SEB Prague 2020

Animal Biology Sessions

The following Animal biology sessions will take place at SEB Prague 2020.

Animal Biology


Parasites, disease and host immunity: Towards a mechanistic understanding of infection-induced phenotypes

  • Lauren Nadler (Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway)
  • Sandra Binning (The University of Montreal, Canada)
  • Martin Reichard (Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic) Reciprocal parasitism between bitterling fish and freshwater mussels
  • Patricia Lopes (Chapman University, USA) Feeling sick: When, why and how
  • Joanna Miest (University of Greenwich, UK) Environmental influences on the teleost immune system and its effect on survival, physiology, and behaviour
  • Martin Kavaliers (University of Western Ontario, Canada) Neurobiology of Pathogen Avoidance in Rodents
Parasites and disease play pivotal roles in the expressed phenotypes of animals from a range of taxa. These effects stem from interacting processes between hosts and their pathogens (collectively comprising parasites and infectious diseases). This evolutionary arms race occurs through efforts by the pathogen to maximize transmission and mechanisms by the host to minimize the deleterious effects of infection. However, there is still a great deal to learn about the mechanisms underlying the resulting infection induced phenotypes in animal communities, which can have far reaching consequences at the level of the
individual, population and ecosystem. This session will reach far beyond the fields of parasitology, disease ecology, immunology and epidemiology. The session will focus on the role of infection in shaping physiological, behavioural and morphological phenotypes through neurological, immunological, endocrinological and other physiological mechanisms. 

Ecoimmunology in a changing world: challenges and progress

  • Rebecca Cramp (University of Queensland, Australia)
  • Michel Ohmer (University of Pittsburgh, USA)
  • Speakers:
  • David Costantini - Ecoimmunology and oxidative stress ecology: the odd couple?
  • Sarah Knutie - Effect of recent urbanization on host resistance to invasive parasites in the Galapagos Islands 
  • Cynthia Downs - Is bigger better? Understanding how body size shapes immune defences 
  • Laura Ferguson - From thermal plasticity to plastic pollution: how host-microbe relationships drive animal success under changing environments’   
  • Ecoimmunology is a rapidly developing field that explores how the environment shapes immune function and how changes in this relationship can influence host-pathogen relationships and disease outcomes. Host immune function is a key fitness determinant because it underlies the capacity of animals to resist or tolerate potential infections. Importantly, immune function can be suppressed or stimulated by exposure to rapidly changing environmental drivers like temperature, pollutants and solar radiation. Thus, hosts may experience trade-offs as a result of altered investment in immune function under environmental stress.  This session will examine the environmental factors underpinning disease emergence, host immune function, and host-pathogen interactions in animal communities.

    Physiological and ecological responses to temperature fluctuation

    •  Katie Marshall (University of British Columbia, Canada)
    • Anne E. Todgham (University of California Davis, USA)
    • Suzie Currie (Acadia University, Canada) - The ups and downs of thermal variation in temperate and tropical fishes
    • Brian Helmuth (Northeastern University, USA) - Separating the signal from the noise: the critical role of physiological mechanism in forecasting ecological impacts of climate change
    • Johannes Overgaard (Aarhus University, Denmark) - When the stress piles up! A simple mathematical approach to integrate duration and intensity of thermal stress during natural thermal fluctuations.

    Of all the environmental variables that cycle, temperature is perhaps the single abiotic parameter that is best studied in relation to its effect on animal physiology and performance. Yet there is still considerable complexity, as amplitude and period of temperature fluctuation interact on multiple geographic and time scales. Here we review some of the most recent work on temperature fluctuation, with the aim of deriving general principles of experimental design and discuss how we can study physiological responses during such variations.

