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National zoology conference at UTSC a great success

POSTER SESSION: More than 300 zoologists with expertise in a wide range of species -- everything from fish to bears to mice -- visited U of T Scarborough for a conference. For more photos, click on the link within the story. (All photos by Ken Jones.)

by Mary Ann Gratton

Zoologists from across Canada came together for a week recently to the University of Toronto Scarborough, where they participated in the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Zoologists, held for the first time at any University of Toronto campus. To view more photos from the conference, click here.

A total of 375 zoologists travelled to the campus from every Canadian province -- as far away as Vancouver and St. John’s – along with American zoologists and presenters from about 20 U.S. states. Scientific presentations including plenary lectures, workshops, symposia, contributed paper sessions and a poster session were all on the agenda from May 12 to 16.

The Canadian Society of Zoologists (CSZ) is dedicated to the study of animals and their environment, and is organized into four sections: (1) Comparative physiology and biochemistry; (2) Ethology (animal behaviour), evolution and ecology; (3) Parasitology; and (4) Comparative morphology (dealing with the form and structure of organisms) and development.

The conference included social events as well as awards presentations to esteemed scholars, and a full roster of scientific research. Some program topics covered were: Toxicology; Endocrinology; Respiration; Neurophysiology; Morphology; Development; Evolutionary Ecology; Water/Ion Balance; Metabolism; Thermoregulation; Cardiovascular Physiology; Behavioral Ecology; Immunology, Culture and Control; and Parasites in Aquatic Systems.

A wide variety of species -- from fish to whales, from mice to bears, turtles to toads, squirrels, fruit flies, spiders and many other life forms – was the focus of discussions at the society’s 48th annual meeting. Many participants described the event as outstanding, setting a new standard for conference organization and excellence.

“We’ve heard nothing but glowing comments from both internal and external participants,” said Professor Greg Vanlerberghe, Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. “Numerous people said that the scientific program was excellent and that UTSC is a first-rate conference venue. Professor Stephen Reid led the organizing committee and helped to ensure that this was one of the most successful scientific proceedings ever held on our campus.”

The event was the largest academic conference ever to be held at the Scarborough campus, Reid added. “It was also the largest ever meeting of the Canadian Society of Zoologists, and we’ve had so much positive feedback that we’re very pleased everything went so well,” he said.

Principal Franco Vaccarino and Professor Vanlerberghe welcomed the group. Among the hundreds of attendees were U of T Scarborough faculty, including Professors Maydianne Andrade, Rudy Boonstra, Ian Brown, Rene Harrison, Nathan Lovejoy, Andrew Mason and Stephen Reid. Along with faculty members were graduate students and other staff members who supported and helped keep the events running smoothly.

Organizing committee members were: Professor Reid; Jack Martin, Wynona Bardgett and Sylvia Dalchand, all of Conference Services; Jeffrey Stoltz, graduate student representative; Professor Maydianne Andrade, who led the Host Symposium; and Rudy Boonstra, who led the ZET (Zoological Education Trust) lecture, a free public lecture that featured Professor Jay Malcolm of the University of Toronto’s Department of Forestry. Malcolm spoke on the topic of “Climate Change in Canada’s Ecosystems: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

The event significantly enhanced the research profile of the campus, said UTSC Professor Ian Brown. He noted that a senior official from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC), the body that funds national science research, was on hand for the duration of the conference and had the opportunity to witness how federal grant money is expended on research projects and facilities. Brown led a tour of UTSC’s Centre for the Neurobiology of Stress, which was initially formed with the support of a federal Canada Foundation for Innovations (CFI) infrastructure grant, along with a provincial Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) grant.

“This event provides a lot of benefits for our campus,” said Brown. “For example, several new contacts were made between UTSC faculty members and new potential graduate students and postdocs. Many CSZ attendees commented on how great our location is for academic conferences. They also said that the food arrangements, residence accommodations and overall environment were far better than most conferences they had attended. At the final banquet on Friday night, virtually every chair at every table was filled.”

The self-contained nature of the campus made for a lot of collegiality among participants, Brown added. “Many people came to the evening events, so this was not just a 9-to-5 conference, which can sometimes happen in a downtown setting,” he said. “Having everyone here in the same place and staying around for the evening meant a lot more interaction between delegates. That gave everyone more time to network, and socializing after hours with peers makes for a more rewarding and memorable conference for everyone involved.”

“Everyone in your group did a fantastic job of organizing every aspect so well,” said Susan Marsh-Rollo of McMaster University. “The facility itself was a fantastic conference setting. I had no idea the Scarborough campus was so lovely!”

Todd Gillis of the University of Guelph echoed those remarks. “You have definitely set a high standard for anyone considering organizing this meeting in the future,” he said. “Great job organizing the meeting. Congratulations again.”

“This meeting was the largest and most important academic conference ever held at U of T Scarborough,” added Jack Martin, Director of Conference Services at UTSC. “The organizer, planning committee, society executive committee and all delegates were extremely pleased with our campus, its people and all the services provided. I couldn't be more pleased.”

To visit the conference web site, click here.

© University of Toronto Scarborough