Mechanical Ecology at the 2022 SEB Conference – A full success!

Last week, the lab attended the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology in Montpellier, France. For most of us, it was the first in-person conference in over 2 years and we can safely say that we had a blast!

After a day of acclimatizing to the scorching temperatures and easing ourselves into the unfamiliar amount of socializing, it was time for the first poster session where Anne and Oona presented their posters.

Oona had already had some practice from the EuroEvoDevo in Naples four weeks earlier, so her presentation was a slick performance by now. Despite being placed on the outskirts of the poster area, her poster on the development of the Nepenthes pitcher trap rim attracted plenty of attention.

Anne showed her latest results on the mechanics underpinning the ‘springboard’ trapping mechanism in Nepenthes gracilis pitcher plants. Her beautiful poster and efforts put into making a flip-book video of the trap in action, and a 3D-printed replica for people to play with, was rewarded with a runner-up poster prize in the highly competitive General Biomechanics poster competition. Well done, Anne!

On Thursday, it was time for a full day of Mechanical Ecology talks in the session that Ulrike had organized together with Simon Poppinga from Darmstadt in Germany. The blended format worked really well, and we had a wonderful diversity of speakers from around the World, including all levels of experience from undergraduate students to full professors.  The session received plenty of praise from speakers and audience. Thanks to generous sponsorship from the Company of Biologists, JXB, BES and New Phytologist Trust, we were able to finish the day with a networking dinner and award prizes for the best student talks.

The overall winner was Lu-Yi Wang from University of Melbourne in Australia who impressed everyone with her brilliant and funny talk on the biomechanics and ecology of Australian flick beetles. Peter Rühr from University of Bonn in Germany came close second, presenting an innovative portable setup and analysis software for measuring insect bite forces in the field. We were particularly proud of Janine Drube from Bremen University of Applied Sciences who won the runner-up prize with her talk on the hail simulator that she developed as a visiting undergraduate student here in our lab in Bristol last winter!

Also on Thursday, Michal gave his talk on directional water transport on micro-patterned pitcher plant surfaces in the Bioinspiration and Biomimetics session. Luckily, his talk slot coincided with the only cancellation in the Mechanical Ecology session, so we could all rush over to see him speak!

After such a long abstinence from in-person networking, it was simply wonderful to hear all these interesting talks and meet so many old colleagues and friends. The week was rounded off with a delicious conference dinner in the open courtyard of the Museum Fabre. We’re already looking forward to SEB 2023 in Edinburgh!