Nuptials and new lab mate

Huge congratulations to Cass who got married over the weekend in West Auckland. Our most sincere wishes to her and her new husband, Andrew.

We’re also pleased to welcome a new lab mate. Neil Birrell is almost at the end of his PGDipSci year and will join the lab proper at the end of the year to begin working with the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) with a particular focus on potential applications in agriculture.

Neil presenting his research proposal to the department



20th International Congress of Arachnology

So while the rest of the lab made a small hop across the ditch to the annual ASSAB meeting, I (Leilani) was ballooning away to Golden, Colorado for the 20th International Congress of Arachnology. While I’d by lying if I said that I didn’t miss my lab mates during the conference, it was still a lot of fun and I could distract myself during the downtime by trying to photograph every bronze statue in town (there’s more than one statue per 1000 people if the wikipedia population count is to be believed).

Table mountain + quiet Golden street + numerous utes

This year’s ICA was apparently the largest meeting so far with more than 370 delegates. But a well-organised meeting such as this is much like any other well-organised conference inasmuch that you’re too busy enjoying the talks, the social events and meeting other delegates to notice the cogs turning. The consequence is that I’m struggling to describe in ICA in terms other than “I’ve never seen so many talks about scorpions”. Having said that, as a New Zealander, scorpions and vinegaroons might as well be unicorns so that was exciting.

I think the main observation I have about the whole experience would be that ICA was my first international conference defined by its choice of taxa rather than by its field. As a consequence the types of expertise was greater than at something like Behaviour 2015 which I went to last year. While the delegation there worked in a variety of contexts with different techniques, the majority of delegates had started out as students of behaviour. By contrast, many of the talks at ICA sat firmly in the middle of fields outside of my own but simply shared the same focal taxon.

Each type of meeting has its benefits. From my experience, networking with delegates from an approach-centric conference like Behaviour is a great way to develop a deeper understanding of your own field and to get fresh eyes onto your own data. Meanwhile, a taxon-centric conference gives opportunities to broaden your networks and identify experts who can do things which, frankly, it would take me another doctorate to learn.

The other advantage of a taxon-centric meeting is all the paraphernalia and merchandise. All. Of. The. Arachnid. Stuff. All. Of. The. Time.

arach merch

So twitter summary: Conference was fun, people were very helpful, I got to hold a tarantula, A+ meeting

Conferences and SBS talkfest

It’s pouring buckets outside and the cold is really starting to bite in Auckland. Luckily we’re all gearing up to disperse across the globe for a variety of conferences including:

  • The annual meeting of the Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour in Katoomba, NSW, Australia;
  • The 20th International Congress of Arachnology in Colorado, USA; and
  • The 6th congress of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology in Exeter, UK.

Consequently the School for Biological sciences’ postgraduate Talkfest yesterday was a great chance to air out our presentations ahead speaking in front of international audiences and nearly all our students participated. We wish all our members the best of luck abroad and look forward to tales of academic adventures and hijinks.