domingo, agosto 07, 2011

Hennig 30, July 29-August 2, 2011, Sao José do Rio Preto, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Just a week ago I was at the 30th meeting of the Willi Hennig Society (my third in four years! :D). It was in Sao José do Rio Preto, an small city in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. There is a lot of people! (More than 200! most of them are students!). Here I will try to give an small review of the whole meeting :) [In the same way as I do in previous ones ;)]

July 29

This was the day of the welcome party, I meet with some good old friends and new people. Also, I'm very tired after a long trip from Campinas to Sao Jose xD.

July 30

The real meeting starts here, with an small presentation of the presidency of the Willi Hennig (by Rudolf Meier) and the organization committee (Dalton Amorim and Fernando Noll). Then a talk by Mario Viaro about the evolution of the prepositión “ate.” It is nice to see some strong similarities between cladistics and linguistics! But I think that most of the talk is based on more or less informed speculation, I hope that new quantitative approaches (like the one show by Ward Wheeler) will invigorate the field!

The first symposium was about bioinformatic tools for the analysis of diseases. Dan Janies, comment of a new way to dealt with they web services of SupraMap, and how it evolves from a monolithic application, to a more piecemeal approach (as unix/linux users know it), it will be more flexible and then more useful (And as a developer, a lot easier to maintain!). If you are curious, its new web site is GisBank.

Then Julián Villabona, a long time friend, give a review of the different tools to understand the geographic spreading of dengue, based on his own previous and current work. I think that the nice lesson is the importance of using new quantitative approaches from historical biogeography, in this clearly phylogeographic framework.

There are two more talks on this symposium, but they are more orientated in bioinformatic questions (data mining, and so), a subject that I do not really feel, so I can take anything about it :P.

The second symposium is on Phylogenetics and conservation. The first talk, of course, was by Dan Faith, that review his PD measure, that I think is the best way to take phylogeny into account in a diversity framework. He shows some way to expand the measure to complementarity, I personally do not like that approach, as it miss one of the most robust things of the PD measure: that is independent of the sampling.

I skip Roseli Pellens talk, but I see the talk of Ronald Clouse about Schizomida of Micronesia, both in terms of phylogeny of the group and at population levels. He found some particular things about its distribution, as it seems that the explanation of its distribution is based on long dispersal, but they are very well separated even inside the small islands. I will be looking forward for his publication on this particular data set :D!

There is a poster season here, but there were a lot of posters, and most of them on very technical issues of particular groups, which is wonderful :D (I love to see biodiversity research) but I'm very ignorant on most of that groups :P

July 31

The third symposium was on biogeography, specially, neotropics. Dalton Amorim shows how the “relationships” among areas shows that there are different historical components on the neotropics, each with different times. Although I don't like the methodology of his work (I'm anti “cladistic biogeography”), I guess that their own study shows that looking for hierarchical patterns in biogeography is not the right route!

Eduardo Almeida talks about the breakup of Gondwana, and the alternatives. I feel he gives much weight to the “expanding earth” hypothesis. It is important to note that this is a fringe hypothesis in geology, in fact, it is almost never mentioned in books on tectonics :P. Actual plate tectonics is one of the our most powerful theories, so the expanding earth require a more compressive mechanism set. Sadly all the discussion on the expanding earth eclipsed the most interesting part of his talk, that is about the biogeographic patterns of Colletidae bees.

To end the symposium, Juan Morrone gives a review of some of the american transition zones, in Mexico and in Patagonia. This prompt an interesting discussion, and I feel, like in the talk of Amorim, that their own research shows that the hierarchic classification in biogeography is not feasible.

Then contributing papers season start. I was very afraid (there is a lot of people xD), but fortunatelly all the discussion on Juan's talk gives me a nice time to keep my mind and provide a nice starting point for my talk ;).

Then Cyrille D'Haese talk about the relationships of a beauty group of colorful and “giant” collembolans of New Caledonia and South west Asia. Fernando Dagosta discuss the relationships of a characid group of fishes (I guess that you can ask Marcos about this talk :P jejeje). Jerome Murienne talk was about niche modelling, and how to integrate them into a phylogenetic framework. I think that this is a very difficult topic, and I was gland that Jerome was very cautions on its presentation ;) as more approaches to integrete phylogeny and distribution modelling are brutally ad-hoc. Denis Machado talk was about the phylogeny of freshwater stingray's tapeworms.

