We attended two insect/social-insect conferences this summer: the meeting of the European Sections of the IUSSI in Helsinki and the American IUSSI satellite meeting of the huge ICE 2016 in Orlando. Pnina, Tal, Daphi, and Eyal presented in talks and posters and we got some recognition from the international social insect community. ICE in Orlando was huge: 6000+ participants, 40+ symposia in parallel, for a full week! Overwhelming, super informative and productive! We met with our American collaborators, especially Etya Amsalem who just started her new lab in Penn State and DeWayne Shoemaker, and we got to know many of the leading people in the field and also learn a lot about other fields in insect science.
Eyal gave a talk in the Nola Socks pub on "The paradox of the evolution of altruism", from Darwin's ants to our genomic age research of the molecular basis of social evolution. The place was packed and lots of people expressed their interest!
For the first time in IBS history we hosted the symposium at the University of Haifa, and it was a huge success! Close to 400 participants attended from all over the country. We had great lectures from young bioinfo researchers from all Israeli universities, and a local keynote lecture by our own Abraham Korol on challenges of genomic mapping. The success of the event was not hampered even by the last minute notice that the foreign keynote speaker would not be able to attend in person. We have arranged a videoconferencing connection to the Max Planck at Dresden and Gene Myers gave the opening keynote lecture with no glitches. We also had the best food, coffee and drinks in all IBS history - as the photos show:
The Hecht auditorium almost full
Gene Myers' keynote lecture over videoconference
This was it! after several failed attempts we came back to the Dead Sea with full intent not to let those difficult Camponotus cericeus ants delay the progress of science any more! This time we took off the gloves and brought a BIG shovel. The amazingly dexterous digger opens a 2X2X1 meter hole in 5 minutes. This took two manual diggers the better part of a day in our previous attempts. We then jumped in and continued the delicate work of extracting the ants with shovels. The ants finally gave in and we came back with a nice loot - samples of hundreds of ants from each of seven nests. These ants made it especially difficult for us, but it was worth it! Next Daphna will start the behavioral experiments, video tracking, and finally RNA extraction, transcriptomic sequencing, and differential expression analysis. If all goes well, these ants will reveal their BIG secret: the genes responsible for social information sharing!
We (Daniel Sher and Eyal Privman) held a whole week workshop on transcriptomics at the University of Haifa. Five full days packed with lectures and hands-on tutorials, including invited lectures from leading researchers in the field: Gil Ast, Tamir Tuller, Adi Stern, and Erez Levanon. More than 30 students and researchers from all Israeli universities participated in the workshop, and we all finished the week very tired and very satisfied!