Lice

Nigel Hill (1961 – 2010)

I am sad to report that Nigel Hill, Medical Entomologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine died on the 5th January, 2010. The news is especially distressing given the recent death of Bob Dalgleish. Nigel worked on a wide range of insect pests including head lice. In particular, Nigel lead much of the recent research on the status of insecticide resistance in UK head louse populations. The news was passed on the me through Joanna Ibarra of Community Hygiene Concern who has written the following obituary which I copy here with her permission.

Robert Campbell Dalgleish (31 March 1940 - 7 December 2009)

It is with great sadness that I have to note the passing of my friend and colleague Bob Dalgleish, who died suddenly on December 7th in San Diego following one of his many travels. Bob was a central figure in the Phthiraptera (louse) research community, first and foremost as a taxonomist, but also as a leader and organiser or international efforts to promote research on lice and taxonomy. Bob (with Steve Barker) was central to restarting the regular International Congress on Phthiraptera (ICP), more fondly known to us as the louse meetings, and helped establish the International Society of Phthirapterists to which he was eventually elected President.

ICP4 Update

It’s Alive!

Although it is almost one year away, preparations for the Fourth International Congress on Phthiraptera (ICP4) in Turkey are well underway. I have been involved in organizing the last three meetings (ICP2 in Brisbane, Australia 2002, and ICP3 in Buenos Aires, Argentina 2006) but this has to be the most organized we have ever been. This is due to Kosta Mumcuoglu and the local organizing committee who have done such a great job of pulling the meeting together. Here are a few more details:

Marie Curie Fellowship Success - looking back at 2008, part 5

2008 was capped with news that I had been awarded an intra-European Marie Curie Fellowship with Jan Štefka, to work on the systematics of Galapagos mockingbird ectoparasites. Jan is a talented postdoctoral researcher at the University of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic, and with his family will be coming over to the UK later in 2009 to start on the project. The work is possible thanks to a fantastic collection of ectoparasite specimens collected by Paquita Hoeck and Lukas Keller at the Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich. We will be looking at the coevolution and biogeography of Galapagos mockingbirds lice and mites across the Galapagos archipelago, in search of common patterns of radiation with their mockingbird hosts. The full title and abstract of the project is given below:

Bad Blog

2008 was a pretty extraordinary year for me and some of the projects I have been working on. However, I have been very bad at documenting these events. Most of the time I can't even manage 140 characters in a Twitter post, let alone a proper blog post, despite the fact that I can now blog and Twitter away from my iPhone. In recompense I am going to make a few retrospective blog posts looking back at some of the major events that affected my work and me in 2008. This is partly to tell others about them, but is more for the self indulgent reason that I should keep a better record of what I have done, less I forget! Hopefully, this will help me keep one of my New Years resolutions - to become a better blogger.

Ebbe Nielsen Prize

Ebbe Nielson (1950-2001) was the director of the Australian National Insect Collection at CSIRO, and a leader in what was at the time, the emerging discipline of biodiversity informatics. In recognition of Ebbe Nielson's seminal role in the field of Biodiversity Informatics, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) in 2002 instigated the Ebbe Nielson prize. This award is given annually to "a promising researcher who is combining biosystematics and biological diversity informatics research that supports the objectives of GBIF in an exciting and novel way." For 2008, I was lucky enough to win the award! Needless to say am absolutely delighted. What follows is a gushing thank you to those who have helped contribute to me winning this prize! For those sensitive to such sentimentalism, look away now!

Update!

The past three months (June-August 08) have been extremely busy with conferences, travel and grant applications. Consequently I have been very slack with my recent blogging. In an effort to make recompense, here is a brief update on what I have been up to, and what is coming up. Over the next few days I'll try to expand on a few of these:

Myrsidea vincesmithi

Roger Price, Kevin Johnson and Bob Dalgleish have done me the honor of naming a second new louse species after me. This compliments Neopsittaconirmus vincesmithi (suborder Ischnocera), which was named after me late last year from Bourke's parrot (Neopsephotus bourkii).

Neopsittaconirmus vincesmithi

Two friends and colleagues (Kevin Johnson and Roger Price) recently described and named a new parrot louse species in my honour. The louse (Neopsittaconirmus vincesmithi) was described in a paper published in the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. This paper includes descriptions of two other species named after friends from the University of Utah (Sarah Bush and Dale Clayton). It is humbling to note that whatever I achieve for the rest of my career, my most enduring academic legacy may be this louse! My name (even if the species is subsequently synonymized) will be immortalized in the species description, along with the accompanying illustrations, specimens and metadata for perpetuity.

Laser Louse Labels

Cost-effective methods for creating durable labels are critical for the long-term preservation of biological specimens. Deterioration of specimen labels can render specimens scientifically valueless, and while the practice of writing labels with India Ink or pencil on cotton rag paper has stood the test of time, it is time-consuming and subject to human error.