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Happenings at the Helminthological Society of Washington - Spring 2019 Meeting Summary

By Kelly Weinersmith

The Helminthological Society of Washington (HelmSoc) held its 721st meeting at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA on April 6th.

The day was filled with great talks and poster presentations! Faculty talks included Dr. Ralph Eckerlin’s history of HelmSoc’s journal (Comparative Parasitology), Dr. Michael Zimmermann’s discussion of how hybridization in sunfish species impacts their parasite community (answer: it’s complicated!), and Dr. Anna Phillip’s finding that Acanthobdellida is “just another fish leech” (a finding that upends its status as the missing link of leech evolution!).

Winners of the Stirewalt-Lincicome Student Awards! John Sanders (Virginia Tech) won first place, and Brandi Griffith (Shippensburg University) was runner-up. Congratulations to John and Brandi!

HelmSoc’s graduate student members made an excellent showing at the conference. John Sanders from Virginia Tech gave a talk about his exciting work using Cry5B from Bacillus thuringiensis to reduce the burden of Haemonchus contortus in sheep (some of us may have gasped at his results slide). This talk earned John the Stirewalt-Lincicome Student Award! The runner-up for this award was Brandi Griffith (Shippensburg University)! Brandi shared with us her finding that the parasites infecting brook trout in mountain streams in Pennsylvania harbor higher iron concentrations than their brook trout hosts, suggesting the parasites may be useful biomarkers for metal contamination.

Winners of the Judith Humphrey Shaw Undergraduate Awards! Greg Lutz (Penn State York) won first place, Candace Ashworth (Shenandoah University) was the runner-up, and Nicole Shannon (Shenandoah University) received an Honorable Mention. Congratulations to Greg, Candace, and Nicole!

We also enjoyed talks by HelmSoc’s talented undergraduate members! Greg Lutz (Penn State York) won the Judith Humphrey Shaw Undergraduate Award for the presentation of his work examining the mechanisms through which Hymenolepis diminuta manipulates its beetle host (Tribolium confusum). Candace Ashworth and Nicole Shannon (Shenandoah University) gave excellent talks on their work quantifying differences in the parasite communities infecting male bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) morphotypes, and the pathology these parasites cause in their hosts. Candace was the runner-up for the Judith Humphrey Shaw Undergraduate Award, and Nicole received the honorable mention.

Congratulations to the student members on their great talks!

At this meeting we also unveiled our awesome HelmSoc-branded swag! Freya Goetz recently brought to life a logo idea that was the brainchild of HelmSoc President John Hawdon. The logo has been placed on shirts, pins, and mugs, and our swag is guaranteed to bring you joy. I mean, just look how happy President Hawdon looks with his shirt.

If HelmSoc-branded swag isn’t a sufficient enticement to purchase, note that all profits go toward student travel grants! Keep your eyes open at the upcoming ASP meeting in Rochester and at future HelmSoc meetings for your chance to get in on the latest in parasite-themed fashion trends.

At the Business Meeting we welcomed Dr. Autumn Smith-Herron, the new editor of Comparative Parasitology! Autumn is wrapping up her first solo-edited volume of Comparative Parasitology, and we’re thrilled to have her on board.

We also discussed topics ranging from the society’s finances (we’re lookin’ good!), proposed changes to our by-laws, and the now nearly complete Discrimination Policy.

Special thanks to Dr. Michael Zimmermann for hosting, Dr. Anne Vardo-Zalik for organizing, and all for attending! See you in the fall at the Anniversary Dinner!

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