Sea Stars Around The World

Well, Spring has finally sprung in Ithaca (even though it sprang months ago elsewhere…), which means that Cornell’s teaching semester is over, and Ian has more time to update this blog. It’s been a busy one – in addition to Ian teaching two classes (a class in Biological Oceanography – see the last post – and a class in Virology), the team has also been busy in the lab, working on cruise samples, going down some new avenues of investigation, following reports of SSWD coming in from the Pacific Coast (or lack thereof…), and making plans for what promises to be a very busy summer.

Elliot traveled to the Puget Sound region, where he is currently surveying echinoderm larvae at several locations – but there appears to be a lack of larvae! Not quite unexpected, since they are often rare in nearshore plankton tows, but we had expected to see a few as the Spring progressed. He’s also collecting several specimens for more live experiments planned for the summer, whereby naive stars will be challenged with viruses from the disease outbreak, and then various measurements of their microbiome composition and host responses made. The packages are currently with Fedex, let’s hope we have more success than we had last September with our failed expedition to retrieve Aleutian sea stars!

Meanwhile, Ian has been busy working on a new avenue of pathogen investigation that was highlighted by recent discoveries made elsewhere. Part of the difficulty in performing any genomics-based analysis is that you really only see what’s been seen before (or you’re looking for), and when what’s been seen before is ever-advancing there is always a potential to see something new in old data. That is where we are at now. The team will be investigating a couple of new avenues over the summer, so keep your eyes peeled as preliminary data is quite promising.The lab will be out around the country and the world in coming months to further investigation of the wasting disease.Ian will be traveling in early June to China, where he’ll work with Qiang Xu, a scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao, on potential disease affecting sea stars in the PRC. Following a brief visit to Australia to follow up on work done in December, he’ll head to Bergen, Norway to be an “opponent” at a Norwegian PhD defense, before heading to Ajaccio, Corsica, France for the 2016 International Parvovirus Workshop. In July, Ian will travel to the UK to participate in the 2016 Aquatic Virus Workshop in Plymouth, UK, where he will discuss recent results from genomic investigations. In early August, Ian, Elliot and Kalia will participation in the Wildlife Disease Association Annual Meeting in Ithaca, then in late August Elliot and Kalia will go to the International Symposium for Microbial Ecology in Montreal. Finally, Ian and Elliot will go to the European Echinoderm Workshop in Gdansk in September. So we will be communicating new and exciting information about SSWD and its Microbial Ecology very broadly!

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