Conference on Cephalopods to Draw Scientists from Around the World

USFSP Professor Heather Judkins, who is coordinating CIAC 2018, does important research into the health and wellbeing of cephalopods.

USFSP Professor Heather Judkins, who is coordinating CIAC 2018, does important research into the health and wellbeing of cephalopods.

(Nov. 5, 2018) – More than 240 scientists from around the globe will gather at USF St. Petersburg this month to share ideas and discuss research related to an important and increasingly threatened category of marine life: squid, octopus and their relatives, otherwise known as cephalopods.

The 2018 Cephalopod International Advisory Council Conference (CIAC) will be held between Nov. 12-16. The event, which only occurs once every three years, hasn’t been hosted in the United States since 1988.

“It’s a tremendous honor to host this conference,” said Heather Judkins, an Assistant Professor of Biology at USF St. Petersburg (USFSP) who is organizing the event. “It’s really inspiring to meet with so many scientists who are conducting important and groundbreaking research, and it creates a lot of opportunities for collaboration.”

Cephalopods include octopus, squid, nautilus and a few lesser known groups. The theme for this year’s conference is “Cephalopod Research Across Scales: From Molecules to Ecosystems.” The event includes workshops, field trips, presentations, lightning talks and two keynote speakers for participants.

Members of the public who are interested in learning more about cephalopods are invited to attend the conference’s outreach event, “Exploring Creatures of the Deep Sea:  Squid and Octopus” which will be held on Saturday, November 10 from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. in the USFSP University Student Center ballrooms.

Participants hail from 30 different countries, from Australia to the United Kingdom. They range in experience from graduate students and early career scientists to seasoned veterans in the field.

The lectures and presentations cover a wide variety of topics, including the life history and ecosystem roles of cephalopods; behavior; physiology; conservation and biodiversity; genetics and evolution; fisheries management; culture and welfare; and anthropogenic effects impacting cephalopods. There will be discussions on everything from the oceanographic factors that influence Northern shortfin squid abundance in the U.S. fishing grounds, to decision-making, communication and cognition in interspecific cooperative hunting between octopods and fishes.

During the conference, Judkins will be presenting her findings on what has been learned since 2011 about cephalopods in the northern Gulf of Mexico. She has been studying the effects of the BP oil spill on the cephalopod population in the Gulf and has noticed a decrease in abundance for deep-sea cephalopods. During her research, Judkins also discovered five new species of cephalopods.

At the end of the conference, participants will have the opportunity to collaborate and publish articles that will be highlighted in several scholarly journals, including the Bulletin of Marine Science, Fisheries Research and Frontiers in Physiology.

“It gives us an opportunity to share what we have learned in the past three years and contribute to the body of knowledge on this topic,” said Judkins. “It’s a really productive and practical conference.”

Dr. Martin Tadlock, Regional Chancellor of USFSP, said he’s really pleased to host CIAC 2018, and said the organization’s mission aligns well with the university’s emphasis on sustainability and research and innovation.

“At USF St Petersburg, we absolutely value and support science,” said Tadlock. “We believe in what these scientists contribute to a world seeking solutions to significant environmental problems that threaten our planet. We are honored to host them on our campus and look forward to learning more about their important research.”