Comparative Genomics of Non-Model Invertebrates

IGNITE's 4th Network Wide Training Event (online)

A report prepared by IGNITE student representatives
IGNITE just held its fourth Network Wide Training Event (NTE) from 1 to 4 February 2021. Virtual for the first time, the training was organised by Prof. Agostinho Antunes (B2-CIIMAR) and attended by all ESRs. With the goal to enhance academic knowledge and practical skills, the workshop included a hands-on scientific writing workshop, as well as lectures taught by project beneficiaries, one ESR and several external experts.

The first two days of the workshop kick-started with a scientific writing workshop, led by Dr. Johanna Havemann, a professional trainer in science communication and scientific writing. During the educational sessions, students received general advice regarding writing for a scientific publication. Divided into small groups, they collaborated on various topics and received feedback from the group on a sample piece of writing.
The afternoons of the first two days were dedicated to the topic of phylogenetics. On the first day, Prof. Max Telford (B11-UCL) taught a lecture on the systematic errors in phylogenetics, which was followed by a lecture on the genetics and microbiome of the model sponge Cynachyrella by Prof. Jose Lopez, from NOVA SE University and GIGA, as well as a member of IGNITE’s External Expert Advisory Board (EEAB). On the next afternoon, Prof. Gert Wörheide (B1-LMU) and Prof. Agostinho Antunes (B2-CIIMAR) presented “The comparative phylogenomics of non-bilaterian animals'' and “Evolutionary genomics & biotechnology”.
Along the same lines, the third day of the workshop was launched with two lectures on phylogenetics by Prof. Davide Pisani (B7-UoB) and Prof. Alexandros Stamatakis (B8-HITS). They presented “Model selection & phylogenetics” and “Molecular evolution & phylogenetics”, respectively, followed by a lecture by Prof. Detlev Arendt (B3-EMBL) on the evolutionary assembly of neuronal machinery. In the afternoon, Mariya Dimitrova (ESR-15) gave two presentations on the linking of biodiversity data and the publication of omics data in omics data papers. Closing this round of lectures, Prof. Grace McCormack (B6-NUIG) presented the evolution of haplosclerid sponges.
The final workshop day started with a lecture by Prof. John Hooper, an international authority on sponges (Phylum Porifera), about his research and career as a taxonomist. A Q&A session on phylogenetics was then led by Prof. Alexandros Stamatakis (B8-HITS), who had recorded and shared several lectures on the subject with IGNITE ESRs in September. After the session, Prof. Denis Tagu (B10-INRAE) and Dr. Anthony Bretaudeau from INRAE presented their project on citizen science for manual annotation of genomes. In the afternoon, Prof. Michael Schrödl (B9-SNSB-ZSM) gave a lecture on biogeography and Prof. Toni Gabaldón from CRG Centre for Genomic Regulation (also a member of IGNITE’s EEAB) lectured on comparative genomics. The workshop ended with a social team building session in which the workshop organizer gave a virtual video tour of the city of Porto – the workshop’s initially planned location.
The IGNITE ESRs received valuable training, especially in practical scientific writing skills and phylogenomics. Originally planned to take place in the spring of 2020, the NTE was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of which is reflected in the students’ evaluation. They recommend having the workshop at an earlier stage of the project, before having encountered first issues with authoring a paper.
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