This meeting attracts the international community of researchers using tunicates as model organisms for a broad range of studies, including cell and developmental biology, neurobiology and immunity, post-embryonic development and regeneration, genetics and genomics, ecology and evolution.
Tunicates are our closest living relatives and comprise thousands of species that roam the oceans worldwide. Tunicates provide unique advantages as model organisms: for cell and developmental biology, they display simple embryos with fixed lineages that allows chordate development to be studied with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution; for neurobiology, they possess an extremely simplified central nervous system containing only ~150 neurons, a fully characterized synaptome and simple swimming behavior; for immunity, colonial ascidians possess the only established allorecognition system outside of vertebrates; for evolution, the stereotyped early development of ascidians remained virtually unchanged in the face of over 450 million years of profound genome divergence, making them the best test-bed to study developmental systems drift; finally, tunicates are poised to provide important multidisciplinary insights into the impact of global environmental changes on marine communities. The above topics will be covered through approximately eight plenary sessions, two formal poster sessions, and two keynote lectures. A scientific committee representative of the diversity of the field has been defined and will be tasked with selecting abstracts for oral presentations, paying particular attention to appropriate representation of diverse groups, especially trainees. A round table discussion will be held in a town hall meeting format to discuss community-wide issue such as developing genomic resources (e.g. library of reagents for CRISPR/Cas9 or RNAi), defining guidelines and best practices for specific experiments and analyses, developing, distributing and maintaining experimental and database resources. Three social functions will further encourage informal interactions and foster creative discussions. As was the case in previous versions of the international meeting, we hope that the proceedings will be published either through a single meeting report and/or by partnering with a sponsoring published to produce a dedicated journal issue made up of several papers focused on tunicates.
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