The COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge parasitology research, with access to laboratories and field work limited by the social distancing and lockdown and in particular for early-career researchers (ECRs). Following the postponement of the face-to-face 2020 ISFPX & ASP Annual Conference the ASP organised an online conference ‘Parasitravaganza 2020’ on July 30-31 for ECRs to present their research and participate in career-focused workshops. The organising committee consisted of five PhD students, two senior researchers and the ASP secretary. The team initially thought this would be an online event for Australian-based scientists, however, the online conference and facilitated a wider and more inclusive opportunity for ECRs from around the world.
Day one of 2020 Parasitravaganza featured Career Development Workshops and a Panel Discussion; The impact of COVID-19 on the research workforce by Inger Mewburn (The Australian National University), How to publish your paper by Una Ryan (Murdoch University) and Brian Cooke (James Cook University), and Science communication by Alice Motion (The University of Sydney). The day ended with a career panel discussion with Krystal Evans (GSK Australia), Andrew Wilks (SYNthesis Med Chem) and Rebecca Traub (The University of Melbourne and The Tropical Council for Companion Animal Parasites) about “life beyond and alongside academia” and pursuing jobs and collaborative projects outside of the traditional university sector. Samantha Emery (WEHI) ran a fun quiz night for parasitologists at the conclusion of the day.
Day two of 2020 Parasitravaganza featured two invited speakers; Dr Cameron Raw (The University of Melbourne) presenting his research and insights into the community-based One Health approach focusing on the intersection of dogs, parasites and zoonoses in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and Elena Gómez-Díaz (The Institute of Parasitology and Biomedicine Lopez-Neyra, Spain) who spoke about Gender equity in research. The rest of the Day two program consisted of scientific presentations by ECRs in both oral and ePoster formats, representing diverse topics in parasitology. There were 80 abstracts submitted; of these 31 delegates were offered an oral presentation 7 long talks (15 mins) and 24 X 3-minute speed talks and 49 delegates were offered an online poster available on the ASP website during and after the conference. Check out the 36 awesome E-posters on display on the ASP website. https://www.parasite.org.au/conferences/parasitravaganza/posters-1-6/
The response to this inaugural ASP Online conference was phenomenal; 450 delegates registered and 349 indicated they wanted to attend the ECR and student career development events on 30th July 2020. The team expected to see a significant difference between the number of people who register and who actually attended the online conference but the actual delegate numbers were slightly higher than anticipated (Day one 34% and Day two 39% of people who registered attending) with an excellent retention rate and a drop in viewers only occurred with the Thursday evening social event.
Congratulations to the winners of the ASP ECR Prizes for 2020 Parasitravaganza!
Best long talk
Samantha Nixon (The University of Queensland) “Drug discovery: using spider venoms against human and veterinary parasites” was the winner of the Parasitravaganza Best Long Talk Award.
Runner-up: Samantha Emery-Corbin (WEHI) “Eukaryote-conserved histone post-translational modification landscape in Giardia duodenalis revealed by mass spectrometry”.
Best speed talk
Benjamin Liffner (The University of Adelaide) “Identification of Plasmodium falciparum merozoite proteins essential for rhoptry secretion” won the Best Speed Talk Award.
Runner-up: Liana Theodoridis (La Trobe University) “Novel 3D compounds to fight malaria in a time of drug resistance”
Sanduni Hapuarachchi (The Australian National University) “A transporter critical for Toxoplasma gondii invasion” won the People’s Choice Award.
Runner-up: Merryn Fraser (ANU) “Of Monocytes and Malaria: Membrane asymmetry in Plasmodium-infected RBCs and its effect on phagocytic recognition”
Thorey Jonsdottir (Burnet Institute) “Identifying the key players of the P. falciparum exportome” won the Best Poster Award.
Runner-up: Mikha Gabriela (Burnet Institute) “How does malaria parasite control the trafficking of effector proteins outside its cell?”
2020 Parasitravaganza was the first virtual conference hosted by the Australian Society for Parasitology; it gave early career researchers and students in parasitology a focus to present their research in 2020 and participate in career development workshops. Being a virtual meeting meant it was very inclusive and allowed some delegates to participate who would not have been able to travel to attend a face-to-face conference. 2020 Parasitravaganza has opened the door for future online events hosted by the ASP but it has also highlighted the aspects of face-to-face conferencing that were missed by delegates and how these might be incorporated into future online events.
Congratulations to the members of the Conference Organising committee:
Coralie Boulet (La Trobe University); Siobhon Egan (Murdoch University); Lisa Jones (James Cook University); Thorey Jonsdottir (Burnet Institute and the University of Melbourne); Michelle Power (Macquarie University); Stuart Ralph (The University of Melbourne); Lily Tran (La Trobe University); Mae White (Flinders University).
For the full Trends in Parasitology Article see https://www.cell.com/trends/parasitology/fulltext/S1471-4922(20)30252-X
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