Fly Neuroscience Workshop – Drosophila as a Tool for Understanding Brain and Behaviour

Start date: 
14 Dec 2015
End date: 
17 Dec 2015
Venue city: 
venue country: 
Through the Fly Neuroscience Workshop – Drosophila as a Tool for Understanding Brain and Behaviour, FLiACT graduate students collaborated with Ghanaian researchers to bring Drosophila neuroscience research to scientists in West Africa. The workshop was held at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana in December 2015.
A report by the FLiACT fellow Elie Fink (CRG, Barcelona, Spain)
The idea was born in the hustle and bustle of the Louis lab at the CRG, and developed into a full-fledged plan in the context of the FLiACT programme. FLiACT was a Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN), begun by Matthieu Louis. It connected European partners in complementary research fields of fly neuroscience and brought together 14 young neuroscience researchers from labs across Europe. Over a four-year period, regular workshops on all aspects of Drosophila neuroscience were organised for the FLiACT fellows, generating a long-lasting, highly collaborative network.
FLiACT fellows Valentina Ferlito, Sayanne Soselisa, Sercan Sayin and myself were keen to organise something slightly offbeat as a final science outreach effort. We wanted to share our science with a target group of graduate-level and senior scientists working in places less exposed to international scientific exchanges, yet who were passionate and strongly committed to their own scientific endeavours, despite dishearteningly limited funding prospects. Our focus quickly geared towards Ghana, which boasts both an extensively developed higher education system and political stability. Searching for similar initiatives in Africa, we soon stumbled upon the NGO TReND in Africa, whose mission is the improvement of university-level science education and research in sub-Saharan Africa. TReND seeks to develop scientific exexcellence and collaboration in the region by organising local neuroscience courses for young African scientists. While TReND’s initiatives have so far been concentrated in East Africa, our fly neuroscience workshop would be the first to take place in West Africa. Promoting the use of the inexpensive invertebrate fly model for scientific research introduces an economically viable alternative to scientists using expensive vertebrate models in countries facing extreme funding shortages. 
We were keen to collaborate with local Ghanaian scientists, thus we joined forces John Abraham, the only scientist in Ghana doing applied research involving the fly for pest control. His colleague Andreas Kudom, though not working with the fly model per se, also joined the team and widened the scope of our workshop by sharing his exciting science on the mosquito model. Matthieu Louis not only provided his unfaltering support but also accompanied the team to Ghana. As did Simon Sprecher, Professor for Biology at the Université de Fribourg, Switzerland. Sonja Reiland and Natalia Dave from International and Scientific Affairs, the CRG administrative staff, as well as Antonia Tetteh at KNUST, managed and co-organised this unique workshop, which involved overcoming several challenges. We welcomed 22 participants from four African countries. They were selected from a pool of 70 applicants from nine African countries.
The workshop covered theoretical and practical aspects of the fly as a model organism for neuroscience research and behavioural studies, also focusing on olfaction for applied neuroscience questions, and the relevance of the fly for human disease models. It ended with participants presenting their ideas on how to implement Drosophila in their own research. Many expressed strong interest in using the fly model organism toaddress the imminent need for long-term solutions to health problems faced by their country’s population. What provided the workshop’s main deliverable was the general consensus to establish the Ghana Neuroscience Society. This will help provide a steady framework for follow-up exchange and training workshops, so that the Fly Neuroscience Workshop does not end up a one-hit wonder.

FLiACT fellow Elie Fink (right, author of the report) and workshop participants.                            

FLiACT coordinator Matthieu Louis (second left), FLiACT fellow Valentina Ferlito (right) and workshop participants FLiACT fellow Sayanne Soselisa (second right) is teaching workshop participants imaging of flies. 
More information about the workshop you can find here.
Fly neuroscience - FLiACT Article.pdf1.24 MB
Fly neuroscience - FLiACT Workshop Booklet.pdf573.71 KB
Dec 2015