Biosystematics, informatics and genomics of the big 4 insect groups: training tomorrow's researchers and entrepreneurs

BIG4 Spring Workshop in Vienna, 8-13 May 2017 - By Si-Pei Liu

After recent rise and domination of the phylogenomics and bioinformatics, the chance for charming morphology come-back to insect systematics has arrived! During the second week of May in beautiful Vienna, all BIG4 students and supervisors attended the 4th workshop "Morphology of invertebrates: 3D imaging and novel approaches for Biosystematics".
Morphological characters are the most visual monitors reflecting the evolutionary changes and organismal diversity. Combined with computer science, the current science of morphology demonstrates strong advances compared to the traditional tedious dissection and hand drawing. Energetic Dr. Brian Metscher from the University of Vienna gave a series of brilliant seminars for deep understanding of electronic imaging. Dr. Sergei Tarasov from the National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis at Knoxville, USA further explained how to deal with the famous Maddison "red tail" and "blue tail" problem using multiple Markov chains. Meanwhile Arn Rytter Jensen, a fresh graduate from the University of Copenhagen introduced many useful skills of scientific illustration with Adobe software. Finally Dr. Evgeny Yan from Phylogenetic Museum in Jena gave a short talk about the 3D fossil illustration based on 2D drawings. We also would like to thank Prof. Rolf Beutel, Dr. Gregory Edgecombe, Dr. Sarah Faulwetter, Prof. Lyubomir Penev, Prof. Andreas Wanninger, coming from various countries for their wonderful presentations on the first day showing how to observe, analyze and publish morphological result. The students practiced extant and fossil specimen 3D reconstruction with microCT and Amira/Drishti under the instruction of Dr. Brian Metscher and Dr. Sarah Faulwetter and were introduced to SEM, digital photography and computer illustration by Dr. Nesrine Akkari and Dr. Dap Topa in the museum. On Saturday morning, some students briefly presented their interesting results, such as 3D reconstruction of a rove beetle in the amber with strange blue color…
Of course the biggest "danke schön" goes to our sweet Dr. Nesrine Akkari and her student Anne-Sarah Ganske, who successfully organized this workshop in  the Natural History Museum Vienna, under the caring gaze of Maria Theresia, beside the "Blauen Donau".

More photos from the workshop can be found here.

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