Monday, January 27, 2014

Announcement: Gordon Research Conference on Animal-Microbe Symbiosis | 2015

Very excited to see a 2015 Gordon Research Conference on animal-microbe symbiosis, in addition to the keystone meeting happening now (follow on twitter at #KSinvertebrate). These meetings indicate that the study of animal complexity is driving forward…that zoology requires microbiology.

Animal-Microbe Symbioses
Identifying the Common Language of Host-Microbe Associations
June 21-26, 2015
Waterville Valley Resort
Waterville Valley, NH

Application Deadline
Applications for this meeting must be submitted by May 24, 2015. Please apply early, as some meetings become oversubscribed (full) before this deadline. If the meeting is oversubscribed, it will be stated here. Note: Applications for oversubscribed meetings will only be considered by the Conference Chair if more seats become available due to cancellations.

Animals are intimately associated with a complex community of mutualistic microbes that are essential for their development, nutrition, and health. Research on animal ­microbe symbioses (we use the general term here to denote beneficial associations) has recently become highly active, after decades at the margins of mainstream biology. This renaissance has come from major advances in methods for studying uncultivable organisms such as molecular biological techniques (e.g., the ‘omics’) and imaging methods that can combine information about identity and function at the single-cell level. These and other new approaches are providing novel and unexpected insights into the biology, ecology, and evolution of mutualistic associations between animals and their microbiota. Correspondingly, there is considerable interest in and excitement about the animal microbiome, as visible in numerous papers in high-ranking journals and articles in the popular press. Remarkably, however, there is no regular meeting that focuses on the biology, ecology and evolution of animal - microbe symbioses.
The new Gordon Research Conference on Animal-Microbe Symbioses will provide a stimulating and international platform for understanding the current state of knowledge in this rapidly evolving and vibrant field. By bringing together scientists that work on symbiotic associations from a wide range of host and microbial groups, and are at the forefront of their fields, we will create a diverse and multidisciplinary forum for discussing the newest research directions, debating key questions, and identifying unresolved issues. We will invite researchers from other disciplines such as plant symbioses and pathogenic associations to expand our knowledge and discuss the commonalities and differences among host -microbe associations. Student and postdoctoral attendance will be encouraged by emphasizing the collegial nature of the conference, and the many opportunities for discussion during formal and informal meetings and the poster sessions. The meeting will not only contribute to a better understanding of basic biological research questions such as how prokaryotes and eukaryotes have evolved through mutualistic interactions, but will also be valuable for applied research. For example, pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies are investigating bioactive compounds produced by invertebrate symbionts as valuable, novel, antimicrobial and chemotherapeutic agents, and symbiotic microbes such as Wolbachia may help prevent the spread of human viral diseases such as dengue fever through insect hosts. We are thus confident that a diverse and multidisciplinary community of speakers, discussion leaders and attendees will provide the stimulus for a unique conference in the field of animal-microbe symbioses.

Preliminary Program
A list of preliminary session topics and speakers is currently being developed by the Conference Chair and will be available by December 1, 2014. Please check back for updates.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Hologenome Facebook Page - Discover Your Symbiotic Complexity
I'm happy to announce a sister site on Facebook dedicated to understanding who we are as animal-microbe chimeras - who we are beyond the skin we're covered in. Come join us as we track the history and future of the science of the Hologenome - an "eyes up" view of the symbiotic complexity of organisms. The page starts with a 20 year old video on the topic.

A recent publication in PNAS by 26 luminaries in the life sciences echoes the inspiration for the site: 
"These new data are demanding a reexamination of the very concepts of what constitutes a genome, a population, an environment, and an organism. Similarly, features once considered exceptional, such as symbiosis, are now recognized as likely the rule, and novel models for research are emerging across biology. As a consequence, the New Synthesis of the 1930s and beyond must be reconsidered in terms of three areas in which it has proven weakest: symbiosis, development, and microbiology (115). One of these areas, microbiology, presents particular challenges both to the species concept, as formulated by Ernst Mayr in 1942, and to the concept that vertical transmission of genetic information is the only motor of selectable evolutionary change"
Where we go from here is up to us. This community site is one additional means to an end to see where the hologenome takes us. Looking forward to seeing you there.