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CGS Professor Hosted Biennial Fishes Conference

Four-day event drew scientists, professors, and students from 17 countries

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Laura Le Vankhanh (CAS’09) (from left), Andrew Eng (CAS’07), Ja-Ho King (CAS’11), Maria Abate, and Robert "Will" Abdu (CAS’09) at the EEEF Conference earlier this year.

Last summer, the 2008 Ecological and Evolutionary Ethology of Fishes Biennial Conference was held at Boston University. Maria Abate, an assistant professor of natural science in the College of General Studies, hosted the four-day event, which drew students, alumni, professors, and scientists from 17 countries to discuss and present new research on the evolution, ecology, behavior, and conservation of fish.

Abate’s continuing research on cichlid behavior, particularly on parental care in Central American cichlid species, involves Team Cichlid, the undergraduate group helping with research on the fish species. They received some positive feedback at the conference and are now looking forward to building on their research.

“Right now the emphasis is really on the work on how odors and alarm substances, released when cichlids are attacked, influence cichlid development and behavior,” Abate says. “We’re looking at both morphology and physiology. Since parent cichlids often kidnap other parents’ offspring for various reasons, I also look at the odor and effect to see if the young can figure out where they are supposed to be once they’ve been kidnapped.”

Every two years, the EEEF conferenc focuses on varieties of both marine and freshwater fishes. Abate says the environment is very welcoming for students and gives both graduate and undergraduate students a chance to showcase their collaborations. At this year’s conference, four BU students presented their work on cichlids, New England fisheries, and fish bioacoustics as part of Team Cichlid: Laura Le Vankhanh (CAS’09), Andrew Eng (CAS’07), Ja-Ho King (CAS’11), and Robert "Will" Abdu (CAS’09).

The EEEF began with small meetings at Illinois State University in 1977 before becoming international. Since then it has held conferences all across the United States as well as in Canada and Iceland. The next EEEF Conference has been set for 2010, in Vancouver, British Columbia. For more information about Team Cichlid or the 2008 EEEF Conference, e-mail Abate at mabate@bu.edu or click here.

Davide Nardi can be reached at dnardi@bu.edu.

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