    Aquatic ectotherms in fluctuating environments - the Ins and Outs of the Ups and Downs: Respiration and Osmoregulation in fluctuating environments

    •  Patricia A. Wright (University of Guelph, Canada)
    • Jonathan Wilson (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada)
    • Anne E. Todgham (University of California Davis, USA) - Environmental complexity of the rocky intertidal: understanding the stressors that matter
    • Lauren Chapman (University of Guelph, Canada) - Environmental change and shifts in respiratory traits of East African Fishes
    • Philip L. Munday (James Cook University, Australia)  - Diel CO2 cycles and the physiology and behaviour of coral reef fishes
    • Kathleen Gilmour (Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology , Canada) - The osmorespiratory compromise in fishes
    • Tamzin Blewett (University of Alberta, Canada) - Diurnal and seasonal cycles and ion regulation in crustaceans
    • Sandra Fehsenfeld (University of British Columbia, Canada) - Nitrogen excretion in crustaceans
    • Jehan-Herve Lignot (University of Montpellier, France) - Osmoregulation in intertidal and estuarine organisms
    • Milica Mandic (University of Ottawa, Canada) - Cellular responses to daily oxygen variation in fishes
    Aquatic ectotherms are intimately linked to their environment. Daily and seasonal variation in water conditions (eg. oxygen, salinity) often have dramatic impacts οn behaviour and physiology of freshwater and marine organisms. Two critical systems, respiration and osmoregulation, are routinely impacted by variation in the aquatic enviωnn1ent. Thee “Όsmo-respiratory compromise" describes the complex interactions between the two systems. This session will explore respiration and osmoregulation in aquatic invertebrates and vertebrates Jiving under diurnal or seasonal environmental fluctuations in various habitats.

    Environmental Fluctuation and biodiversity

    Not just down the hatch: food processing, transport, and assimilation in jawed vertebrates

    •  Nicolai Konow (University of Massachusetts Lowell, USA)
    • Callum Ross (University of Chicago, USA)
    • JD Laurence Chasen (University of Chicago) 
    • Phillipa Beale (Australian National University) 
    • Donovan German (U. C. Irvine) 
    • David Raubenheimer (U. Sydney) 
    Food processing is a common component of feeding across vertebrates but despite the broad phylogenetic diversity of organisms that process their food we have a restricted knowledge for organisms other than mammals about why food processing occurs. Even fundamental questions,
    including the neural control of rhythmic and cyclic processing movements and whether chewing improves nutritional uptake from the food once in the gut remain poorly understood. This topic session leverages the fact that the known diversity of vertebrates that engage in food processing provides an opportunity to evaluate relationships between mechanical, physiological, and behavioural principles across a broad range of feeding system designs. 



    • Tamzin Blewett (University of Alberta, Canada)
    • Tommy Norin (Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Denmark)
    • Trish Schulte (University of British Columbia, Canada) - Mechanisms of plasticity in tolerance to abiotic stressors in fish
    • Clare Stawski (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway) - Physiological and behavioural plasticity of Australian marsupials in a changing environment
    • Tobias Wang (Aarhus University, Denmark) - Phenotypic flexibility of digestive and cardiovascular function to intermittent feeding bouts in snakes and other vertebrates
    • Andrew Turko (University of Guelph, Canada) - Feedback among phenotypically plastic behavioural, physiological, and morphological traits in amphibious fish moving between water and land

    Embracing the overarching theme of ‘environmental fluctuation’, we encourage submissions from researchers working with species that naturally experience rapid fluctuations in environmental physicochemical parameters (e.g. temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, anthropogenic influences) or physiological state (e.g. binge feeders), such as animals living in intertidal zones, downstream of effluent inputs, or in environments with scarce nutrient resources. These species are among the most fascinating for the experimental biologist, as they must display significant physiological plasticity and/or behavioural adaptations in order to survive, grow, and reproduce. Consequently, the mechanisms by which they achieve homeostasis in light of these challenges can be studied for insight into the key processes in regulation of energy metabolism, acid-base balance, ionoregulation, and thermoregulation.