Wei Song Hwang gives a talk about the phylogeny of Reduviidae (specifically Reduviinae subfamily, a non-monophyletic assemblage). It was a terrific talk, on a group that requires an extensive revision although I will prefer more morphological data to be coupled with the molecular data. Anyway, I love this talk. [Side note, I guess it helps that bugs are theo only group that I was on the verge to work with it xD]

Marcos Mirande shows its update of its phylogeny of Characidae--there is a lot of characid papers in this meeting! :)--with new characters, new taxa, and molecular sequences. Owen Davies, who I meet in South Africa, study a group of small african birds of the genus Cisticola, and how old taxonomic revision was good and also wrong, I like this appreciations for old works :D. To close the season, Guanyang Zhang talk about the phylogeny of Harpactorini, a tribe of neotropical Harpactorinae, another grouop of assassin bugs, that, if you live in south America, you can see waiting on leaves with their front legs raised into the air: they have some stiky glands to capture prey, and that was Guanyong main subject.

Another poster season, I just have few time to check it out the other posters :-/, as I have my own, and I was very busy there: I have a pair of very good discussions ;).

August 1

There is another symposium, this one about techniques for molecular phylogenetics. Lone Aagesen explore some different weighting schemes to dealt with full genomic data and explore some groupings detected under different gene duplications among angiosperms. Torsten Dikow about the effects on combining morphology and molecules in Asilidae, as in many cases morphological data set produce an excellent retrieval of actual classification, whereas combined data does not.

Then Ross Mounce give a great talk about how ILD was abused in the literature, and why the way in it was presented in publications made most of the results difficult to repeat--If you read Ross's blog, you will know that he is, rightfully ;), obsessed with result reproduction!--He also shows how there are several ways to extract information on the results of this test, beyond the probability of the test.

As I mentioned before, Ward uses the dynamic homology framework to explore the phylogenetic relationships among uto-aztec languages, I think that this approach provides a real improvement on the analysis of linguistic data, and I am waiting for its publication :D!

Then Mario DePinna gives a talk about ontogeny and rooting. I guess that this talk is most on the same line of the works Nelson and Platnick, that I despise, and I thing are hot topic about 20 years ago, but not now.

Pedro Romano was interested on the use of ordered and unordered multistate characters, and how that decision is not usually well explored in most phylogenetic works. Then Apurva Narechania shows a methodology called “Radical” to explore the data concatenation. I think that his approach can be expanded in several ways, for example, looking for stability after adding taxa (instead of characters), that I feel, is a unexplored field.

Tim Crowe compare the evidence value of nuclear vs. mitochondrial molecular data, and show how their behavior is just not as usually supposed (mitochondria work well on tips, nuclear data work well on deep nodes) in his extensive data set of Galliformes.

Herbert Ferrarezzi explore a way to code polymorphic taxa, instead of using single specimen molecular sequences. Jaime Rodriguez present gives a talk about the use of spectral firms to identify insects, he tries to link it with phylogenies, but I really do not understand how this was done.

The talk of Claudia Szumik was about new character systems used in the classification of Embioptera. I like her work as it is a clear example that in many groups, the “lack” of informative morphological characters, rest on traditional grounds (i.e. taxonomic research centered on some particular character systems), rather than in a really uninformative morphology.

To end the day, Gustavo Hermes speak about a difficult wasp group, the Eumeninae.

The banquet!

This day was the banquet, in a place with a lot of food of several sources: fish, shrimps, sushi, meat (a lot!). It was great ;). And of course there are the Banquet speech (about “addiction on cladistics,” an excellent talk given by John Wenzel), and the Society awards for students, both the travel grants (Marie Stoppes) and the Don Rosen award for the best poster (to Rafaela Lopes), the Lars Brundin award for the second student talk (to Gustavo Hermes), and the Willi Hennig award for the best student talk (to me! I was pretty surprised :D, and really happy! :D). Congrats to the winners :), I'm proud of be in such nice company :D!

August 2

I must admit that I was pretty tired after two days of brazilian joy ;) so, I just barely play attention to several of this talks :P, and loss the talks from Phillippe Grandcolas and Nobuhiro Minaka.

Hilton Japyssu talk about how to codify different behavior patterns, in particular grooming on rodents. They produce a very well supported phylogeny with a lot of this rutines, congruent with several other data sources. Then Carlos Alberts, on the same line work with behavior patterns of Arini parrots.

Later, Santiago Catalano present his method about landmark alignment, and how it produces better results than alignments that not take into account the phylogeny. Another hit for the dynamic homology approach.

One of the talks I want to hear, is the one by Jan DeLaet on character weighting. He was very interested on implied weighting approaches, but it seems that he prefers linear functions instead of concave ones, so he present some properties for a particular function schema that he call, “self calibrated.”

To finish the meeting there is a symposium on theoretical and phylosophical aspects on cladistics. The first talk was by Pablo Goloboff about some improvements to implied weights, that is, to use different weighting functions among different characters, and the possibility to weight blocks of characters instead individual characters (that is mostly for molecular data).

