This year marked the 25th International Congress of Entomology (ICE) meeting in Orlando, FL. It was the largest gathering of entomologists in the world, with over 6400 people and over 5300 talks!
The Deans lab headed south a few days early to catch the annual meeting of the Entomological Collections Network (ECN), which is devoted towards the advancement and improvement of entomological natural history collections. I saw some fascinating talks, including a talk by Elijah Talamas about Platygastroidea at the Smithsonian, and a talk by Beulah Garner about Lucy Evelyn Cheesman, a British entomologist who wrote popular science books about her travels and field experiences in order to fund her work. There was also an entertaining symposium about collecting trips gone wrong. Different researchers told stories about being chased by a bear, bitten by a venomous snake in a country with no functional hospitals, almost being arrested for drug residue in a suitcase bought at a garage sale, being held at gunpoint twice by the police in Mexico, and more (the ECN program booklet can be found here).
At ICE, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of people and the number of different talks going on at the same time. I went to talks about Hymenoptera systematics, next-generation sequencing, databasing and digitization, insect behavior, morphometrics, and more. I even sat in on an interesting talk about the use of insects as symbols in Japanese art and poetry, as well as an entertaining talk about the use of insects in videogames.
Even though there were over 5300 talks at ICE, there were only two talks that dealt with Conostigmus—my talk and Istvan’s talk. It really puts things in perspective and drives home that we are at the forefront of our field. However, I did manage to find some agricultural researchers that had experience rearing Dendrocerus carpenteri, and was able to get some good tips from them about starting my own colony of megaspilids.
I made a lot of great connections, and was also able to get a lot of helpful advice from others about primer design and PCR, which will help us in our upcoming DNA and PCR work. Overall, it was a very successful and eventful conference, and a memorable experience for my first ICE!