Prof. Robert Poulin – Zoology Department, University of Otago, New Zealand

Originally from Montreal, Canada, Robert obtained a BSc from McGill University and a PhD from Laval University, before eventually joining the University of Otago in 1992. Since arriving there, he has established a research programme in parasite ecology and evolution that focuses on broad questions but not on any particular taxa. Currently, his research group has four main research directions. First, his lab investigates the forces shaping the evolution of parasites, in particular the evolution of life history traits such as body size, host specificity, the ability to manipulate host behaviour, and the complexity of the transmission pathways. Second, they are studying the role of parasites in aquatic ecosystems, i.e. how they affect community diversity and food web stability, and how parasitism may interact with climate change to influence the properties of ecosystems. Third, Robert has long been exploring large-scale patterns of parasite biodiversity and biogeography, searching for the processes behind the diversification and distribution of parasites and diseases. Finally, Robert and his team are now turning toward the role of parasite microbiomes in shaping the host-parasite interaction. Robert was awarded Otago University’s Distinguished Research Medal in 2013, the Hutton Medal from the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2011 for outstanding contribution to animal sciences, the Wardle Medal from the Canadian Society of Zoologists in 2007 for outstanding contribution to parasitology, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2001.

Adding microbiomes to host-parasite interactions: the next step for wildlife parasitology?
After shaking the foundations of medical research, the microbiome revolution is now sweeping through ecology and evolution. In this context, interactions between a host and a parasite can no longer be seen as two-player games: they need to be reframed to incorporate the influence of the microbial communities residing within the host and also within the
parasite. I will summarise the implications of host-parasite-microbe interactions for wildlife parasitology. The focus will be on the microbiomes
of parasites themselves. I will introduce the Parasite Microbiome Project, an international consortium of researchers aiming to catalyse research on parasite microbiomes through an integrated and comparative approach founded on multi-omics technologies. I will also present recent results of our studies on the microbiomes of trematode species of New Zealand wildlife, addressing questions including: Do helminths with complex life cycles possess a ‘core’ microbiome, i.e. a set of vertically-transmitted 
bacteria that is not shared with any host and persists through the life cycle? How much geographic variation does this microbiome show among trematode populations? Does the composition of a trematode’s
microbiome affect its phenotype, i.e. its development and interactions with the host? Can a parasite’s microbiome be manipulated experimentally? Incorporating symbiotic microbes into the theoretical framework through which we study parasitism is necessary for a better understanding of coevolution and disease ecology, and for the search for new therapies.
What lurks within has been ignored for too long: it’s time to look at microbes within parasites to determine what strings they can pull.

Dr Sandra Telfer – School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Sandra Telfer is a Wellcome Trust Senior Research fellow based at the University of Aberdeen in the UK. Sandra obtained her BSc from the University of Edinburgh, and her MSc and PhD from the University of Aberdeen. Her research addresses both fundamental and applied questions related to host-parasite dynamics in wild populations and the threat posed by wildlife diseases to human and livestock health. Her research is interdisciplinary, combining field studies and genetic analyses, as well as social science methodologies. Sandra works in Madagascar, collaborating closely with the Institut Pasteur de Madagascar, and the UK, researching a range of rodent microparasites, including Leptospira, Yersinia, Rickettsia and Bartonella. Her group explores how spatial and temporal variation in rodent infection rates and the diversity of pathogens depend on climate, habitat, and the abundance and diversity of host and vector populations. In Madagascar, they also investigate how exposure rates in humans depend on environmental and socio-economic factors, and the development of strategies to reduce risk, such as more effective management of rodent populations.

Leptospira in Madagascar: changing epidemiology and risk across landscapes
Ecological, environmental and socioeconomic factors can all influence the risk from a zoonotic disease. Land use at local and landscape scales can influence the distribution, abundance and movement patterns of reservoir species, as well as how people interact with these species. I will use data from a range of contexts in Madagascar to explore the epidemiology of Leptospira spp. and the exposure risk for human communities. Pathogenic Leptospira spp. can cause leptospirosis, one of the most common, but neglected, zoonotic diseases in the world. Although rodent species can be important reservoirs, other species, including livestock, may play a role. In our studies of invasive and endemic small mammals, areas with natural forest have the highest diversity of Leptospira spp..  Leptospira species and genotypes varied in their host range. However, three of the four pathogenic Leptospira species found infected the abundant and invasive Rattus rattus, including species more commonly found in sympatric endemic hosts. Abattoir sampling of livestock identified additional genotypes, but also suggested transmission between rodents and livestock can occur. In terms of epidemiology within reservoir populations, infection prevalence in rodents varied strongly between different habitats and landscapes, whilst relationships between infection prevalence and measures of host abundance and host diversity varied between Leptospira sp. Human exposure to Leptospira is highest in rural agricultural communities and is associated with working in rice fields and a lack of clean water for household chores.

