Ecology meets immunology at the biggest insect conference in the world

In late September, as the UK was enjoying the last vestiges of summer I was lucky enough to head to Orlando in Florida where the 25th International Congress of Entomology was being held under the banner of “Entomology without borders”. This year, Orlando welcomed over 7000 delegates working in all areas of entomology; the largest gathering of entomologists at any one time – as far as we know! I first attended this enormous event, held every 4 years, as a young PhD student in 2000, in the beautiful city of Iguassu Falls in southern Brazil. I have been able to attend 3 of the 4 subsequent meetings, and co-hosted a session on Ecological immunology of Insects in each one, first in Brisbane, Australia (2004), then in Durban, South Africa (2008), and finally in Orlando. Much as I would like to have a clean sweep, maternity leave put paid to my plans to attend the 2012 meeting in Seoul, South Korea.

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The number of hits for the terms “ecological immunology” or “eco-immunology” in Web of Science from 2000 to 2015. The red dots represent the percentage of papers with the word “ecology” that also used the word “immunology”.

Ecological immunology aims to understand how ecological pressures have shaped the evolution and expression of the immune system.  In 2000, this was a very new concept that was just gaining ground in the ecological literature. Over the last 16 years this has grown into an established field. A quick search on Web of Science for the terms “Ecological immunology” or “Eco-immunology” shows a steady increase in publications over time. Of course, this does not find all of the papers in the field of eco-immunology, just those that specifically use that term, but it is indicative of how the field has rapidly grown. Continue reading