WORKSHOPS

Workshop I: A Roadmap to the De Novo Assembly of Mammalian Genomes

Instructors: Andreas Chavez and Stefan Prost

Whole-genome based analyses are becoming more important in biological research, be it in an evolutionary, medical, as well as in conservation biology. Genome assembly, usually the first step in genomic analyses, is a fast-developing area of research. The rapid growth in assembly approaches has also made it difficult to stay current with emerging approaches, especially for new researchers to the field. Furthermore, assemblies for mammalian taxa require special considerations both in lab preparation and bioinformatically. Our workshop is targeted for both researchers with either little or an advanced background knowledge of the topic. This workshop will function as a roadmap that will guide researchers from designing projects to a “final” genome assembly, with some brief discussions on downstream analyses. We will start with basics, such as lab preparation methods, different sequencing technologies, and how to decide on which sequencing platform to choose. Then we will outline the steps needed to process raw sequencing data, as well as the different assembly and assembly quality assessment methods. To make it more user-friendly, we will discuss popular tools applied in the different steps to help researchers to decide on which to use. We believe this workshop is timely for mammalogists that are interested in any kind of genomic application because the costs and ease of generating high-quality reference genomes has dropped dramatically in the past few years, while more and more biologists, not just geneticists, are generating genome-wide data that can be enhanced with good reference genomes. Organizers: Andreas Chavez and Stefan Prost.

 

Workshop II: Hackathon for the Mammal Diversity Database

Instructors: Connor Burgin, Jocelyn Colella, Philip Kahn, and Nathan S. Upham

The Mammal Diversity Database (MDD) is an updatable and online database of mammal taxonomic and biodiversity information hosted by ASM at http://mammaldiversity.org/. It was launched in Feb 2018 with the goal of providing the latest information on species-level and higher taxonomic changes to mammals, and thereby promote rigorous study of mammalian biodiversity worldwide. So far, this online database aims to aggregate, curate, and compile new citations on species descriptions and taxonomic revisions into regular releases that are downloadable in comma-delimited format. Downstream goals include expanded hosting of data on synonyms, type localities, link-outs to Mammalian Species accounts and Mammal Images Library photos, and greater interaction an online forum for discussing mammalian taxonomy. For the proposed ASM 2019 workshop, we aim to host a “hack-a-thon” in the spirit of gathering like-minded biodiversity nerds to help improve the content and interface of the MDD. We are pleased to invite Philip Kahn, our primary web developer on the MDD, to join us for this event to do some real-time hacking on the website. Our plan is to give short introductions to recent progress on the MDD, a tutorial on how to use the website, organize breakout groups for exploring different taxonomic areas of the website, and then hosting a back-and-forth discussion and web development session to improve the MDD. Organizers: Nathan S. Upham and Jocelyn Colella.

 

Workshop III: #SciComm: Developing Strategies for Effective & Trustworthy Communication

Instructors: Steven C. Amstrup, Katie Hinde, Roland Kays, Karen Mabry, and Rae Wynn-Grant

Scientific communication and public engagement are not new aspects of biological research; our work means little if we cannot engage and explain it to the general public. Scientists need to be effective communicators and articles and examples abound about the importance of scientific communication (see “Resources” below). A Google search of “Science Communication” results in large numbers of academic (undergraduate and graduate) programs, workshops, journal articles, etc. Everyone is on board with recognizing the importance of public engagement and scientific communication. But how can we actually succeed at communicating our research findings to the public? The variety of platforms scientists can use to engage the general public (e.g., social media such as blogs, Twitter, and Instagram; interviews, public talks, etc.) is overwhelming. Is there a best way to communicate our science? The goal of the workshop is the professional development of needed science communication skills; thus empowering ASM members to share their research to broad and diverse audiences, not just practitioners in related fields. Specifically, we will provide support and training to build communication tools that convey scientific concepts beyond disciplines and improve connection with a variety of audiences in public and professional interactions. Organizers: Jessica E. Light, Sean P. Maher, and Karen Munroe.

 

Workshop IV: 1-on-1 Mentoring Workshop – Networking for Success in Mammalogy

Instructors: Kayce Bell and Corey Welch

Using a student pre-conference questionnaire, we will match undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate students with individual Mammalogists (PhDs) to develop a strategic plan for their career goals. Selected applicants will get a skills assessment, advising, and develop a plan to reach their academic, research, and professional goals. This session could take place during a lunch break or in the early evening after talks for the day have ended. A selected group of 50-100 students will be matched by career interest with a ASM Mentor to participate in a modified Individualized Development Plan (IDP). Session goals are to: 1) deliver a hands-on, interactive progress assessment of students’ intended career goals and readiness, 2) a skills assessment to identify gaps in training, 3) strategic planning of short-term and long-term goals, and 4) have a broader understanding of the science career pathways. Organizers: Corey Welch and Kayce Bell.