Eoin reports from ICISB

Eoin Costelloe is a 2nd year PhD student at the Scottish Fish Immunology Research Centre at the University of Aberdeen and was awarded a grant by SAIC to attend the 4th International Conference on Integrative Salmonid Biology.

The ICISB conference was held in the impressive Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. The event took place from the 17th – 20th of November 2019, encompassing numerous topics at the forefront of salmonid science, taking perspectives from both academia and industry. Having just entered the 2nd year of my PhD at the Scottish Fish Immunology Research Centre at the University of Aberdeen, I submitted a poster abstract on functional studies of mucosal gill health in farmed Atlantic salmon. My poster presented research on the relationship between gross morphology (as scored by industry), histological scoring and gene expression of potential biomarkers in the gill. We show that the gross morphology scoring system for proliferative gill disease (PGD) does not represent the complexity of gill health, indicating further research in this area is required.

The conference commenced with a meet and greet reception on the evening prior to an action packed three days. Monday morning’s session on genome resources and evolution of salmonids was opened by Prof. Ben Koop from the University of Victoria who gave an excellent insight into the developments in salmonid genomics of the past few decades. Another highlight was a talk on the extent and significance of lineage-specific rediploidization after tetraploidization in salmonids by Manu Kumar Gundappa of the Roslin Institute. In the evening session, functional genomics and annotation we were treated to numerous good talks but a highlight for me was the presentation of highly efficient CRISPR/Cas9 knock-in Atlantic Salmon by Rolf Edvardsen, IMR, Norway, describing the potential of gene editing for the species.

Day two was a change of pace covering advances in precision breeding and environment, ecology and conservation. As all my research thus far has been involved with aquaculture it was interesting to see the work being carried out on wild populations. The talk, recolonization following dam removal: observations on genetic and life history variation in Oncorhynchus mykiss in the Elwha River stood out for me. This followed the observation of the species before, during and after a dam removal that had been in place for approx. 100 years showing how human influences can have such an impact on the environment but also the robustness of salmonids.

Wednesday included industrial perspectives, physiology, nutrition, immunology, disease and host-pathogen interactions. Many industrial companies were represented including AquaGen, MOWI, Benchmark and Cargill, all underlining the importance of salmonid aquaculture sustainability. As we expand our aquaculture industry globally the environment must be considered. Iain Berrill of Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation described the innovation of the industry to use a biological method for parasite eradication - cleaner fish - which may be the only primary industry to do so.

Researchers in Chile, Universidad de Concepcion examined non-coding RNAs which is an aspect I may be able to include in my future research. Until recently, these RNAs were considered “junk” RNA but are key players in pathogen responses.

In conclusion, the ICISB was an eye-opening experience and introduced me to stimulating science, potential collaborators and world leaders in the field of Salmonid biology.

Find out about SAIC travel grants