NVG Meeting 2017

Annual NVG meeting 2017 AND PhD WORKSHOP

The 25th anniversary NVG meeting, organized by Mariska Kret, was held from Wednesday November 29st to Friday December 1st in conference hotel ‘Kontakt der Kontinenten’ in Soesterberg, The Netherlands.

Report from the yearly NVG Autumn Meeting 2017 – Soesterberg.

The autumn meeting, with 67 participants, was reasonably well visited. Just like with the previous meetings, the board of the NVG has tried to allow both senior and more junior researchers to present their research in 2017. Besides the general meeting, a new generation scientists went into discussion with each other and senior scientists during the annual PhD workshop (see below for a report), which had “The use of computer-assisted quantification of behaviour in behavioural Biology” as this year’s theme. Another choice was, in contrary to other years, to group the presentations into themes. Due to the different topics, the meeting therefore had some more structure, but was, at the same time, very diverse and entertaining. On the Wednesday evening, Ben Sheldon (University of Oxford) gave a very well well-thought out Brill-Baerends Lecture. The 25th Anniversary Lecture was featuring Katie Slocombe (University of York). Other invited speakers were Jeff Podos (UMassAmherst), Camilla Hinde (Wageningen University), Carsten de Dreu (Leiden University), Andrew Straw (University of Freiburg) and Tristam Wyatt (Kellog College). 

Najaarsbijeenkomst 2017 – Soesterberg.

De najaarsbijeenkomst van 29 november tot 1 december 2017, georganiseerd door Mariska Kret, vond wederom in Soesterberg plaats, en was met 67 deelnemers redelijk goed bezocht. Zoals bij eerdere najaarsbijeenkomsten heeft het bestuur getracht om ook in 2017 zowel senior onderzoekers als jonge onderzoekers de gelegenheid te geven om hun onderzoek te presenteren. Daarnaast is tijdens de PhD workshop voorafgaand aan het congres aandacht besteed aan “The use of computer-assisted quantification of behaviour in behavioural Biology” en ging de nieuwe generatie onderzoekers onderling en met senior onderzoekers in discussie. Een andere keuze was om in tegenstelling to vorig jaar de verhalen op onderwerp te groeperen. Door de verschillende sessies had het programma meer structuur maar was toch voldoende afwisselend. De Brill Baerends lecture werd op doordachte wijze verzorgd door Ben Sheldon (University of Oxford). De 25th anniversary lecture werd verzorgd door Katie Slocombe (University of York). Andere genodigde sprekers waren Jeff Podos (UMassAmherst), Camilla Hinde (Wageningen University), Carsten de Dreu (Leiden University), Andrew Straw (University of Freiburg) en Tristam Wyatt (Kellog College). 

Report from the NVG 2017 PhD workshop of December 29th – The use of computer-assisted quantification of behaviour in Behavioural Biology .

The PhD workshop was organized by Jean-Christophe Billeter, associate professor in Neurogenetics at the University of Groningen, and consisted of the following sections; (1) a Master class by Andrew Straw, (2) Presentations by PhDs, and (3) a more general discussion about academia and technology.

The Master class of the current year was given by Andrew Straw. Andrew is a Professor of neuro-circuitry and behaviour at the Institute of Biology at Freiburg University, Germany. Andrew is an enticing speaker who appealed to us as he is a biologist at heart that encountered computational sciences later in life.Andrew showed us how he 3D-tracks Drosophila melanogaster to see how they react to visual stimuli. He places the flies in a virtual arena, where they perceive a non-existing pillar and the flies actually evade the virtual pillar! For real-time tracking, and to predict where the pillar needs to be projected, the path of a flies needs to be calculated with predictive mathematics.

In order to predict the future path of a travelling object (not necessarily a fly, as it is also used in rocketry), one can use Bayes’ theorem. This theorem describes the probability of an event based on prior knowledge, and therefor more accurately measures the true path of an object. In object tracking, prior knowledge consists of real-time observed locations. As these are subject to noise, they do not accurately reflect the path of an object. In order to correct aforementioned noise, Kalman filtering is used. Hereafter, Andrew referred to his work with Python and suggested all of us to learn a computer language, as this provides you with skills useful in many different career paths.

PhDs shared their current work with the group, with the topic of computer-assistance in mind. This was a great opportunity as they were able to get insightful comments from Andrew. The invited speakers were (1) Tiphaine Bailly (Group size determines oviposition behaviour in Drosophila melanogaster), (2) Estefania Velilla (the effect of environmental species interactions), (3) Astrid Rox (How monkeys interact with strangers), (4) Meike Zemihn (Language in common marmosets), and (5) Annebelle Kok (Call propagation in foraging pilot whales). While the data collected in these studies varied widely, they could all be analysed using Bayes’ theorem as discussed by Andrew Straw.

Lastly, Jean-Christophe led a general discussion about a variety of topics, ranging from social life in academia to parental leave and transparency in science. With respect to the transparency, the opinions ranged from total transparency to a complete lack thereof. A vivid discussion followed.Personal issues related to the academic world were discussed and the group provided to be quite understanding and helpful. Andrew and Jean-Christophe provided advise based on their own experiences. We further discussed an apparent paradox in the scientific community, where the probability of getting a job is low but there is a common misconception that leaving science is seen as a failure.

In conclusion, the workshop was very useful and was a great start of the NVG conference. We encourage all to attend the PhD workshop next year!

Written by Yoran Gerritsma, PhD at the University of Groningen & Jeroen Alkema, PhD at the University of Wageningen.