Week 3 of Ian’s world odyssey saw Ian depart Norway early morning on the 18th for the trip down to Ajaccio, Corsica (France). Corsica is one of the most difficult places to fly to in Europe thanks to French laws that see most flights leaving from secondary airports (like Paris Orly). Making the trip more circuitous was the fact that France is hosting the Euro 2016 Football Tournament, which means anywhere even close to a match is incredibly expensive to transit. However, Ian managed a good deal which saw him fly first to Amsterdam, then to Strasbourg (a tiny airport in far eastern France) and then onto Ajaccio from there.
3 flights and some spectacular European scenery heading south…
Arriving just after midday on the 18th, Ian took the opportunity for a nap before heading out on a trip to see the local environs. Ajaccio (pronounced A-jack-sio) is a town of about 70,000 people located in the department of Corse-Sud. Corsica itself was a separate country for 15 years in the 1700s, and Ajaccio was its capital. It’s also the birthplace of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte, and there are references to him everywhere! The town is stunning – 17th century facaes, an old fort, ancient seawalls and stunning beaches. English is quite scant, so Ian had an opportunity to practice his french from high school. It’s clearly been quite a long time since high school…
Ajaccio is literally full of old sites – quite a compact city.
On the morning of the 19th, Ian decided to check out some of the local habitats and look for echinoderms. It didn’t take long. On the beaches are posted placards warning tourists to beware of urchins – and looking down from the seawall, there were literally millions of black urchins around the rocks.
Even at the hypermarche, they had quite a few gigantic Archaster typicus (or something like them) on display for decoration. There are clearly many echinoderms in the area, but otherwise the water is exceptionally oligotrophic.
On the evening of the 19th the XIIth International Parvovirus Workshop kicked off with a mixer to introduce attendees. Ian had never before been to a virology-centric conference, and was not familiar with the parvovirus community, so it was an exceptional opportunity to meet new potential collaborators.Why was Ian at this meeting? The sea star associated densovirus is a member of the Parvoviridae, so Ian was invited to talk since SSaDV’s discovery essentially extends the known host range of the group. Also quite exciting since parvoviruses aren’t typically seen in association with wide scale animal mortality. The attendees represented the world’s experts in parvoviruses (minus Colin Parrish, who was at another meeting!). For example, Mylene Ogliastro, the organizer of the workshop, is one of the world’s experts on insect densoviruses and works locally on biocontrol of pests. Peter Tijssen (Laval) is the world’s expert on densovirus biology. But this conference also included mostly folks working on mammalian parvoviruses, including Adeno-associated virus, which is a promising gene therapy vector. At the mixer, Ian met Shaun Bochow, who is a recent graduate from James Cook University and discovered a densovirus very similar to SSaDV which infects decapods in Australia.
The following morning, Ian gave an overview talk on the SSaDV investigation, which covered some new data on fine resolution distribution of SSaDV in association with disease signs. It was well received and Ian had quite a bit of cool feedback from the other investigators.
In fact, even though the talks over the next two days were focusing on mostly mammalian viruses, Ian generated several exciting and interesting ideas about how to tackle pathology of SSaDV and its transmission. The finding of a virus so similar to SSaDV in a geographically distant place and completely different, but connected, biome has given Ian some ideas about the origin of SSaDV and how it may affect animals. Ian also has some new ideas about how to go about pathology studies, and why attempts to transmit the virus are often unsuccessful. More about these soon!
After 3 days of talks and interactions, the conference had a tour of the Iles Sanguinaires, north of Ajaccio, by boat at sunset. An excellent way to cap off an awesome meeting. On the way out to the islands, the boat passed by intensive mariculture which is an adaptation of technology used for centuries.
Mariculture enclosures used for dorado
Well, after 3.5 weeks, Ian is quite tired and looking forward to returning to central NY. Wednesday evening, he flew from Corsica to Switzerland to London, where he currently awaits a flight across the pond. He’ll be back in the lab on Monday for a couple of weeks before the next great adventure – back over the pond to the Aquatic Virus Workshop in the UK. In the meantime, Mitch and Elliot have been pumping out exciting new results which will hopefully be shared soon.