Without insects pollinating plants and trees, which we use for food and construction, most of the terrestrial life forms would disappear. Insects are also the most successful animals on planet Earth, not only in biomass but also in the number of species with estimates as high as 30 Million (compared to about 42,000 species of vertebrates). On the other hand, some insects can cause devastating destruction of forests and crops, and insects feeding on the blood of birds and mammals are known to transmit dreadful diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis, West Nile disease, filariasis, lyme disease, leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, typhus fever, and the plague.
The evolutionary success of insects stems in part from their functional diversity. For example, insects have developed extraordinary mechanisms for handling water problems with great alacrity. Insects inhabiting arid environments have developed rather water-impermeable armor, insects inhabiting saline waters raise the salt content of their blood to prevent water loss, insects inhabiting fresh water produce large quantities of dilute urine, and mosquitoes gorging on blood have powerful mechanisms for getting rid of unwanted salt and water.
At the 2011 meeting of the Society of Experimental Biology in Glasgow, Scotland, the evolutionary success of insects will be examined from the perspective of water balance. Of particular interest will be mechanisms in 1) the intestine, where water is taken up, and 2) the kidneys and salivary glands, where water is eliminated. Central to water transport is the transport of diverse solutes by so-called ion pumps and ion-dependent carriers. Since differences between animals disappear as one proceeds to study progressively smaller parts, the fourth and final oral session will introduce new transport systems discovered in vertebrate tissues with the aim of stimulating the discovery of counterparts in insects. Thus, the primary purpose of the SEB meeting is to enhance our research and teaching. The second aim of the scientific sessions is to give junior scientists from undergraduate to assistant professor the floor in four oral sessions and to allow senior scientists to present new work in two poster sessions. Speakers will reflect the increasing presence of women scientists and underrepresented scientists. One scientific session will be dedicated to William Harvey, now 83, who can look back on a productive career in his study of transport phenomena in insects. Other role models to speak in oral sessions are Sylvie Breton (Harvard Medical School), and Shireen Davies (University of Glasgow).
Life is a gift, as is oxygen and water. Less obvious is the gift of insects. Without insects pollinating plants and trees – which we use for food and construction – most terrestrial life forms would disappear. Insects can also cause devastating destruction of forests and crops, and insects feeding on the blood of birds and mammals can transmit dreadful diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and at least 10 more dreadful diseases. Because molecular biology reaches the deepest levels for understanding function and dysfunction, molecular mechanisms may help us help beneficial insects and control harmful insects. To review the most recent and promising advances in our understanding of insect life, the organizers of this NSF supported symposium held a 4 day symposium in Glasgow, Scotland, from July1 to July 4, 2011, and an additional satellite symposium in view of the large attendance. The purpose of this symposium was twofold: 1) to review recent insights into the molecular physiology of insects as a way of inspiring even better work in basic and applied insect science, and 2) to give junior scientists from undergraduate to assistant professor the floor in four oral sessions and to allow senior scientists to present their work in two poster sessions. The symposium proposal was submitted by the organizers, themselves seniors and established in the field: Beyenbach (Cornell University, USA), Dow (Glasgow University, Scotland), and Wieczorek (University of Osnabrueck, Germany). The Society for Experimental Biology (SEB, England) offered its 2011 Annual Meeting in Glasgow for the symposium. The National Science Foundation also supported our proposal, in part for the emphasis on nurturing the next generation of scientists. Virtually every invited insect scientist accepted and came to the meeting in Glasgow. The international group of symposium speakers reflected the increasing presence of women scientists and underrepresented scientists. More than 60 scientists from around the world attended the symposium and presented work. Our symposium attracted the largest attendance in the scientific sessions of SEB 2011. SEB allowed four scientific sessions for oral presentations and one poster session. These sessions heard the best contemporary scientific work on two broad topics 1) The Molecular Physiology of Epithelial Transport in Insects and 2) New Transport Systems in Vertebrate Tissues. One oral session was dedicated to pay tribute to Prof. William R. Harvey (Whitney Laboratory) who at age 84 - still active in research - can look back on a productive career figuring out solute transport in insect epithelia. Other role models were Sylvie Breton (Harvard Medical School) who uses molecular approaches to figure out classical physiological problems, and Shireen Davies (Glasgow University) who dove into the complexity of intracellular signaling networks. In view of the enthusiasm and the large attendance of the symposium, one of the organizers of this symposium (Dow, Glasgow University) hosted an additional scientific session at Glasgow University on Sunday morning, July 5, 2011. When the symposium concluded, many expressed the wish for another symposium of this kind in 2 or 3 years. The science of our symposium ranged from the evolutionary success of insects, to the environmental physiology, epithelial transport systems, nutrient transport, hormonal regulation of secretory activity, the cloning of insect transporters, and the molecular physiology of the V-ATPase. There was useful information for researcher and teacher alike. Accordingly, the symposium enhanced research and teaching. The most noteworthy presentations of the symposium were invited to contribute to a special edition of the Journal of Insect Physiology. This issue is now in press: Vol. 58, Issue 4, 2012. Consistent with nurturing the next generation of scientists, the editors are junior scientists, E.M. Blumenthal (Marquette University) and Peter Piermarini (Ohio State University).