By Kelly Weinersmith
The Helminthological Society of Washington met for our annual Anniversary Meeting (our 722nd meeting overall!) at the Old Stein Inn in Edgewater Maryland on Saturday, November 2, 2019.
We started the meeting off with five minute Lightening Talks. Students made a fantastic showing at the meeting! Brenna Alewynse told us about differences in the abundance of monogeneans between bluegill sunfish morphotypes. Hunter Woodard introduced us to his work in California looking at the effects of wildfire on lizard malaria diversity and prevalence, and Hayley Hurt told us about her in progress experiment looking for epigenetic impacts of infection in Trobolium confuscum beetles infected by Hymenolepis diminuta. Graduate student Jimmy Bernot shared his work on copepod phylogenetics, which included amazing photos of the morphological diversity in parasitic copepods.
Faculty also presented talks, including two talks by new HelmSoc members! New members Bronwyn Williams told us about her work on crayfish symbionts, and Peter Thompson introduced us to his work on genomes of cattle parasites. Lynn Carta shared her work on Litylenchus crenatae, a nematode causing beech leaf disease, and the routes through which this nematode may have been introduced to the United States. We were also thrilled to have Florian Reyda (who is on the editorial board of HelmSoc’s journal Comparative Parasitology) join us for this meeting. He shared the disturbing news that his field surveys are not turning up acanthocephalans at their type localities – suggesting the extirpation of acanthocephalans at these locations.
At our Business Meeting Treasurer Ashleigh Smythe reported that the Society is doing well financially, and we should all keep clicking on Comparative Parasitology articles in BioOne, as this is an important source of revenue for HelmSoc. Comparative Parasitology’s editor (Autumn Smith-Herron) reported that the journal has moved to a continuous publication model, and that page charges can now be paid through Wild Apricot. Also, Autumn is looking for new reviewers for Comparative Parasitology, so if you’re willing to review please get in touch with her. Immediate Past President Sherman Hendrix then led us in a moment of silence in memory of Danny Pence, a HelmSoc member and past editorial board member for HelmSoc’s journals through the years.
At the Business Meeting we also learned about a new student travel award mechanism for HelmSoc and American Society of Parasitologist meetings. More on this soon! And if anyone wants to volunteer to work on the student travel grant committee, please contact anyone on HelmSoc’s Executive Committee. President John Hawdon also reported that HelmSoc passed a Discrimination Policy. HelmSoc Secretary Anna Phillips reported that she is working on organizing a Parasite Day event on March 4, 2020 at the National Museum of Natural History. If you’d like to participate in a parasite-themed take-over of the Ocean Hall, or would like to participate in virtual classroom sessions on this day, please contact Anna Phillips or Kelly Weinersmith.
We then presented HelmSoc’s Anniversary Award to Dr. Janine Caira! Janine presented on her three and a half decades of tapeworm work, emphasizing the importance of serendipity on her career path. For example, she shared with us the story of a trip that was supposed to be about learning how to milk rattlesnakes, but because of some miscommunication about dates turned into a trip to Mexico where she and her friend encountered a fisherman selling sharks. They bought one to eat, and one to dissect, and Janine discovered a new species of tapeworm in the shark they dissected! She published this new species description in HelmSoc’s journal (which was Proceedings of the Helminthological Society of Washington at that time), and was on her way to becoming a world expert in tapeworm parasites of sharks. She and her students have now identified over 180 new species of tapeworms, and over 79 new elasmobranch species!
The night wrapped up with some amazing German food, great conversation, and German music played by a live band. Thanks so much to Dr. Anne Vardo-Zalik for organizing the meeting!
We look forward to getting together again for our Spring Meeting at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center on April 17-18, 2020.