The past month started and ended with some great conferences.

The first weekend of October, I represented my lab at the Society for Integrative and comparative biology division of vertebrate morphology southwest regional meeting (SICB DVM SW). This was the founding meeting, so no one really knew how big it was going to be. So, when we all met at CS San Bernadino, I was not sure how it was going to run. Turns out, a lot of the movers and shakers in my field are stationed in labs in the Southwest United States, so the conference (with only 50 participants) was loaded with insightful talks and posters. A lot of “young” labs were able to come and showcase their new toys, in hopes of sparking collaborative efforts with others in the region. David Lee at UNLV showcased his new 3D X-ray set up that allows any animal to perform a movement while we view it’s bones system in real time. Very useful for biomechanic’s research.The Higham lab at UC Riverside presented some interesting work on the lizard’s mechanism for negotiating tight turns. The Azizi lab at UC Irvine is working on the toad’s landing mechanism (why does it not fall over when it lands?) They believe that the eccentric contraction of landing are strongly controls by the molecular muscle protein titin (which happens to be my labs main interest right now!) Ivo Ros (Biewener lab, Harvard) presented his dissertation work on figuring out how pigeons make tight turns (seems to use the same principals as a helicopter).  Another lab at UC Irvine presented an assortment of work on predator detection in fish when the predator attacks in a blind spot (the lateral lines plays a big role). Roy Heng at Cal Poly tech demonstrated how frogs frogs build up potential energy in their jaw pre-opening, so that when the mouths, the tongue can catapult out.

The keynote lecturer was David Carrier from the University of Utah. He presented some fascinating studies that looks at if human evolution was geared to be fighters (hands can make a fist, chimps cant, alignment of bones, ability to grapple due to bipedalism etc).

the conference was help in a small lecture hall, so the Q and A session was more of a forum discussion, then a direct question to the talker. I found this a really efficient way to give criticism to the study (and make it better! Or ask new questions). I encourage all my Southwest DVM counterparts to join me next year and join this conference’s critical mass of high quality labs/personals.

In Part II I will discuss the conference that I just got back from, the Arizona State Physiological Society (AzPS) meeting at the U of A, Tucson.

P.S.-I presented my past, present, and future directions on the salamander research.
I encourage all of you to Google these other labs and contact them if you are interested in the work. I can tell you that most of them love collaborating, or simply talking about there work with whoever is interested.

-A.Hessel

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