Just got back from a whirlwind tour of the greater Washington D.C. area, where I was given my opportunity to present my work at two different institutions. My first stop was Janelia Farm, a Howard Hughes institute and one of the major drivers that are pushing the electron microscopy and computational technologies needed for large scale synapse-level connectomics work. I was invited by Albert Cardona Continue reading
During the last week of March, I made a trip to the good ol’ U.S.A. to attend the Neuronal Circuits meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory out on Long Island. There, I presented a talk entitled “Comparative Graph Theoretical Analysis of Networks of Identified Neurons.” During the talk, I summarized the Pristionchus connectivity project as well as introduced some of the graph theory methods I’ve been working on for asking questions of connectivity networks. For me, the meeting was outstanding. All of the talks were well presented and of a very high standard… you can count on your mind being blown at least a couple of times a day at these meetings! CSHL is an excellent (though expensive) venue for meetings, and the meeting itself was structured to allow plenty of time to talk with people. There weren’t so many worm people there, but Scott Emmons presented his connectivity dataset for the male in C. elegans, Julie Cho from Paul Sternberg’s lab presented a nice talk on her work dealing with lethargic (“sleep”) and a couple of awesome grad students from Mark Alkema’s lab had posters (Christopher Clark and Jennifer Pirri). They look at locomotion circuits, including examining how C. elegans avoids nematode trapping fungi. I’ve always been a fan of Arthrobotrys! Prior to the meeting, I went out to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx to visit the labs of David Hall and Scott Emmons. Their work on the male tail is impressive, available already online (www.wormatlas.org) and should be published this year. I always like visiting David’s lab because it is kind of an electron microscopy museum, containing many of the early and important electron micrographs for C. elegans. This time around, there was a new addition: the original wooden models constructed by, I think, John White in order to investigate vulva development! Apparently, Dave saved them from being discarded. Dave is also an Avid birder and an active conservationist, so in between lab visits I had a chance to tag along to some of his birding sites. Truly an action packed trip! To see some additional photos, look at my Flickr page HERE.
After a very busy meeting season, I can finally get back to getting some work done. Since the last update, I’ve attended two very different meetings. The first was an EMBO meeting on the “Structure and Function of Neural Circuits” in Heidelberg. It was in EMBO’s relatively new conference building, which has internal and external stairwells that form a double helix. The meeting was very intense.. nearly every talk presented fantastic work, and for me it was some great exposure to some of the things going on in critters besides nematodes. I was particularly blown away by some of the work going on in Drosophila right now. A very intense meeting with a very high caliber of science. The second meeting was the European Nematology meeting in Vienna. For me, this meeting was all about getting back in touch with my nematologist roots. It was also a little fun because a couple other lab members went as well (Matthias and Robbie).
Now I’m trying to gear up for the home stretch of wrapping up data collection and preparing a manuscript on pharynx connectivity… can I do it by the end of the year? With a little daughter due in February, I feel like that paper has to get done before I am too distracted.
I put a bunch of pictures from Heidelberg and Vienna on my Flickr account, and some bonus pictures of what little corn I managed to get out of the garden this year! See them HERE.
On Septmember 3rd, our lab had a little retreat. Our day began with a bus ride to the Ritter Sport chocolate factory, which is just on the other side of the Schonbuch forest from Tuebingen. There we had a nice breakfast, went to a discount chocolate shop where some of it was half of the normal price and saw a very cheesy movie demonstrating how they make the chocolate. The highlight of the factory was a little diorama where if you pressed a button, a little toy truck drove out and gave you a piece of chocolate. Free chocolate! It was like a happy dream land. After this, we went for quite a long walk from the factory to a picnic shelter in the forest. It was raining, and I am pretty sure that most of us did not anticipate that we would be getting wet. We were rewarded finally though with beer and a fire to cook some meat on. After a few beers and some food, some of us went back on the bus, while a few of us (myself included) decided to walk the rest of the way back to Tuebingen through the forest. It was a great walk, mostly along a little stream. We timed it just right, getting back to the institute at just about sunset. I am pretty sure that we all had a good time, and many of us will occasionally dream about this little chocolate dispensing truck…. A Flickr gallery of images can be found HERE.
I recently took a little trip with Matthias Herrmann, our lab’s resident entomologist and nematode taxonomist, and Matt Paulsen, a visiting scientist from the University of Nebraska, to the edge of the Black Forest to check out an infestation of Melolontha (May Beetle). They are common everywhere here, but we went to Baden-Baden where they are having a particularly bad infestation. These beetles can badly defoliate trees, here mostly damaging oaks and beeches. I have a photo album HERE with some nice pictures of Melolontha,
I attended the Nematode Tree of Life Dorylaimia workshop. Nematologists from all over the world flew out for the occasion so it was a great chance to meet with old friends and make some new ones. Many thanks to the De Ley lab for their organizational efforts. It was held at the James Reserve, one of the field stations of the University of California. Their website, incidentally, has some great webcams on it. I brought along a battery operated blacklight, generously loaned to me by the UCR Entomology Museum, to try and collect some beetles. Many beetles that show up to blacklights have nematodes associated with them, either as parasites or just hitching a ride. I’ll post an update if I manage to find anything interesting on them. I also remembered to bring my fly rod up for a little fishing at “Lake” Fulmor, a pond adjacent to the reserve. The meeting wrapped up with dinner at the Gastrognome, a seafood place in Idyllwild, and a discussion of future collaborative projects. Please be sure to check out my photo album of the event Here. Also, see Mark Blaxter’s excellent photographic evidence from this event and the SON meeting Here.