Based on conversations with conference participants, one of the best features of this conference was its diversity. The talks focused on five research themes, covering a variety of model systems including worm, fly, frog, mouse, fish, Arabidopsis and planaria. The first theme was embryogenesis and cell polarity. It included a talk from Helen McNeil (University of Toronto) on the mechanisms by which fat family cadherins signal through the mitochondria to effect planar cell polarity in Drosophila and a talk from Janet Rossant (University of Toronto) on the signaling pathways involved in early lineage decisions in mouse embryos. The second theme, epigenetics and development, included among others, Sabine Cordes’ (University of Toronto) talk about the polycomb-dependent epigenetic mechanisms in neural development. The next two sessions focused on cell signaling and cell fate specification in development. Some of the great talks in these sessions included a talk by Andrew Waskiewicz (University of Alberta) about the use of zebrafish to study ocular birth defects such as coloboma and a talk by Brent Bobick (University of Calgary) on how the transcription factor Shox2 is necessary in mice to repress cartilage formation. Lastly, the conference finished off with a session on cell size and proliferation. This session encompassed talks from Nam-Sung Moon (McGill Univeristy) on factors that synergize with Rb in Drosophila as well as a talk from Bret Pearson (University of Toronto) about how planaria control the proliferation of their adult stem cells.
On top of all the great sessions, one of the highlights of the conference was the keynote lecture by Utpal Banerjee (UCLA). He focused on recent work in his lab which uses hemaopoetic cells in Drosophila to study how stress signals can interact with and influence cell metabolism. The chance to see such a distinguished researcher speak was truly inspirational for all of us graduate students in the early stages of our careers. As well as wowing the crowd with his science, Utpal Banerjee also took time to participate in a special session on teaching methods in undergraduate developmental biology. In this session, he focused on methods such as “Research Deconstruction” which have been implemented at UCLA with great success thus far. Also of note was the second special lecture by Pierre Chambon (IGBMC) on transcriptional control by nuclear receptors.
After all the science, we had a chance to experience some Albertan culture at the “Cowboy and Western” banquet offsite at a huge tent in the mountains. While keeping warm by the gigantic bonfire, we ate barbeque and learned how to do traditional line dancing from a duo of cowboy singers who were the entertainment for the night. It was a great chance to let loose, catch up with old acquaintances and meet some new friends!
Overall this was a great conference filled with interesting talks, engaging poster sessions and lots of time to interact with the best scientists and researchers from around the country. Congratulations to all of the following winners of the poster competition, each of whom won $100: Namal Abeysundara, Corey Arnold, Ben Chan, Devon Germain, Felix Gunawan, Xue Han, Yoichi Kawabe, Lauren Killip, Kate Krivy, Karen Lange, Saiqun Li, Stephanie McMillan, Stephen Nemec, Stanley Neufeld, Jeremy Saban, Tara Stach, Simone Superina, and Chris Wang. Also congratulations to the winners of a Society of Developmental Biology sponsored $1000 travel credit to go to the 71st International SDB meeting in Montreal in July. The graduate student winner was Steffen Biechele and the postdoc winner was Elizabeth Rideout. On behalf of us, and all the conference participants, we’d like to say a big thanks to the conference organizers Sarah Childs and Carol Schuurmans (University of Calgary) for such a stimulating meeting. Hope to see everyone at the 7th Canadian Developmental Biology Conference in Montreal in 2014!
By: Lauren Killip and Corey Arnold