    Related sessions:

    Cell biology sessions


    • Katherine Sloman (University of West Scotland, UK)
    • Danielle McDonald (University of Miami-RSMAS, USA)
    • Katarina Medger (University of Pretoria, South Africa) -  Stress at a small scale: Non-invasive monitoring of glucocorticoids in African small mammals
    • Bob Wong (Monash University, Australia) - Sex on steroids: Widespread endocrine disruptor impairs mechanisms of sexual selection in fish 
    • Sarah Dalesman (Aberystwyth University, Wales) - Intraspecific variability in the response to predation threat: linking physiology, cognition and behavior
    • Katie Gilmour (University of Ottawa, Canada) - Physiological and behavioural responses to the social environment in fishes

    Animals have the ability to respond physiologically or behaviourally to their surroundings through communication via chemical messengers. The functions of chemical messengers range from communication between cells to between whole organisms, and depending on the compound, chemical messengers can travel distances from nanometers to kilometers to interact with their given receptor and elicit their response. Neurotransmitters, released by the presynaptic cell in response to electrical signals, diffuse across a narrow gap to interact with receptors on a postsynaptic cell. Paracrine factors travel further, yet still diffuse relatively short distances to influence cells in the local environment compared to hormones and neurohormones, which are specialized for long distance communication within an animal. For many animals, chemical messengers outside the animal convey information that signals social status, sexual readiness or alarm. The goal of this session is to focus on the broad topic of neural, endocrine and external communication, their role in physiology and behaviour and their potential sensitivity to environmental change.

    Related sessions:

    Cell biology sessions


    • Kimberley Bennett (Abertay University, UK)
    • Kelly Robinson (University of St Andrews, UK)
    • Holly Armstrong (University of Plymouth, UK) 

    The ability to manage energy balance appropriately in a fluctuating environment is fundamental for survival. Increasing evidence suggests anthropogenic contaminants can compromise the ability of orgamisms to regulate their energy balance, with potential negative consequences for population trajectories and biodiversity.  Many anthropogenic chemicals have established roles as toxins, and endocrine disruptors of reproductive and thyroid axes. More recent data implicate many such compounds as lipid disruptors. By altering adipogenesis, fat deposition, lipid profiles, adipose tissue function and hormone sensitivity, environmental contaminants may fundamentally alter energy requirements, storage and use.  Such effects may be subtle or challenging to identify in wildlife and therefore require novel experimental approaches. This session will explore evidence that environmental pollution impacts on energy balance regulation from the molecular to the organismal level across a range of taxa and habitats. This session will identify common pathways, highlight challenges and showcase novel experimental approaches to investigate such effects in wildlife that simultaneously experience additional stressors in a fluctuating environment.

    • Heli Routti (Norwegian Polar Institute, Norway)   
    • Kate Arnold (University of York, UK)
    • Alice Carravieri (CNRS, La Rochelle Université, France)
    Related sessions:

    Cell biology sessions 


    • Frank van Breukelen (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA)
    • Allyson Hindle (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA)

    This session will discuss mammals that survive and thrive in a fluctuating oxygen environment. In particular, it will focus on techniques to measure tolerance to episodic hypoxia at whole-animal through cellular and in vitro levels, focusing on both natural models and experimental methods. Episodic hypoxia is typically associated with a disruption of homeostasis, and can pose drastic challenges to non-adapted species. By using this environmental challenge to anchor the session, we will explore the power of comparative physiology to leverage a diversity of highly specialized phenotypes and  to compare and contrast adaptation, specialization and experimental approaches. 

    Related sessions:

    Cell biology sessions

    Big Data

    Automated animal tracking in behavioural studies

    • Stefano Marras (Italian National Research Council, Italy)
    • Shaun Killen (University of Glasgow, UK)
    • Iain Couzin (Max Planck Institute, Germany) - Employing Immersive Virtual Reality and Automated Behavioural Analysis to Reveal the Common Geometric Principles that Underlie Individual and Collective Decision-Making
    • Dora Biro (University of Oxford, UK) - TBC 
    • Stefania Melillo (The Institute of Complex Systems, CNR, Italy) - Emergence of spontaneous collective turns in natural flocks of starlings
    • Gregory Murray (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK) - Group and individual tracking; mosquitoes, modelling and mortality

    Animal behaviour is rich and complex, spanning from mating, foraging, fighting, and migrating. In its early days, this research area was investigated by classical field and laboratory studies involving visual inspection and hand-written documentation.. This session will highlight findings that have been revealed by novel means of tracking animal movements from video in the lab and field, and discuss challenges involved in high-resolution and/or multi-agent tracking and new tools to analyse large dataset generated by the computational approaches. 

