Zen Faulkes and I are co-organizing a symposium for the 2014 SICB conference to be held in Austin on January 3-7th. The symposium is called “Parasitic manipulation of host phenotype, or how to make a zombie“, and we have a ridiculously awesome line-up of speakers:
Kelly Weinersmith (University of California Davis): “California killifish manipulated by Euhaplorchis californiensis show changes in behavior, neurotransmitter activity, and hormones”
Dr. Joanne Webster and Maya Kaushik (Imperial College): “The role of Toxoplasma gondii in influencing predation-related fear, generalized anxiety and affective disorders in the mammalian central nervous system”
Dr. Shelley Adamo (Dalhousie University): “Brain manipulation by immune modulation: how parasites control host behavior”
Morning Session 2: Mechanisms of manipulation
Dr. Frederic Libersat (Ben Gurion University): “Neuro-chemical manipulation of host behavior by a parasitoid wasp”
Dr. Janice Moore (Colorado State University): “Bossy parasites and feisty hosts-Parasites that manipulate and hosts that fight back”
Dr. Brian Fredensborg (University of Copenhagen): “A “jack-of-all-trades” or a “master of one”?: How does complex behavior manipulation affect host specificity?”
Dr. Mark Mescher (Pennsylvania State University): “Manipulation of host chemistry by vector-borne pathogens of plants and animals”
Afternoon Session 1: Ecology and evolution of phenotypic manipulation
Dr. David Hughes (Pennsylvania State University): “Reconstructing the evolutionary history of behavioral manipulation”
Dr. Kevin Lafferty (United States Geological Survey and University of California Santa Barbara): “Ecological consequences of host manipulation by parasites”
Dr. Frédéric Thomas (National Center for Scientific Research, France): “Evolution of host tolerance to behavior manipulation”
Dr. Zen Faulkes (The University of Texas-Pan American): “First, do no harm: Challenges to controlling another organism’s nervous system”
This is a tentative list, and participation of some speakers depends on funding. So keep your eyes peeled, because Zen and I are going to launch a crowdfunding campaign to ensure that we can get all of these absolutely amazing zombie researchers in one place.
We’re looking for people (especially students!) to present in accompanying sessions, so please get in touch with me if you study parasite manipulation of host phenotype and want to get involved.
The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference is an exciting venue for this symposium. A lot of the people who study parasite manipulation of host phenotype are parasitologists, and our understanding of this phenomena would be greatly enhanced by a more integrative approach. We’d like to get more genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, neurobiology, and immunology folks excited about the field, and an integrative venue like the SICB conference seems like a great place to find these people!