By: Sarah Goodnight
I think the readers of this Newsletter will agree that parasite life histories are as diverse and fascinating as their morphology and taxonomy. From the single-host yet extraordinary life cycle of the tongue-eating isopod Cymothoa exigua, to the quadruple- or even quintuple-host complex life cycles of Pseudoterranova marine nematodes, parasites offer us a wealth of profound evolutionary, phylogenetic, and taxonomic questions that are pursued by many ASP members. The intricate complexities of parasite life histories across ecosystems form the foundation of our field and provide us with virtually endless opportunities for inquiry as scientists. What are the evolutionary underpinnings of this incredible diversity? How do parasites across taxa differentially invade, persist, and adapt to their environments, and how did the life history traits necessary for their persistence develop across evolutionary history and geographic space? As biologists, we recognize how important our natural biodiversity is to the health of our global ecosystems—how does the biodiversity of parasites, especially in our rapidly changing world, play a role in our global biosphere?
These questions are some of the most compelling questions of parasitology. Thus, I am thrilled to announce that for our Student Symposium at the upcoming Annual Meeting, our theme will be “Endless life cycles most beautiful: a celebration of the evolutionary and ecological diversity of parasite life histories”. I am excited to welcome two amazing guest speakers for our Symposium: Dr. Augustin Jiménez-Ruiz from Southern Illinois University and Dr. Scott Gardner from the Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Dr. Jiménez-Ruiz and his lab at SIU construct phylogenies and histories of nematodes and their host associations, with additional attention to the expansion of parasite ranges and the human-mediated spread of wildlife pathogens, while Dr. Gardner studies phylogenetics, evolution, and biodiversity of parasites and parasite-host relationships using a combined approach of museum collections and academic research. We are incredibly excited to hear their seminars in Kansas City this summer!
After our speakers’ seminars, I will also be leading parasite-themed team trivia for the student attendees—so bring your trivia brains and be ready to test your parasitological mettle! Additionally, we will be having a Lunch Vortex “speed-networking” session for students during the conference, where we will have the opportunity to network with career parasitologists and professionals in a low-stakes yet fast-paced setting. I highly encourage all students to attend!
I am eager to see you all at the meeting this summer, and I invite anyone to reach out to me with questions or comments in advance of the meeting. Don’t forget to register by June 2nd for early bird pricing!
If you would like to explore the research of our two guest speakers before the meeting, please visit Dr. Jiménez-Ruiz’s website here: https://parasitology.siu.edu/ and Dr. Gardner’s site here: https://biosci.unl.edu/scott-gardner. For additional information on the upcoming Annual Meeting, please visit the meeting website: https://aspmeetings.wixsite.com/2023. If you would like to reach me for comments or questions, please email me at email@example.com.