Research in the Rainforest at Wolbachia 2016

Research in the Rainforest at Wolbachia 2016

Guest post by Georgia Drew (@GC_Drew), PhD student in the Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool 

Research in the Rainforest at Wolbachia 2016
28th June – 3rd July, 2016, Queensland, Australia

This year the beautiful Lamington National Park was home to the 9th International Wolbachia conference, a biennial meeting focusing on the reproductive parasite, Wolbachia, and other notable endosymbionts of arthropods and nematodes. Nestled in the sub-tropical rainforest, over 80 delegates from across the globe assembled to present work on the evolution, ecology, genomics and cell biology of symbioses.3-2

Mornings began with the bustle of bush turkeys and bower birds at breakfast, before full days of talks and posters set amongst the canopied hills of the park. Here I had the opportunity to present, at my first international conference, on the intriguing role of a symbiont, known as Arsenophonus, in honey bee colonies. Arsenophonus, just like Wolbachia, is a genus of bacteria that infects many Arthropod species. It is capable of a diverse range of interactions with different host species, from reproductive parasitism right through to nutrient provisioning.  My talk touched on the prevalence, transmission and phylogeny of Arsenophonus in UK bees and generated some interesting questions on the potential roles of Varroa mite and bacteriophage.

The reputation of Wolbachia as an adept manipulator of host biology attracts many to its associated phenotypes of feminisation, parthenogenesis and male killing – to name just a few. This year was no exception, with exciting reports of the discovery of new Wolbachia induced phenotypes, alongside the resolution of old ones. The genetic basis for cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) appears to be finally unravelling with the identification of two Wolbachia prophage genes that induce CI like defects in Drosophila, while in Eurema butterflies there is increasing evidence Wolbachia can cause meiotic drive. Updates were also heard from the ‘Eliminate Dengue’ program, which uses Wolbachia infected mosquitoes to reduce vector competence for dengue virus. A bio control strategy that may also be deployable against Zika virus, and highlights the ability of symbiont research to resonate on a humanitarian level.

The conference was an exceptional opportunity to meet members of this relatively small field, and engage in discussion on many of the unresolved aspects of symbiont biology. Inspiration aside, the week was also incredibly useful for improving my understanding of an array of approaches and techniques that were showcased by speakers, some of which I look forward to transferring to my own work. As the conference came to a close, the more musically gifted among us performed a Beatles inspired tribute to Wolbachia – “we all live in a filarial nematode”, and I headed off to the east coast in search of kangaroos and humpback whales. I am very grateful to the Michael Pugh Thomas Fund and the Genetics Society, whose grants enabled my attendance at the conference.

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PhD student at the Frontiers in BioImaging conference

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Jennifer presents her poster at the conference

Guest post by Jennifer Francis, PhD student in the Institute of Integrative Biology.

I recently attended the Frontiers in BioImaging conference in London (14th-15th July 2016), organised by the Royal Microscopical Society (RMS). Since this highly specialised conference was relatively small, I got the opportunity to speak one-to-one with experts within the field of super-resolution microscopy about their cutting-edge imaging techniques. A number of microscopy companies, including Carl Zeiss and Leica, also showcased their latest products. The highlight of this trip, was presenting my poster entitled “Exploiting Fluctuations to Enhance Imaging Resolution of Biological Structures“, which generated lots of encouraging interest. Whilst in London, I also got the chance to explore the famous landmarks, whose architecture never fails to impress.

 

76544879As well as, attending the talks, I also sat in on the Annual General Meeting (AGM), where the new RMS committee was elected. Presenting my research at this conference was a privilege, since I was not only representing the University of Liverpool, but also the Centre for Cell Imaging. I came away from this conference with exciting new ideas to try out in my own research, having made valuable connections. Due to the positive influence of this conference, I have since become a member of the RMS and look forward to attending future events or courses they intend to hold. Lastly, I express gratitude to the Michael Pugh Thomas Endowment Fund for its significant contribution towards the travel expenses to attend this superb conference.

 

 

Macarons and posters at 13th European Conference on Fungal Genetics

Guest post by Gwen Cowley, PhD student in Functional and Comparative Genomics at the Institute of Integrative Biology 

gwen parisI recently had the opportunity to attend the 13th European Conference on Fungal Genetics (ECFG) in Paris, France.  This amazing opportunity was thanks to the Michael Pugh Thomas Endowment fund and support from the Genomes to Systems (G2S) Research Theme in my Institute.

This year, ECFG13 was aimed at presenting recent advances in fungal genetics and molecular biology, including cellular biology, evolutionary genomics, biotic interactions, systems and synthetic biology, ecogenomics and biotechnology. As an interdisciplinary forum for scientists, from both the academic and industry fields, its aim was to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends and issues in the field of fungal genetics and molecular biology and over 800 people attended.

As such, the conference provided a fantastic opportunity to showcase our recent developments using PacBio RNA sequencing, as applied to the filamentous fungi, Myceliapthora thermophila. To date, PacBio sequencing has not been applied to filamentous fungi and the sequencing protocols are still widely under development.  We are currently preparing a publication on the applicability of PacBio sequencing for improving genome annotations and applying this to an industry-relevant fungal strain.  ECGF was a great opportunity to showcase our initial results. This work benefits both the academic and industrial field of fungal research, of which both groups of researchers were in attendance at this conference.

During my time in Paris, I had the chance to present a poster on the technical analysis of PacBio RNA sequencing. ECFG was a brilliant platform for the dissemination of our research and techniques to both the academic and industrial fields. Additionally, this research was completed thanks to a Knowledge Exchange Voucher from the Technology Directorate and the University of Liverpool and showcased the services and facilities available within the Centre for Genomic Research.  My poster generated lots of scientific discussion about its advancement for fungal research and sequencing technologies.  As a result, I have made new acquaintances and contacts in the hopes of further collaborations in the future.

macarons and postersFollowing full days of seminars and workshops, my evenings were spent as a tourist in “the most beautiful city in the world” and I was able to indulge in French delicacies. From the panoramic views at the top of the Eifel Tower at sunset, to across the Seine for dinner at traditional French bistros; there is no shortage of things to do in Paris in the spring time.

Audrey Hepburn once said “Paris is always a good idea”, and when paired with fungal genetics, it certainly was!