    Putting animal biology in ecological context with advances in animal tracking and bio-logging

    • Shaun Killen (University of Glasgow, UK)
    • Barbara Koeck (University of Glasgow, UK) 
    • David Gremillet (CNRS - CEBC -La Rochelle University, France) - Big data approaches to the spatial ecology and conservation of marine megafauna
    • Christen Fleming (University of Maryland College Park, USA and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, USA) - Getting a handle on location error
    • Susanne Akesson (Lund University, Sweden) - Avian migration – Using biologging to learn when, how and why birds migrate

    Over the last several decades, animal tracking and bio-logging technologies have substantially improved our knowledge of animal ecology and ecophysiology, by allowing observations of animals ecologically relevant experiments or even in the wild. The continuous technological development of animal tracking and bio-logging devices is pushing the boundaries of information made available to scientist and generating new research opportunities. Advances in the spatio-temporal range and resolution of animal tracking allow researchers to investigate important mechanisms underlying animal movement including bioenergetics, cognition, learning, memory and social interactions that influence decision making in animals in response to their environment. In parallel, analytical tools are emerging to help deal with the large amounts of generated data and to make behavioural inferences from animal tracks and understand underlying environmental and physiological drivers. This session will highlight recent insights in movement ecology and ecophysiology made possible through advancements in biologging and tracking in natural or semi-natural systems, and discuss strategies for handling and analysing the enormous amounts of data produced by such systems. 

    Other Animal biology sessions 

    Open Animal Biology

    • Jack Thomson (University of Liverpool, UK)

    Open Biomechanics

    • Nicolai Konow (University of Massachusetts Lowell, USA) 




    • Oliver Tills (Plymouth University, UK)
    • Manuela Truebano Garcia (Plymouth University, UK) 
    • Anne Plessis
    • Melody Clark (British Antarctic Survey, UK) - Life in the slow lane   
    • Dietmar Kultz (UC Davis, USA) - Quantitative proteomics for holistic network analyses of environmental effects on complex organisms
    • Francesco Falciani (Institute of Integrative Biology,UK) - Multilevel functional genomics data integration as a tool for understanding eco-physiology   
    • Nicholas Smirnoff, Biosciences (University of Exeter, UK) - Using metabolomics to investigate plant stress responses.

    This session is focussed on the application of global omic approaches and their integration to understand ecophysiology. We will encourage the integration of research using plant and animal models. The session will appeal to members using a diverse range of methodological and technological approaches, from molecular to whole organism physiology. The unifying principle of the session will be a focus on the application of omic- approaches to understanding key physiological mechanisms and this will encompass a broad range of taxa. Research using -omics datasets present unique challenges relating to big data, analytical approaches and study design. The session will draw on the breadth of experience and research interests within the society and bring together researchers using large datasets, from molecular (genomics) to organismal (phenomics). 

    Related sessions:

    Cell biology sessions
    Plant biology sessions



    Workshop - Open electronics in experimental biology 

    Session organisers: 
    • Michael Oellermann (University of Tasmania)

    • Richelle Tanner (Washington State University)

    • Hannah Wilson (Utah State University, USA)
    • Diego Ortiz (Iowa State University, USA)
    • Jenny Molloy (University of Cambridge, UK)
    • Jolle Jolles (Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Germany)
    • Tobias Wenzel (EMBL Heidelberg,  Germany)
    • Rui Seabra

    The workshop, "Open Electronics in Experimental Biology", aims to bring together researchers and students from different disciplines to exchange innovative self-assembled electronical solutions and to inspire peers to implement DIY applications in their own research.

    Related session:
    SEB+ sessions