As they say, better late than never, but man, this one is really late. The annual general meeting of the Entomological Society of Ontario was held October 15-17 2010 and as usual, it was a great meeting!
I look forward to the ESO meeting every fall, as it gives me a chance to catch up with other grad students from around the province, learn something new, and become inspired going into the dark winter months! The diversity of entomological graduate research being done throughout Ontario never ceases to amaze me, with students presenting on topics ranging from agricultural pest control to freeze-tolerance biology, and from taxonomy to forest ecology, representing 6 Ontario universities. I’ll come back to the student talks a little later, but they were certainly one of the highlights.
Before the official start of the meeting, I attended my first board meeting for the Society as the new webmaster. This was quite the experience, and provided my first look into the inner workings of how things get done in academia. Plenty of lively debate and many great ideas for the future of the society made the 5 hour meeting a breeze!
Following the board meeting was the obligatory ESO Mixer, a chance for students and researchers to meet, greet, and enjoy a beverage or two before the meeting gets underway!
The next morning started with the plenary session, featuring talks by Dr. Sherah VanLaerhoven of the University of Windsor and Dr. Amanda Moehring from the University of Western Ontario. Dr. VanLaerhoven is a forensic entomologist, making this the second time this year I’ve been faced with graphic imagery from depressing stories less than an hour after breakfast. Sherah related her work on the Steven Truscott case, and this being a scientific conference, held nothing back about the case, displaying actual crime scene and autopsy photos while explaining the significance of the entomological evidence gathered by the coroner. It’s hard to remain objective and detached when shown photos of an abused and murdered young girl, and I commend all those in law enforcement who deal with these sights in person; it’s certainly not a job that I could do. The mood was considerably lightened by Dr. Moehring’s talk on sex and genetics in Drosophila, and everyone was well prepared for the beginning of the student talks following her energetic presentation.
As I mentioned earlier, the student talks are the real highlight of ESO, and this year didn’t disappoint. A wide diversity of topics kept the audience mentally on edge as they heard all about the breakthroughs made by Ontario students. Although all of the talks were well presented and full of excellent research, I personally found blog-reader Miles Zhang’s talk on host shifts in gall wasps (Cynipidae) and their associated parasitoids from a native rose to a recently introduced rose to be one of the most exciting discoveries. A textbook example of the evolutionary pressures imposed by parasitism and the way hosts are constantly looking for an edge! I hope that he’ll agree to share this fantastic story here once he’s published his findings (hint, hint)! Check out the ESO Meeting program for a full list of student presentations, and the President’s Prize winners are listed on the ESO Website.
As part of the meeting package, all the food was provided, and that included the excellent banquet on Saturday night. With plenty of food, wine and fellowship, everyone appeared to be having a great time. Dr. Nusha Keyghobadi shared her research in the field of Lepidopteran landscape genetics during dessert, and after a couple of trips to the pie cart, the grad students organized an impromptu student mixer! It was a great chance to unwind after presentations and discuss some of the shared issues of grad work and life, and carried on well into the night.
Sunday saw the final student talks, and a few regular member talks before the awarding of ESO Fellowships and the passing of the “Roach & Gavel” to the incoming president.
Overall, ESO 2010 was a great success, and more than enough to get me through until the spring and fresh insects! If you’re in the area next year, ESO 2011 will be hosted by Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario; mark your calendar and start getting that data analyzed!