lab. In the next few weeks, we’ll have contingents attending two important conferences! Read on to check out the titles and some brief previews of our upcoming presentations, as well as the details on where/when we’ll be speaking:

ssar2015

First up is the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR) in Lawrence, KS from July 30th through August 2nd. Tracy, Chris Howey, Mark Herr, and I will all be roadtripping it out there and back with one day, 15 hour drives each way….paaaaaarty! The meeting will feature lots of cool herp-related symposia and talks, as well as live animal shows, a herpetological quiz, a silent auction, closing picnic, and field trips to Kansas herp sites as well as awesome presentations by the folks in our lab, of course.

Mark Herr will be presenting in the Seibert-Ecology section (he won a special undergrad honorable mention last year and is back for a chance at more glory this summer!) He’ll be showing that fence lizards actually develop a taste for fire ants once they’ve experienced them. We’ve found that this effect occurs consistently over multiple time scales, including within a lifetime and across generations. Mark will be warming up the conference, taking the stage at 1:45 on Friday in the Jayhawk room.

MHerr-talk

I’ll be discussing how invasive fire ants have reversed geographical patterns in many aspects of fence lizard ecology, including their behavior, stress responses, and morphology, across their range in less than 75 years. I’ll be kickin’ it live on the final afternoon of the conference, August 2nd at 2:30 in the Alderson Auditorium. I’ll also be warming the stage for Rick Shine, eminent Australian herpetologist, Tracy’s former advisor, and future prez of SSAR, who’s come all the way from the Land Down Under just to attend this conference.

CThawley_SSAR2015_Title

Tracy will be talking about her research testing the effects of fire ant-induced stress on antipredator behavior, immune function, and offspring fitness of native lizards. Our results reveal an adaptive role of the stress response for surviving environmental threats. She’ll knock ’em dead after Rick at 3:30 in the Alderson Auditorium on Sunday.

Langkilde_talkCoverslide

and Chris Howey will be giving a poster on “Thermal preference, performance, and kinematics of the black racer” (no preview for this one, you’ll have to see it in person!) at the poster session on Saturday.

Drop by and see us if you’re at the conference!

logo

Just a week after returning from SSAR, we’ll also be attending the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) in Baltimore, MD from August 9th-14th. This is the centenary meeting of the society, so it is apparently going to be huge (maybe 5,000 people!?!). Perhaps a little intimidating, but there should be no shortage of awesome science on display. Gail, Chris, and I will all be headed down and giving talks.

Stressful events encountered early in ones lifetime can have lasting consequences into adulthood (e.g. humans that were abused during childhood often have increased risk of depression as adults). At ESA, Gail will be discussing whether fire ants attacks that occur during early life—or in previous generations!—affect the adult stress response in lizards. Check it out at 8:20 on Tuesday the 11th in Room 347 (get your coffee and come on down!)

ESA_titleslide)GM

I’ll be giving a very similar talk to that at SSAR (see above), but elaborating a little more on how invasive species can alter patterns in many traits over large spatial scales. So if you get the chance, drop by to hear it at 2:30 on Tuesday the 11th in Room 329!

Chris will be presenting on how a specific disturbance, prescribed fire, changes how black racers interact with their environment and leads to increases in energy expenditures.  However, racers in the disturbed habitat are able to balance these energy losses by increasing the amount of time they are active on the surface and the amount of food they consume. Chris will be on stage at 4:00 on Tuesday the 11th in Room 323.

Ecological Effects of a Disturbance Event on Habitat_ESA_2015

We hope to see you there!

 

 


Leave a comment

Animal Behavior Conference 2014

While the rest of the lab was attending the JMIH meeting (read about it here!), I was headed toward the 2014 annual meeting for the Animal Behavior Society in Princeton, New Jersey. Armed with a Penn State Dodge Avenger, a fellow Penn State Ecology student and I braved New Jersey drivers and the unlabeled campus buildings ready to present our research! While campus was quite difficult to navigate at night to newcomers, during the day it was beautiful!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The fun part about traveling to a new place for a conference is being able to explore! This installation was particularly memorable…

heads2 heads1According to the internet, these heads were designed by Chinese artist and social activist Ai Weiwei. Apparently, these were based on sculptures located in Yuanming Yuan, an imperial retreat outside Beijing, that were originally designed by an Italian artist Giuseppe Castiglione in the mid-18th century. The original sculptures were stolen, and only 5 have been returned to China. In addition to having a neat source of inspiration, these heads are 10 feet tall and super weird and awesome. I approve!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The plenary talks were located here. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Mornings began at 8am with plenary talks by some fantastic researchers in animal behavior. Dr. Iain Couzin started off Day 1 describing his work on collective behavior of swarms and schools, like those of locusts and fish. His lab applies theoretical principles from physics to help understand the ecology of these groups. So cool! In both his talk and many others throughout the week, I was amazed at the tracking software available to scientists. With this software, you can track each individual in a school of fish and other variables like position or velocity–all automatically! I was able to talk to Ian briefly during the dance (yes, scientists sometimes dance!), and he shared that his early research interests did not include collective behavior. Initially he wanted to study lizards, though he didn’t have many options in Scotland. I don’t blame him; lizards are pretty darn cool!

The plenary speakers gave their talks in this amazing room!

The plenary speakers gave their talks in this amazing room!

The other sessions took place on the other side of campus in the more recently constructed science buildings. Because we were presenting on a college campus (vs. at a conference center), most of the talks took place in big lecture halls. I’ve never given a talk to such a big room before! In my presentation, I discussed the terms we use to describe stress and what characteristics of stress are important when predicting the outcomes of that stress (I’ll share more details on the blog later!). I gave my talk on Sunday, the first “official” day of the conference, which left the rest of the week to relax and learn about animal behavior! Two other graduate students from Penn State presented their work, and a graduate student and two undergrads from Penn State gave poster presentations. All did a fantastic job!

Here Gabriel Villar, a grad student in the Penn State Entomology Department, just finished presenting his work on honey bees.

Here Gabriel Villar, a grad student in the Penn State Entomology Department, just finished presenting his work on honey bees.

Although my research doesn’t always include animal behavior, it was really neat to hear about the many techniques and study populations used to study animal behavior. Many research groups have long-standing study systems, having observed hyenas, meerkats, zebras, or primate groups for 10 to sometimes 40 years! They have some really neat research about personality, dominance hierarchies, and other group dynamics. And some really cool photos!

 

It was fun to meet so many interesting people and learn about their research during the conference. I look forward to the next one!