Prof. Maxwell Barson – Department of Biological Sciences, University of Botswana, Botswana

Maxwell Barson was born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1976, where he grew up, was educated and eventually entered the University of Zimbabwe in 1996. He is married to Caroline and they are blessed with 5 children. Within a decade between 1999 and 2009, he obtained four academic degrees with 3 institutions: BSc Honours in Biological Sciences (University of Zimbabwe, 1999); MPhil in Fish Parasitology (University of Zimbabwe, 2002); MSc in Aquatic Health (University of Johannesburg, RSA, 2004); PhD in Biology (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 2009)

Maxwell worked as a junior lecturer at UZ from 2004, then was progressively promoted to senior lecturer (2010) and associate professor in 2016. He is the first fish parasitologist in post-independent Zimbabwe and his research has spanned several aspects of fish parasitology (systematics, ecology, histopathology, ecotoxicology), as well as fish disease diagnostics and other aspects of aquatic parasitology (e.g. snail-trematode interactions, ectoparasitology, waterborne protozoans). His interest in platyhelminths of fish led to the discovery of a new cestode genus and species, Barsonella lafoni, patronymised in his honour, as well as descriptions of several monogenean and cestode species.

Prof Barson has successfully guided 4 PhD students, 14 masters and many honours students from universities in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Belgium. He also an alumnus of the US Fulbright Research Scholar fellowship and has presented papers at many parasitological symposia in Africa and Europe. Prof Barson also served for three years as a member of the World Animal Health Organisation’s (OIE) Aquatic Animal Health Standards Committee. He has also consulted for the FAO, OIE and the AU-IBAR on matters relating to fish health in Africa. To date, he has authored 40 articles in peer-reviewed publications, inclusive of journal articles, book chapters and conference proceedings.

Prof Barson has recently joined the University of Botswana as a zoology professor.

ONE HEALTH – The story of parasite spillback and parasite spillover in man-made southern African subtropical reservoirs
Humans impose a significant pressure on large herbivore populations, such as hippopotami, through hunting, poaching, and habitat destruction. Anthropogenic pressures can also occur indirectly, such as artificial lake creation and the subsequent introduction of invasive species that alter the ecosystem. These events can lead to drastic changes in parasite diversity and transmission, but generally receive little scientific attention. In order to document and identify trematode parasites of the common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) in artificial water systems of Zimbabwe, we applied an integrative taxonomic approach, combining molecular diagnostics and morphometrics on archived and new samples. In doing so, we provide DNA reference sequences of the hippopotamus liver fluke Fasciola nyanzae, enabling us to construct the first complete Fasciola phylogeny. We describe parasite spillback of F. nyanzae by the invasive freshwater snail Pseudosuccinea columella, as a consequence of a cascade of biological invasions in Lake Kariba, one of the biggest artificial lakes in
the world. Additionally, we report an unknown stomach fluke of the hippopotamus transmitted by the non-endemic snail Radix aff. plicatula, an Asian snail species that has not been found in Africa before, and the stomach fluke Carmyerius cruciformis transmitted by the native snail Bulinus truncatus. Finally, Biomphalaria pfeifferi and two Bulinus species were found as new snail hosts for the poorly documented hippopotamus blood fluke Schistosoma edwardiense. Our findings indicate that artificial lakes are breeding grounds for endemic and non-endemic snails that transmit trematode parasites of the common hippopotamus. This has important implications, as existing research links trematode parasite infections combined with other stressors to declining wild herbivore populations. Therefore, we argue that monitoring the anthropogenic impact on parasite transmission should become an integral part of
wildlife conservation efforts.


The provisional programme for the Congress is as follow:

Arrival at conference venue. Accommodation will be available from 14h00.
16h00 – Registration for congress opens
18h00 – Welcome Reception at Congress Venue

07h30 – Registration
08h00 – Welcome
08h15 –  Keynote Speaker
09h00 – Parallel Session 1
10h30 –  Coffee/Tea & Poster Viewing
11h00 – Parallel Session 2
12h30 – Lunch
13h30 – Parallel Session 3
15h00 – End of Day 1
15h00 – African Parasite Network Meeting (only for Established and Early-career Researchers)
18h30 – Catered Boma-braai @ Cattle Baron Lapa – only for non-students & accompanying persons (free evening for students and post-docs)

07h30 – Registration
08h00 – Announcements
08h15 –  Keynote Speaker
09h00 – Parallel Session 4
10h30 – Coffee/Tea & Poster Viewing
11h00 – Parallel Session 5
12h30 – Lunch
13h30 – Parallel Session 6
15h00 – End of Day 2
18h30 – Catered Boma-braai @ Cattle Baron Lapa – only for students and post-docs (free evening for non-students)


07h30 – Registration
08h00 – Announcements
08h15 – Keynote Speaker
09h00 – Parallel Session 7
10h30 – Coffee/Tea & Poster Viewing
11h00 – Parallel Session 8
12h30 – Lunch
13h30 –  Parallel Session 9
15h00 –  End of Congress
15h30 – PARSA AGM
19h00 – Gala Dinner at Congress Venue

Accommodation check out time is 10h00.

Post-Congress Workshop
08h00-12h00 – Post-congress Scientific writing workshop* (for postgraduate students, include writing a scientific publication, information on Predatory Journals and how to write response letters (i.e. addressing reviewers’ comments)).
*subject to a minimum of 10 participants


The Scientific Evaluation Committee for ICPOW-PARSA 2022 includes: