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NIR-2015 Brazil—Highlighting South America

Carrie Vance

Mississippi State University, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA. E-mail: [email protected]

Caipirinha! If you don’t know what this is, ask anyone who attended the 17th ICNIRS conference in Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná State, Brazil. The caipirinha is the national cocktail of Brazil and is composed of crushed cane sugar and limes, filled to the top of the glass with cachaça and shaken with ice—a refreshing and delicious drink in the tropical heat that averaged above 35°C in late October. For those of us residing in the northern hemisphere, it was a wonderful last gasp of summer before we returned to slide into the early stages of a long winter.

I have been looking forward to NIR-2015 for over two years since my first ICNIR conference in La Grande Monte, France, and this conference was exceptional in every way. A sincere bravo goes to the Organising Committee for selecting the venue and location in the vicinity of the National Park of Foz do Iguaçu at the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, and one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. As a contributor to the Wildlife and Ecology session of the conference, the setting and experience of the tropical environment and its biodiversity was especially rewarding. I believe we now have about 100 pictures of a particular Toucan and several friendly coati.

The cultural heritage of Brazil and other countries of South America were on display from the beginning when performances in traditional costumes and dance followed the opening presentation by Phil Williams, winner of the ICNIRS Karl Norris Award. While Phil gave an enlightening and inspiring presentation, the performers punctuated the mood of the evening with music, balancing acts and an array of colourful costumes that ranged from barely there to a full-feathered assembly of birdwings. The most memorable act was the bead whirler who gave a close shave to one of our conference participants—brave man! ICNIRS participants from around the world answered the call and formed several conga lines to celebrate South America with the dancers and musicians and to take in the experience. The opening night continued with a meet-and-greet caipirinha cocktail hour that set the stage for a wonderful week of networking, exchange of scientific ideas and formation of new partnerships.

Søren Balling Engelsen, winner of the Tomas Hirschfeld award, opened the scientific sessions with his plenary talk offering a thorough view of the evolution of NIR and chemometrics and what the future may hold. The morning session focused on food and agricultural applications of NIR and many presentations addressed larger problems of food security and management. Tuesday morning continued the discussions in the fields of food and agriculture following the plenary talk given by Vincent Baeten which even included a discussion of unmanned aerial vehicles for precision agriculture and handheld instruments. Topics in the food and agriculture session ranged from developing a topographical map of the chemistry of pork to aquaphotomics analysis of food packaging materials and logistics in implementation of NIR into sugar mill laboratories.

Monday afternoon featured a special topics session on NIR applications in Wildlife and Ecology. Bill Foley opened the discussion with his plenary talk that highlighted the complexity in such systems and how NIR is ideally suited to address these issues. Sharks, penguins and koalas were all featured as species studied by NIR in some unusual way to ask different types of questions. The remainder of the afternoon included presentations of unique approaches to everything from taxonomic identification of cryptic butterflies, reproductive physiology in endangered herbivores, orangutans and amphibians, and concluded with an analysis of soil properties in natural settings. Expansion to larger scales and the means by which we would study landscape level variation was again presented as the future of NIR in this context.

The single sombre note that reoccurred throughout the conference was the marked absence of those lost in the past year and who have clearly left voids in the hearts and minds of all generations of scientists attending this event. The lives and scientific contributions of Fred McClure, Jim Burger, Tony Blakeney and Karoly Kaffka were highlighted in a Tuesday morning session of honour and a moment of silence, but also in several individual oral presentations through the week by those working closely with them. They will be sorely missed and always remembered.

In the Brazil room, our sponsors, vendors and posters were set up for all day viewing and for the special poster sessions held each evening. I personally found the poster arrangement extremely easy to navigate and the layout, in conjunction with the coffee breaks, made the posters really integral to the conference. In fact, the Monday evening cocktail hour event was hosted by Foss and incorporated the poster area in the conference rooms, encouraging lots of new discussions both scientific and social. Tuesday night’s social event, hosted by Bruker, was held pool side and extended into the evening to finish with music and dancing. Thank you to both of our gracious sponsors for hosting these events and being a part of the conference!

Ronei Poppi representing Brazil, was the first plenary speaker of the conference from South America. His talk introducing NIR and hyperspectral imaging and chemometrics in pharmaceutical analysis was followed with a variety of topics that touched on issues in heparin processing, printing, emulsion polymerisation and re-gumming stamps. New ideas for applications of NIR were complemented with new ideas in instrumentation as presented by Heinz Siesler the next morning. Amongst the numerous and not so subtle references to the fact that Germany won the World Cup against Brazil this year, the plenary talk on Wednesday morning gave a synopsis of a rampant expansion in technological advancements and what that might look like in the near future in terms of possible applications for NIR. This subject received lots of attention though out the conference with many references to the newest products available and representation by several vendors that had been designing instrumentation for more portability and micro-spectroscopy.

Highlighting South America was the theme of the 17th ICNIRS conference and central to showing off this beautiful part of the world was the scenic day trip to Iguaçu Falls—an incredible natural formation and the largest waterfall in the world. A hike into the National Park on the Brazil side revealed a new view at every turn as we walked upstream towards the horseshoe of the canyon where massive volumes of water cascaded down at least three layers of carved out bedrock. A perpetual mist lofted across onlookers who ventured onto the wooden bridge to take pictures, and in a very short time that mist had everyone soaked through and dripping wet. Considering the afternoon temperature was 38°C that day, the cool mist was quite pleasant, as long as you protected your camera!

The view was beyond belief and straight out of the movies. Wildlife was abundant and watching the birds float on the air currents over the canyon at eye level was hypnotic. Many of us braved the jeep ride into the jungle and the boat ride up the river to experience the waterfalls up close and personal. When they warn you to prepare to be soaked through, they are not kidding. We laughed with delight the entire trip. Many participants also visited the Bird Park for a hike and to see rescued birds undergoing rehabilitation for release back into the wild. At the end of the day, the committee held a best picture contest of the falls and chose three photographs as the winners.

Iguaçu Falls Photo Competition Winners

Thursday started with an exciting plenary talk by Anna de Juan on multivariate resolution for NIR imaging, which offered a really comprehensive yet elegant explanation of the practical approaches to image resolution. Two pre-conference courses, one on multivariate curve resolution and the other on hyperspectral imaging were offered, and after seeing the plenary and other presentations on these subjects I am looking forward to possibly attending the pre-conference course at the 18th ICNIRS in Denmark. Thursday morning continued with oral presentations on technical aspects of hyperspectral imaging as well as novel applications in the analysis of herbal medicines, pork, wheat, fruits and coffee, deciphering fish egg viability and chemical balance for hatching rates, and imaging of medieval illuminations of the Bordeaux Cathedral treasury from the 15th Century.

The afternoon shifted gears into complex data systems and chemometrics, led by Harald Martens who expounded upon the merging of the mathematics and science, and how we can access so many embedded pieces of information that more traditional means of analysis cannot reach. Harald was also the latest member of the NIR community to receive ICNIRS’ Fellowship Award. This award is a rare honour for distinguished members of the NIR community who have performed outstanding service to the development of near infrared spectroscopy over a lengthy period. As expected, numerous other talks gave new perspectives to critical questions of validation, machine learning and control theory, model-building paradigms and large data sets in all fields.

The day didn’t end there, but rather proceeded into the final poster session which was then followed by the conference banquet highlighting Brazilian culture and tradition with a special ceremony in which lamb and vegetables are slow cooked in stone kilns buried deep in the ground, excavated and blessed, and served with a rich array of traditional beans, rice, fruits and other foods. Exceptional and incredible were phases echoed throughout the room as everyone revelled in the tastes and smells of Brazilian cuisine. With everyone looking on, it was announced that Tom Fearn was elected president of ICNIRS for the next term (an honour which he very humbly accepted), and that the Gold Coast, Australia, had won the bid for hosting the 19th ICNIR event in 2019—although clues were around, and some of us did notice the huge bouncing inflatable kangaroo in the pool suggesting an Australian ICNIRS was soon coming. Just sayin’!! But not to get ahead of ourselves, first on the horizon will be an incredible 18th ICNIRS conference hosted by Denmark (http://www.icnirs2017.com), as the organising committee revealed the waterfront location and view of the host venue and highlighted the city of Copenhagen with its historical and modern beauty. It will be an exciting one!

Poster Prizes
Nine Poster Prizes were awarded, sponsored by IM Publications

2D NIR-MIR Correlation Spectroscopy—A Useful Tool to Augment the Interpretation of NIR Spectra: Tine Ringsted

Classification of Plastics Containing Brominated Flame Retardant Through Hyperspectral Imaging and Chemometrics: José Manuel Amigo

Scattering Properties of Meat and Its Relation to Microstructure: Mito Kokawa

The Use of the Near-Infrared Spectroscopy as a Surveillance Tool for Mosquito Control Programs: Maggy Sikulu

Potentials and Limitations of Global Versus Local Calibration Models for Soil Organic Carbon on Large Scale: Angelica Jaconi

NIR Spectroscopy and Pattern Recognition Methods for Classification and Characterization of Cocoa Varieties: Douglas Barbin

Development of Field-Portable NIR Absorption Spectrometry System by Using Glass Phosphor Combined with LED: Hiroki Uemura

Use of a NIR Portable Spectrometer for the Assessment of Fat/Dry Matter and Protein/Dry Matter Ratios on Whole Wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese: Giovanni Cabassi

Evaluation of Sampling Strategies in Grains Using Spatial Distribution Surfaces From NIR Spectral Data: Jose Antonio Adame Siles

After a long night of music and dancing the Friday morning session began with Kim Esbensen’s plenary talk on representative sampling, something we all are hearing more about with a newsletter, looking not too dissimilar to NIR news, being introduced on the subject over the past couple of years (http://www.impublications.com/tos-forum). Other fundamental considerations in NIR practices and development applied to biochemistry were discussed in talks that ranged from bacterial culture development and blood glucose measurements to clay and soil carbon analysis. Pierre Dardenne brought the conference to a close by highlighting the extensive participation of representatives from all over the world, and especially South America; recapturing memories of his favourite talks and posters and thanking all those special people who helped make such a wonderful conference happen. Thank you all—and see you in Copenhagen!