'Concepts in Parasitology' at ANU Canberra and Kioloa Coastal Campus

18 December 2014

The Australian Society for Parasitology (ASP) course 'Concepts in Parasitology' took place at the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra and Kioloa Coastal Campus between 23 November and 6 December 2014.

The future of parasite research in Australia will be in safe hands as 16 young Australian scientists converged for an intensive 2-week workshop with world-leading biologists to study worms, protozoans, ticks, fleas, lice and more. The highly talented group of scientists investigated parasites that affect humans and animals and learned about the latest research developments. The different facets of parasitology ranged from molecules to ecosystems, from tiny single cells to worms several meters in lengths, from scientific theories to public health policies and from a sterile bench top to smelly entrails full of parasites. In addition the group discussed different aspects of professional life like the art of paper writing, public speaking and careers within and outside of academia. Last, but not least, a tight network amongst the participants was formed through frisbee matches at the beach, bon fires, trivia night, design of a parasite-themed board game and a visit to the Ulladulla High School to inspire the local community.

The course consisted of two parts: One took part at the high-tech laboratories at the ANU Campus in Canberra. Here vaccine and drug development, high-end microscopy techniques and physiological measurements were explored under the stewardship of the laboratories of Kevin Saliba (RSB), Ian Cockburn (JCSMR), Kiaran Kirk (RSB) and the team around Melanie Rug at the Center for Advanced Microscopy.

The second part took place at the ANU Coastal Campus in Kioloa. Surrounded by abundant wild-life, the participants had plenty of sampling opportunities. The collected parasites were then analysed in the laboratory in Kioloa. Over two dozen eminent parasitologists from all over Australia (including Giel van Dooren (RSB)), shared their knowledge and passion about parasites with the participants.

“Parasites are barometers for the health of any ecosystem and investment in the future generation of scientists who research and combat parasitic disease is essential,” said Alex Maier (ANU) who is convenor of the ASP Course.

“For most people parasites are just not on their radar – yet they pop up as head lice in our children, ticks and worms in our pets, we pick them up as diseases when travelling and they threaten our food security. They are all around us, but most of the time we don’t see them because they are the masters of camouflage,” he said. “Parasites are a part of everyone’s life; they also infect our iconic marsupial wildlife and the fish in our unique oceans and reefs, sometimes with devastating consequences,” Associate Professor Maier said.

This successful inaugural event will be repeated in November 2015.

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