James Carpenter gives a talk about the meaning of homology vs. synapomorphy. Of course, synapomorphy is not homology, as you can also have homology in symplesiomorphy! In the same line Kevin Nixon (who was not there, but send a video of his talk) was on the same line. This might be an old fashion discussion, but given that there is a lot of recent publications by people like Malte Ebach, David Williams and company (they publish a book, and have several papers in journals like zootaxa) it is important to recall this arguments again.

Andy Brower, tries to show how really most of objections on parsimony are not so strong, and that actually, parsimony is not as bad as their criticizers argue: the results are nearly identical with alternative methods. There are several topics I agree with Andy, but there are others that not, mostly he uses some sociological explanations in some cases, but ignore them in others (and of course, I'm very realist :P ejeje, but that is my own problem xD).

The second talk of Jan was about the topics touched on its 2005 paper, that is, about the use of gaps weighting and how they are related to dynamic homology, and of course, why really using everything in 1, is not really a straight forward consequence of using parsimony.

To finish, Steve Farris criticize the most recent attempts of users of 2 taxon analysis approach (already mentioned: Ebach, Williams, Nelson, Platnick), and how they change their own words when new criticisms where made.


A very long piece here :P! It was a very nice meeting. With a lot of students, that as great, and I think the most important objective of the WHS: to bring students into phylogenetics. But there is disappointment, apart from brazilian students there are few from other countries. I guess that it is a consequence of recent economic downside, as there are just few US students (3 or 4), and just one European students (just Ross). It is shocking when you see such small representation from first world countries. Representation from latinamerica is also scarce: just one from Argentina (were was everybody?), and nobody from other latin American countries. Of course, there are some colombians working on Brazil, but they count as Brazilian students (as its fundings are given by brazilian institutions). I don't know what happens, it is not lack of publicity: there is the same amount as in any other Hennig meeting. It is not the price, after all, this is one of the cheapest international meetings out there!

Nevertheless, that is not a problem of the organization, so I just can tell that the meeting was great, a lot of students, a nice people, and several interesting talks and posters :) Now, it is time to think on the next one, which will be somewhere in the U.S., hopefully I can made it :D!

Of course, a lot of fundings is required to do this trip, and I want to acknowledge the support given by the FONCyT, CONICET and the INSUE, and the Willi Hennig Society that gives me a Marie Stoppes award, and the Organization committee that give us a discount rate at the hotel, and everyday lunch ;)! Obrigado! :D

1 comentario:

Ross Mounce dijo...

Great blog post, as ever Salva :)

With regard to your perceived slight "disappointment" about the lack of 'estrangeiros' (foreigners / non-Brazilians) - I'd say this might be part of a more general decline in systematists around the world tbh.

I was bitterly disappointed a few months ago at the attendance for the 8th Systematics Association biennial meeting (Belfast) There were 65 talks given and err... 85 attendees over the course of the 5 days. Some of the attendees only stayed for a few days, so as a consequence the real average attendance per day was even lower! Compared to this Hennig XXX's attendance was actually superb (and in terms of numbers if not diversity, we should both acknowledge that there were far more people at Hennig XXX than at the previous Hennig in Hawaii).

Whilst I might have been the only PhD student from Europe, there were plenty of people from European institutions at Hennig XXX inc a large contingent from France (Murienne, Grandcolas, D'Haese...) and additional global diversity from people such as Tim Crowe and Owen Davies (South Africa), Dan Faith (Australia), Nobuhiro Minaka (Japan). So I'd say it was certainly international enough, compared to other conferences I've been to at least.

Cladistics is naturally strong in the US and S. America - there's little we can do to attract people from places that just don't do much cladistics, unless we can gain more support from paleontologists that is...? Hence I'd quite like to see a paleontology-related symposium at the next Hennig meeting *fingers crossed*

Anyway, back to the point of decline in the numbers of systematists - have you seen the number of subscribers to Syst. Biol. lately? Strangely it seems to be on a rather alarming downward trend! Down 59% in the last 6yrs!
Here's a link to the SSB AGM minutes with the full facts and figures as they report:

only 889 members in 2011? Strange times for systematics.

But that's also the great thing about the attendance demographic of Hennig XXX - there was a lot of young talent there, keen and interested in cladistics. Undergrads, masters students and PhD students - a huge future crop who I'm sure might do well in the future providing there's funding and positions available.

So really, I thought I'd just post a comment, not to disagree with you but to put a little bit more of a positive spin on it. I thought the attendance level and demographic was excellent for the future. Long live the Willi Hennig Society! ;)

PS See you next year at Hennig XXXI hopefully :)