3rd International Evol Ecol PhD meeting Bayreuth

Host-parasite interactions and ecological immunity – 14th to 16th March 2019

In March 2019, 23 PhD students, one postdoc, one MSc student and 13 of the students’ supervisors gathered on the campus of the University of Bayreuth for exchanging results and ideas on their current projects. We stayed a 10-minute walk away from the lecture hall at the newly built Youth Hostel just across the cycling highway. Like this we had optimal conditions to concentrate on our scientific endeavours and discussions.

Although the participants were affiliated to no more than six Czech and German universities (Prague, Berlin, Dresden, Bayreuth, Kiel and Brno), they originated from no less than 11 countries, including China, Egypt, India, Portugal and Poland. And while that is impressive, it is perhaps even more impressive that nobody actually cared. This year, the group from the GEOMAR in Kiel joined the meeting anew. Welcome!

On Thursday, after sorting the rooms at the Youth Hostel, which was not a simple task due some misunderstanding by myself and the staff at the hostel, we started right away with the talks. PhD students had been guaranteed a talk, but all participants could present if they wished, as there were enough slots. Talks were ca 20 minutes with further 10 minutes for discussion. PhD students chaired the sessions – thanks to Agnes, Martin, Henry, Nithya and Barbara for excellent time keeping of the sessions. 

Overall, PhD students gave 20 talks. The order of the talks was thematically grouped, which seemed to work very well. As last year in Svaty Jan, the talks covered a wide, but not too wide a range, including ageing in birds, immune tolerance in pregnant male fish and in Drosophila, to interactions of gut microbes with host immunity, disease dynamics in Daphnia including effects of temperature and diet, speciation and sperm biology, how salinity affect phages and bacterial AMP resistance. Traditionally we had again two outstanding Invited Speakers – Tim Janicke from the Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE) in Montpellier, France (Sex-specific sexual selection across the animal kingdom) and Olivia Roth from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel (Insect immune strategies: resisting, tolerating and remembering infections). 

Again, and I keep saying that ‘again’, quite a few of the participants were giving their first talk outside their own lab and everybody did very well. We also had three posters. Another tradition was that every presenter received specific feedback in one-to-one discussion with two senior scientists. The students very much appreciate this feedback and recommend keeping it up for following PhD meetings. This year we also had the students with posters present their posters during the poster session, which worked very well. This year the supervisors again awarded the best student talk. This went to Véronique Paris from Berlin, runner-up was Henry Göhlich from Kiel. As a novelty we also had the students vote for the best student talk. This went to Henry Göhlich from Kiel, runner-up was Véronique Paris from Berlin. Many congratulations. People from different labs were mostly mixed in the accommodation rooms, as well as for lunch and in the evening. This stimulated a lot of discussions. After the invited talks discussions continued in the seminar room until very late in the evening.

With the support of the BTHA, the cost could be kept low: 100 EUR for German participants and 70 EUR for the Czech participants (food, drinks, seminar room and all included). Thank you very much!

Rumours have it that the next meeting will be organised by the Armitage lab in Berlin. See you there. 

Oliver Otti (University of Bayreuth)