Tuesday, July 30, 2013

ABS 2013 Part 1

It's been a productive, though at times frustrating, first 24 hours at the 2013 Animal Behavior Society meeting.  I met last night with one of my long time behavior ontology collaborators.  We are planning two NBO focussed events next year.  The second one will definitely be during the break between ISBE and ABS next summer.  The first, which will be more technically focussed will likely be around the time of the next Phenotype RCN summit though it might be at a different time or venue.

Before I arrived yesterday, they held a public outreach day and apparently the human habituated wolves they brought onto the U Colorado campus were a big hit.  Continuing the canine theme this morning, the plenary was on 'Why we love dogs' - discussing various behaviors dogs and their owners use to maintain their bonds.  After the Plenary and coffee (sort of, only decaf was left by the time I got through the line), I spent most of the morning in the predation session.  The primary talks of interest to me was one on ontogeny of newly hatched spiderlings, and one on resource patch decision making by slime molds.  The spider study (on a central american Pholcid species it turns out) demonstrated that the newly hatched spiderlings could respond appropriately with differing levels of attack intensity to differing prey (Drosophila vs. a local ant species), and that this flexibility was not the result of learning from previous experience (Escalante).  The slime mold talk (Reid) mentioned previous work that showed slime mold could find the minimum distance through a maze between two food sources through a type of 'distributed processing.'   Another talk of interest described a study of chunking and the limits of memory used by caching squirrels (Jacobs).  The ABS tweeters have settled on #2013ABS as several other groups have been using ABS2013.

My favorite tweet of the morning was certainly this one:
The phylogenies have gotten better and more comprehensive, but the gathering and sharing of comparative data still has a long way to go.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

AAS 2013

Here's a belated report from the 2013 American Arachnological Society meeting last week.  While I was there I tweeted a couple of times and @nsandlin tweeted about nearly all the talks.  Time to get this off my plate before Animal Behavior next week.

I found several talks quite memorable, including Eileen Hebets talk that seems to represent a start at integrating all the multi-modal signaling data for Schizocosa she's accumulated over the past 15-20 years.  I also liked Igni Agnarsson's talk on the diversity of Malagasy Anelosimus - lots of related species in close proximity, and unlike their North American sister clade, all remain sub-social.

Another memorable talk, if for more personal reasons, was Angela DiDomenico's (student of Marshal Hedin) systematic work with the Opilione genus Sitalcina.  Turns out there is likely an undescribed species in a draw only a couple of miles from where I attended Junior High School in Palos Verdes.  I'm not really surprised - the ecology of Palos Verdes has been known to include endemics for a while now (remember the Palos Verdes Blue butterfly?).  Hopefully this (not so traditionally charismatic) arachnid will have a better future than the PV Blue butterfly.

I knew that George Uetz had done a lot with the Schizocosa system, but the shear number of Schizocosa talks, especially during the second Monday morning session, was a bit of a shock.  S. ocreata really is attaining model organism status.

Apart from the talks, I got to catch up with people I knew in the Tucson Maddison lab, particularly Greta Binford, who indicated that several spider genomes are either done or nearing completion.   Having the genome sequenced is not the same as the level of annotation we have in vertebrate model organisms, but it is a step towards the day we could do a Phenoscape like project for spiders.

I also briefly chatted with Eileen and with Jonathan Coddington, who I got to know a bit from some phenotype ontology activities prior to the launch of the RCN.

The meeting also offered several opportunities to add to my literature collection, and I took advantage of the honor system reprint table as well as a couple of items in the silent auction.