TIPS Pre-Conference Tours

Yesterday evening after more than 9 hours in various forms of transit plus a 3.5 hour layover in Toronto, I arrived in beautiful Sault Ste. Marie for the Terrestrial Invasive Plant Species (TIPS) conference.

Near Sault Ste Marie

The flight from Toronto to Sault Ste. Marie was in the smallest plane I’ve ever embarked upon before. I boarded from the ground! I was thoroughly entertained.

Boarding from the ground

Today was the unofficial first day, consisting of registration, two guided tours, and the welcome reception.

The first tour was to Whitefish Island where Sue Meades of the Northern Ontario Plant Database pointed out a number of native and invasive plants while enriching the material with stories about the land and it’s history. The most shocking to me was the number and intrusiveness of the invasive honeysuckle shrubs that lined the path.

Invasive honeysuckle

The second tour was at the Ontario Forest Research Institute. Unfortunately I was a bit late for this tour, but I did get to hear about some really really cool research that is being done with butternut and beech pathogens.

Cultured butternut pathogen and an example of the "canker" is causes.

The butternut problem is fascinating because butternut trees are endangered and protected, but they easily hybridize with similar species, so it’s unclear when people are and are not allowed to remove infected trees (for research or otherwise).

Cultured beech pathogen

I found the beech pathogen research especially tantalizing because trees only seem to become infected with the pathogen after a particular scale insect infects it first. The infection can only get into the tree through the tiny injuries caused by the insect puncturing the bark to suck from the phloem. Trees that have not been infested with the scale insect cannot contract the pathogen, but infection is not simultaneous or even in quick succession. Some trees go many years before contracting the pathogen!

Needless to say it was an exciting day. We wrapped it up with the welcome reception at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre where I learned about the history of bushplanes and their importance to the Canadian north, women in aviation (like most things with the title “women in _______” this made me feel conflicting feelings of pride, frustration, and sadness), and Roberta Bondar (who was from Sault Ste Marie!).

Tomorrow the schedule goes well into the evening with the poster session (where I will be presenting some of my M.Sc. thesis work) and the banquet. I’ll be live tweeting the cooler things I hear during the talks throughout the day, and I’ll do a conference wrap-up on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

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