Report from ICISB: Fiona Bakke, University of Aberdeen

Fiona Bakke is a PhD Researcher at the University of Aberdeen and recently attended the 4th International Conference on Integrative Salmonid Biology (ICISB) with funding from SAIC.

The theme of this year’s ICISB, held in Edinburgh in November 2019, was “Beyond the genome: taking leaps forward in salmonid biology”. This reflected the importance of the publication of the Atlantic salmon genome in 2016, which enabled rapid progress to be made in all aspects of research associated with the aquaculture industry. The conference brought together researchers from around the world to present and discuss their work in areas including salmonid physiology, immunology, feed development, prevention and treatment of disease, ecology, evolution and conservation. A number of presenters also focused on the implications of climate change for the industry.

My own work as a PhD researcher at the University of Aberdeen uses high-throughput proteomic technology to investigate inter-individual variation in vaccine responsiveness in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). This is done by measuring changes in the plasma proteome over the course of an immune response and is non-lethal, reducing the number of fish required to be sacrificed for research purposes. We rely heavily on salmonid genomic resources (rainbow trout: Swanson line) for the identification of proteins which may represent early markers of a robust post-immunisation response and which may inform future vaccine improvement and development. I was very happy to be able to present a poster detailing this research and to be able to discuss future directions with colleagues from across the industry.

Conference highlights

As someone who focuses on immunology, I was especially interested in the presentation by Dan Barreda, University of Alberta, who described the sophisticated thermoregulatory behaviour undertaken by fish to enhance their antimicrobial defences. Permitting farmed fish to migrate within the water column may represent a relatively cost-effective and non-intrusive means of hastening recovery time from certain pathogens. Another important immunology-related presentation was given by Laura Braden, AquaBounty, Canada, who applied a high-throughput proteomic approach to investigate host-parasite protein interactions (HPPIs) between Atlantic salmon and the salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis (Lsal).  Sea lice pose one of the greatest current threats to salmon farming, yet little is understood about these interactions, and this characterisation of the Lsal-salmon interactome will greatly inform future work in this area.

Lastly, it was very helpful indeed to hear from Yniv Palti, USDA Agricultural Research Service, about the forthcoming addition to the salmonid genomic resources of the rainbow trout Arlee line genome. While the 2017 Swanson line genome was much more complete than the previous genome, some regions remained undefined, and it is hoped that this new resource will resolve those issues.  In addition, since the Arlee line is of a different genetic background, a greater representation of the genetic diversity of the rainbow trout will become available.

This conference was both wide-ranging and extremely informative. As an early career researcher, I gained valuable knowledge about aspects of the aquaculture field of which I had no previous direct experience, which also gave my own work a new perspective. I was also able to strengthen previous professional relationships while building new ones, in both academia and industry.