Our Keynote Speakers

We are thrilled to present our keynote speakers for 2023!

Dr Urban Besenfelder


Urban Besenfelder is associate Professor at the Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics, University for Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria. He is the head of the University’s Reproduction Group at Wieselburg.

He devotes his main interest to early embryo development in the Fallopian tube. In order to create a minimally invasive access to the ovary and Fallopian tube in animals, he established and applied various endoscopic techniques in rabbits, sheep and goats, pigs and cattle. 

Since then, this technique has been steadily refined for routine use, now allowing for a comprehensive assessment of the bovine oviduct for comparative in vitro and in vivo studies to determine environmental factors affecting early embryogenesis.

Numerous scientific activities in this field are increasingly raising the question of what is the core function of the oviduct for the embryo during passage, what morphological and functional conformation and strength the embryo adopts, and what the golden standard embryo looks like for which it serves as a template for evaluating deviations.

Dr Besenfelder will give a talk entitled: "The interaction between the environment and embryo development in assisted reproduction"


Dr Pietro Baruselli

Pietro Baruselli is Professor of Animal Reproduction at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He holds an undergraduate degree in Veterinary (1985) with a Master (1992) and PhD (1997) in Animal Reproduction from Sâo Paulo University. He was president of Brazilian Embryo Transfer Society (SBTE/2012-2014) and member of Executive Committee of International Congress of Animal Reproduction (ICAR/2012-2022). Professor Baruselli´s research and teaching are in the areas of control of the follicular dynamics and ovulation for self-appointed artificial insemination and embryo transfer cattle (Bos indicus and Bos taurus) and in buffalo (Bubalus bubalis). He has over 300 scientific publications and over 600 abstracts presented in scientific congress on a wide range of topics including physiology of reproduction, synchronization of ovulation, biotechnology of reproduction, reproductive management. He has supervised 60 completed Master and PhD candidatures, 11 postdoctoral fellows and has extensive international experience.

 Dr Baruselli will give a talk entitled: “The contribution of assisted reproductive technologies and reproduction management to reducing the CO2 equivalent emissions of dairy and beef industry”

Dr Bill Holt

Bill Holt currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Sheffield, an Honorary Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and an Honorary Research Associate of the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London. He obtained my PhD in 1979 through the Royal Veterinary College (London) and spent most of my professional life at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), retiring in 2011.  In 2012 Prof Holt was awarded the Setchell medal by the British Andrology Society, and then in January 2018 the Society for Reproduction and Fertility awarded him their Marshall medal.


Prof Holt’s has combined studies of basic reproductive biology in various species, including many wild species, with some practical developments of reproductive technologies and their applications to wildlife conservation. Research in semen cryopreservation and semen assessment in both wild and agricultural species led to many international collaborations; notably with Steve Johnston at the University of Queensland (Australia), where they attempted to solve the intractable problem of freezing wallaby, kangaroo and koala sperm. More recently Prof Holt has collaborated with Dr Fran Otero-Ferrer and Professor Marisol Izquierdo at the University of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, studying how the quality of paternal diet affects placental function and offspring survival in seahorses. (Seahorses are very unusual because the males not only produce sperm; they become pregnant as well!). The team showed that offspring growth and fitness are adversely affected if the male seahorse’s diet is even slightly restricted before conception and during early pregnancy [1].   


From the late 1990s onwards, Prof Holt has collaborated with Professor Alireza Fazeli (Universities of Sheffield and Tartu) on various projects to study the interactions between oviductal cells and spermatozoa. One crucial experiment led to a really important finding: namely, that after insemination, the mouse female reproductive tract modifies its gene expression profile and upregulates a new set of genes. This work was subsequently extended to the pig reproductive tract. More recent studies have revealed that the pig reproductive tract exerts powerful influences over sperm selection and transport. 


Professor Holt will give a talk entitled: “Environmental effects on developmental plasticity in conservation biology” 

Dr Hilde Aardema

Hilde Aardema is a veterinarian, reproduction specialist (ECAR diplomate) and researcher at the faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. Since 2020 she is heading the reproduction laboratory of Farm Animal Health at Utrecht University. The focus of her research lies on the impact of the maternal (mother) environment on offspring during the early phase of development, from the oocyte towards the embryo. Multiple challenges reach the oocyte and embryo during this extremely important first phase of life, which can be affected by the conditions of the mother. 

One research theme is how the metabolic condition of the mother, like a negative energy balance or obesity, may impact early life. Former studies indicated that metabolic conditions are reflected at the level of the oocyte and embryo and that a balance in free fatty acids is of vital importance for early life.  

Lately she is working on the potential impact of microplastics on oocyte and embryo development. Plastic pollution is an increasing global health concern, particularly the ever-increasing amount of tiny plastic particles commonly referred to as micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs). Recent studies demonstrate that MNPs can reach the ovary and uterus, including fetal fluid, and her group recently demonstrated that MNPs are taken up by the cumulus-oocyte-complex. To this end, it is of crucial importance to better understand the potential impact of MNPs on early life. The title of her presentation is ‘The potential impact of microplastics on reproduction’. 

Dr Aardema will deliver a presentation called ‘The potential impact of microplastics on reproduction’.