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Biological Sciences Division

August 2016

With a President from PNNL, ISME Launches a Worldwide Symposium in Montreal

Conference swag. Photo courtesy of Vanessa Bailey.

Microbes and Montreal. What could bring together Canada's second largest city and the tiny organisms that (arguably) rule the environment, health, and even Earth's climate?

The answer: This year's 16th international symposium on microbial ecology, hosted by the International Society for Microbial Ecology. PNNL's Janet K. Jansson is the group's current president and is among 15 attendees from the laboratory, many of whom will take to the podium.

The Aug. 22-26 gathering in French-speaking Montreal is a busy science gala of plenary sessions, invited talks, and roundtables. More than 2,000 attendees, including a woman who wore an "I (Heart) Microbiomes" T-shirt on the first day, will spend time puzzling over soil microbes, extreme environments, pathogen ecology, the mammalian microbiome, and much more.  (The oral sessions alone number 57.)

Joining Jansson at the symposium from PNNL are Vanessa Bailey, Hans Bernstein, Eric Bottos, David Hoyt, David Koppenaal, Mary Lipton, Lee Ann McCue, Jim Moran, Ljiljana Pasa-Tolic, Taniya RoyChowdhury, Hyun-Seob Song, David A. Stahl (who holds a dual appointment at the University of Washington), Richard A. White III, and Aaron Wright. This week, microbiome researchers Bailey and Wright will both lead convened sessions and present invited talks.

PNNL's Moran did the early honors on Monday with a brief late-morning talk on diel carbon flow dynamics within photoautotrophic microbial mat communities. (They capture energy from the sun to make their own food, converting carbon dioxide into organic compounds at the same time.) "Diel" denotes a cycle of 24 hours; "carbon flow dynamics" is a hot topic among researchers trying to map how carbon moves through an aquatic ecosystem, including how it might be influenced by a "loop" of microbial communities.

Mid-afternoon Monday, PNNL's Bernstein, a scientist specializing in microbial communities, presented Poster No. 462A (another sign of how large the symposium is). "Emergent responses of microbial partnership: Acclimation and coordination in a model phototrophic-heterotrophic consortium" was one of seven themed conference posters on communication and networks on biofilm communities. It cited four PNNL co-authors.

To cap off the first day, there were two simultaneous late-afternoon events related to PNNL.

Stephen R. "Steve" Lindemann (at PNNL until this summer and now an assistant professor at Purdue University) led a roundtable on model communities and whether they can be used to discover generalizable principles in microbial ecology. The event was co-organized by PNNL's Alex Beliaev.

Stahl and Koppenaal led a roundtable on the technology landscape of microbial systems research, a companion event to an oral session entitled "Cutting-edge methods in microbial ecology," convened by PNNL's Wright. The roundtable panel included Bailey, Pasa-Tolic, and Wright.

For a late session, one observer said, the audience was big: about 75 people. Most were interested in accessing and applying fast-emerging advances in computational and analytical capability, particularly those available through Department of Energy (DOE) national science user facilities.

Two of these figured prominently in the discussion: the Environmental and Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) located on the PNNL campus and DOE's Joint Genome Institute (JGI). Stahl and Koppenaal, respectively, are EMSL's Chief Scientist and Chief Technology Officer.

EMSL and JGI will have a joint display booth open all week at the symposium. Monday morning, this is how it looked.

Too bad, though: The video shows no sign of the researcher with the "I (Heart) Microbiomes" T-shirt.  But the symposium has four microbe-celebrating days to go. Check this space for daily updates.

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