On Monday 19th of November, our 5th user committee meeting took place. This meeting marked our halfway point, we are now two years underway with the NWO/TTW VIDI-funded project on pest-killing plants.
Compared to previous meetings, the Vidi team had decreased a bit in size, Setareh Mohammadin has gone on maternity leave, Gabriella Bukovinskine Kiss went to work full time at the Laboratory of Genetics, and visiting PhD student Xiuji Wang returned to China. Luckily, several students are joining our team in the coming weeks and a new research and education assistant is being recruited at the moment.
Representatives of all companies in the user committee were present and gave good feedback on our results. We were also happy to see the addition of Klaas Bouwmeester to our committee. Klaas has a strong background in phytopathology and is now a researcher in the Biosystematics group.
Niccolò and Lotte presented their work of the last 7 months. Niccolo showed his work on screening a population of Brassica rapa for egg-triggered necrosis. With the help of many lab members a Brassica rapa population was screened for Large Cabbage White egg-triggered necrosis. Niccolo has also improved methods to perform automated imaging, segmentation and quantification of lesion size. His work will continue using this method to map the response in B. rapa. Lotte presented work on the identification of the elicitor of the egg-triggered response. She was able to zoom in on the compound that triggers the response in plants. In the coming months, both parts of the project promise to give exciting results. @LotteCaarls
In periode 6 (May-June) the Biodiversity of the Netherlands course started with 240 first-year Biology and Forest and Nature Conservation students. Assistant professor Sabrina Simon and me together with PhD student Thijmen Breeschoten and 7 student assistants teach the Fauna part on arthropod systematics and diversity. We visit 5 locations/habitats in the surroundings of Wageningen were students evaluate arthropod abundances. Many enthusiastic students with nets catching insects are all over the place!
On Monday 23rd April 2018 we had our 4th meeting in Wageningen presenting updates to the users and researchers involved in the NWO/TTW Vidi project. Niccolo and Lotte gave presentations and all members of the team including the Aspasias Setareh and Eddie and MSc student Jeroen were present. A lot of experiments are currently ongoing and therefore we expect more conclusive results in the next meeting in November 2018.
The Second International CRC 973 Symposium “Bridging Ecology and Molecular Biology: Organismic Responses to Recurring Stress” was held in Berlin (Germany) from April 09-11, 2018. It was organised by the Collaborative Research Centre 973 #sfb973 “Priming and Memory of Organismic Responses to Stress” in the lecture hall of the Botanic Garden and Museum. The Vidi team (Niccolo, Lotte and me) and Cindy came all the way from Wageningen by train to present posters and/or listen to the inspiring talks. Invited speakers like Matthias Erb and Gary Felton gave nice presentations on recent developments in their labs on plant-insect interactions, Niccolo and a few other selected PhDs gave a pitch on their posters. Georgios and Luis gave a funny and informative #scicomm on the research on insect egg-induced defences conducted at the Monika Hilker lab. Both 'Pieris egg' teams from Berlin and Wageningen exchanged their research during the delicious coffee and lunch breaks. An excursion with dinner organized on a boat driving on the river Spree through the city of Berlin was the highlight of the non-scientific part of the symposium. Thanks a lot to the organizers @sfb973 for three nice days!
It was a great honor to be selected as one of the three young WUR scientists (together with Joris Sprakel and Ingrid Boas) to speak at the 100 years anniversary of Wageningen University and Research. Before it started a picture was taken with all (emeritus) WUR professors, rector magnifici from all Dutch universities, mayors of Wageningen and the surrounding municipalities and the invited speaker Lee Cronin (purple trouser). During the cortege we walked with all the 'pinguins' over the campus into the lecture hall of Orion filled with about 1000 people - my husband Ties and our two daughters among them. Speeches by the rector magnificus Arthur Mol and Lee Cronin preceded our talks which were on how our research contributes to the unravelling of life. Natural ways of fighting harmful insects (me), migration patterns after a hurricane (Ingrid) and dancing molecules (Joris) were at the centre of attention. After, honorary doctorates were handed over by the rector, and the vice premier Carola Schouten and the WUR president Louise Fresco gave a speech with an intermezzo by the band Levanter. In the evening, we were invited with our partners at the gala dinner in the Hotel De Wageningse Berg and Ties and me enjoyed sitting at our assigned table together with the rector Arthur.
An interesting symposium was held at Koppert Biological Systems in Berkel and Rodenrijs on 'New techniques for better biocontrol: next-generation sequencing, genotyping and experimental evolution in insects and mites'. Guest speakers like Richard Stouthamer and Jack Werren came all the way from the U.S. It was a long day starting from 6 am at Radix building with a bus tour to Koppert, ending at 22:30 after a delicious dinner in an Italian restaurant.
Diverse dinner with a diverse group
Just after New Year we met at my place to have a dinner. Everybody brought a dish more or less typical for his/her country (the Vidi/Aspasia group represents 7 nationalities!). It was a cheerful evening and nice start of the new year...looking forward to work with a great team!
Vidi team at Netherlands Entomology Annual Meeting
Traditionally, the Dutch Entomology meeting is on a Friday just before the Christmas vacations. We heard lots of nice talks and debates on the alarming declines in insect biodiversity/biomass shown in many recent studies. Eddie presented a poster and Niccolo gave a nice presentation but more plant than insect focused...too much for the entomologists?
Four more years to go
The Vidi project is running now for a year. We conducted a couple of experiments since Lotte is back from maternity leave. Thus, we had lots of nice data to present, a fruitful discussion and a delicious lunch. Most of the users and experts came and participated. Our team increased with two new members, Setareh Mohammadin and Cindy Wang. So hopefully, until our next progress meeting, end of April 2018, we are another step further toward our goal!