Harper Adams University hosts Royal Entomological Society’s annual symposium

21 September 2016

Professor Simon Leather
Professor Simon Leather

“I feel that the whole event was a great success and would like to thank the Harper Adams MSc Entomology students who helped with registration and other conference activities and, of course, the presenters and delegates for their enthusiastic support of the event.


 Professor Saskia Hogenhout
Professor Saskia Hogenhout
Exotic Zoo live handling
Exotic Zoo live handling
Maya Leonard
Maya Leonard

Harper Adams hosted the Royal Entomological Society’s Ento’16 Annual National Science Meeting and International Symposium. 

The theme was the society’s journals, to celebrate 180 years of Royal Entomological Society (RES) publishing.  

Simon Leather, Professor of Entomology at Harper Adams and the event’s convenor, said: “Ento’16 was a fantastic and rewarding experience for all of us on the organising committee, and if Twitter is anything to go by, also for the delegates and presenters.  

“Delegates were greatly impressed by the campus and facilities as well as the talks and posters.  

“I feel that the whole event was a great success and would like to thank the Harper Adams MSc Entomology students who helped with registration and other conference activities and, of course, the presenters and delegates for their enthusiastic support of the event.    

“I thought the outreach theme on the final day of the conference was very well received by all. For me personally, I was thrilled to be able to meet Maya Leonard, author of Beetle Boy and was totally enthralled by her talk.”

Best talks and posters were voted for by delegates throughout the event. Harper Adams PhD researcher Pilar Morera Margarit won best student poster. It was entitled “Do endosymbiotic bacteria play a role in vine weevil ability to adapt to different ecological niches?”

Pilar’s project supervisor, Dr Tom Pope, said: “The poster summarised work on the vine weevil; a fascinating and economically important species of insect. 

“This was also a great advertisement for the value of the collaboration between the University and the James Hutton Institute.”

During the event, Sir Paul Nurse was given an honorary fellowship, alongside Professor Jane Hill, Professor Hugh Loxdale, Professor Dame Linda Partridge and Professor Philip G Mulda. 

There were three plenary talks during the symposium, which were all live streamed, and are still viewable by clicking the session titles below. 

The first plenary talk was given by Professor Saskia Hogenhout, from the John Innes Centre, Norwich. Her talk was entitled: “How virulence proteins modulate plant processes to promote insect colonisation.” In it, she explained the relationship between the attractiveness of leaf-like flowers, caused by phytoplasma, to insects.

This is an important project as crops in America, Canada and Europe are affected by insect-transmitted diseases, such as carrots and oilseed rape being infected with aster yellows phytoplasma. 

The second plenary talk was entitled: “The Scent of a Fly” by Professor Peter Witzgall from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. During his talk he focused on insect chemical ecology, including a brief history of how it was first discovered. 

The third and final day was dedicated to outreach, starting with the plenary talk “Citizen Science and Invasive Species” by Professor Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

In her presentation, she said: “Invasive non-native species cost Europe an estimated €12 billion.

“We need to have robust evidence for decision-making; especially in the case of conservation biology decisions.

“Before we had the title ‘citizen science’, I thought that we can do more than just talk about science, we could actually do science together and get some more data. 

“It’s not necessarily straight-forward, it isn’t free but it’s highly effective.”

Next was Cbeebies presenter Jess French. She started her talk by saying: “I’m sorry but I disagree with the title I’ve been given, ‘Making Minibeasts Fun’ because they are already fun, we don’t have to make them fun.

“There are so many parents who pass on their fears of minibeasts to their children. How are we going to breed a generation of children who appreciate minibeasts if they’re always being told not to touch, or not even being allowed to love them?”

A number of Harper Adams lecturers, students and alumni presented during the event. These included: PhD researchers Joseph Roberts, Fran Sconce and Claire Blowers and lecturers Professor Simon Leather, Dr Andrew Cherrill and Dr Tom Pope and alumni Dave Stanford-Beale and Andy Cutts. 

Andy Cutts is now a Conservation Officer for Bug Life and presented during the outreach-focused session.

“I work for Bug Life, which is about saving the small things which run the planet.

“We’re Europe’s only organisation focused on the conservation of all invertebrates.

“Over 80 per cent of us live in urban areas, and it’s estimated it will be 90 per cent by 2030.”

“Urban Buzz is a project where you can make a real difference right on your doorstep.”

The event ended with an open entomology afternoon, which saw a number of organisations and entomology businesses having stands to engage with members of the public and conference delegates and Beetle Boy author Maya “MG” Leonard talked about her book and experiences of getting over her fear of insects.

Stands included Slug Disco Studio’s computer game demo, Exotic Zoo’s live handling and Harper Adam University’s Edible Bug Challenge.

“I would particularly like to thank Harper Adams University for hosting the conference, the university catering staff, the AV support staff and the marketing and communications department for all their help prior to and during the event,” said Professor Leather. 

“Finally, I would like to thank the Royal Entomological Society for their support and sponsorship.”  

 

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