Back from Vegas.
Well, we're back.
Vegas was great. Well, the meeting was great. Vegas was mostly just hot. Really, really hot. They were setting record highs (in the 116-117 degree range) while we were there, so walking outside was roughly equivalent to climbing into a pizza oven. Unfortunately the conference hotel was the Riviera, so we had to go outside to escape it's general crappiness.
Still, despite all that we managed to have a great time. One thing I always like about national meetings is the chance to see lots of former co-workers and fellow grad students from the places I used to work/study at. Our little strawberry cabal (most of us, anyway) managed a meeting, heading out to an expensive but very good dinner at Caesar's Palace. It's nice to get a bunch of us in one place...it's hard to coordinate the efforts of a group when you only communicate as individuals.
I gave a talk, which I thought went quite well, and presented a poster, which resulted in meeting some new people. I think we have a chance at setting up some exciting collaborations. Just need to make sure I don't overcommit...
Lots of good talks and posters, and I only managed to get to a subset of them. There was an entire afternoon workshop (sponsored, I think, by the American Pomological Society) on the fruits of the ancient Mediterranean, which included talks on such things as dates, figs, and pomegranates. This fired up my forgotten passion for pomegranates, but they haven't had them in the local supermarkets since I got back (I need to move to some place with more exotic fruit available...every time I get it in my head I want something even semi-unusual, I can't find it). They've now got a vaccuum device which can suck all the seeds out straight into a jar without even having to cut open the fruit...I thought that was pretty nifty.
Seemed like there was quite an emphasis this year on germplasm exploration (or maybe those were just the talks I was attending). Jules Janick, who appears to still be going strong (he's been a professor at Purdue since 1951 or so!) talked about germplasm exploration in the ancient world, and other speakers continued along the timeline through the early USDA plant explorers, people like Frank Meyers, David Fairchild, and F. Wilson Popenoe, and then on to the modern plant explorers of the National Plant Germplasm System. I had the opportunity to meet Kim Hummer, from the germplasm repository in Corvallis, Oregon. Along with a handful of other scientists, she recently managed to collect specimens of Fragaria iturupensis, the only Eurasian octoploid strawberry species known, which grows only in remote locations on Iturup Island (conveniently located in the Kuril Islands between Hokkaido and the Kamchatka Penninsula). Maybe not as exciting for some as it is for me, but for those of us involved in the breeding of strawberries, a fresh source of genetic material outside of our usual range is plenty exciting (she's going to be sending us seeds soon!).
Anyway, now I'm back and simultaneously trying to get caught up on the stuff that was neglected while I was in Vegas AND wrap up things that are going to be neglected while I'm in Costa Rica. It's pretty much an impossible task, and mostly I'm not getting anything done.
I'd still welcome any suggestions on local fruits to try while in Costa Rica! (I'd also welcome just general Costa Rica suggestions.)