Presently, I am attending a professional science conference: the first-ever joint meeting of the International Ethological Conference (IEC) and the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) at Indiana University.
Since it is a combined meeting of two international societies, it has attracted nearly 1200 participants. I always enjoy attending professional conferences. It is a great chance to hear about new and exciting research in the field, as well as network with others. Plus, I reunite with friends I have made and known through the year and have fun.
It also gives me so much to blog about! The Plenary talks have been some of the most awesome presentations I have ever heard. Each day, we've been greeted by the super stars of animal behavior and ethology research. So far I have the speakers have been:
Shelley Adamo of Dalhousie University, Canada discussing "In sickness and in health: wedding immunology to animal behaviour". She had me all gaga as she spoke of the how and why of female mate choice of males who are healthy and disease resistant. The more she spoke of females assessing male health indicators and quality of secondary signals and risk of catching of diseases from mates, the more I kept thinking of my own hypothesis - The Pretty Boy Hypothesis - and how females might choose/avoid males with lesser/greater STD risk. In fact, I referenced her work quite extensively in my manuscript.
Frances Champagne of Columbia University USA discussed "Epigenetics and the Inheritance of Behavioral Variation". I will be teaching Animal Behavior - lecture and lab - and she gave me whole lot to think about for my classes. I've always been on the skeptical side of genes and behavior. It's not that I don't think genes influence behavior in any way. However, I am mechanism-heavy animal behavior researcher. Until recently, there were too few detailed explanations of exactly how genes influenced or caused certain behaviors. Her presentation was clear but also made a compelling case for heritable non-genomic gene expression traits. It was mind blowing.
Nick Davies of University of Cambridge UK discussed "Cuckoo- host coevolution". Brood parasitism and (lack of) parenting behavior has always been very fascinating to me. Because of my own research interest in how early environmental experiences influence development and behavior I am curious how an organism manages to survive and thrive without raising its own young pr being raised by its own parents. How do such species balance learning behaviors important for its success such as courting and mating with the correct species and then later tricking another species into feeding and care for its young?
Regina H. F. Macedo from the Universidade de Brasília, Brazil discussed "Social and mating systems of tropical birds: elaborate costumes and wild dances. I can proudly say I have met and known Regina for years. She is the best! Her work with birds in the wilderness of the Amazon is ground breaking and her beautiful wildlife photography is famous in its own right.
I'm also super-geeked about the Symposium on female competition: Female competition for breeding resources: traits, mechanisms and modes of selection. I expect these talks to give me a much to blog about in my series of sexual selection explained via hip hop. I've already pre-queued my mental iPod.
You can follow conference tweets on Twitter via hashtag #behav11.