I’ve been to Evolution 2009

Well the meeting is done. The talk is given. The t-shirt is purchased. I’m mooching about Moscow, Idaho ahead of my long flight back to New Zealand tomorrow. 1200 evolutionary biologists, mainly from the States, gathered here at the University of Idaho over the last week to discuss all things evolutionary. Moscow is a small town with a big university and the hospitality was, as they say, a credit to the region. New Zealanders had a large presence here this year. Dave Penny (Massey University) gave the past president’s address for the Society of Systematic Biologists and encouraged us all to continually question ourselves and our science. There were numerous Kiwis either escaping winter or currently doing PhDs and postdocs overseas. In my session there were three of us speaking.

The best thing about our session, entitled Phylogeography, apart from the awesome talks obviously, was that it was in a law school lecture room that had been built to resemble a court room. Evolution on trial indeed! After some of the cross examinations that I have been receiving lately about drowning New Zealand in the Oligocene I felt quite at home. Of course we all made the most of it with bad jokes. Thomas Buckley (Landcare Research) talked on the relationships of the stick insects, especially focusing on the very endangered tree lobsters of Lord Howe island. Martyn Kennedy (University of Otago) talked about the various paua snails in the North Island and how they have lost most of their shells over the last million or so years. I talked about the Chatham Islands, mainly focusing on the endemic flora and who they are related to and how long they have been there (New Zealand mainland and not long). Other New Zealanders talked on various NZ plant groups, population genetics, phylogenetic analysis methodologies, selection on fish genes and sexual selection.

There were lots of good talks and a major theme of the conference seemed to focus around rates of diversification of species. A great conference with lots of interesting discussions. Coupled with the summer sun and some excellent microbrewery beers, I feel revived and ready to plunge into some research.

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