South-West Microbiology Meeting

Interesting day yesterday as the South-West Microbiology Meeting was held at the Knowledge Spa ECEHH headquarter in Truro. This meeting was held once before at Plymouth University in October and aims to bring together academics, government workers as well as consultants in the private sector from Cornwall and Devon with an interest in microbiology.

Professor David Kay from Aberystwyth University was the keynote speaker, talking about the tracking of microbial pollution across water catchments. A highly complex issue from a scientific as well as a legislative point of view, and important to everyone who likes a swim.

Karen Tait of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory gave a nice overview of the Western Channel Observatory. This comprises a unique (bi)weekly monitoring of a host of biological and abiological parameters at different sites off the Plymouth coast with data being made freely accessible to other researchers. The folks at PML and the Marine Biological Association who run it are happy to collaborate and I definitely have to blog about this initiative in the future.

Next, Will Gaze and myself presented a brief overview of our research(plans). Richard Bendall, clinical microbiologist at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro gave a talk about Hepatitis E virus and its prevalence in coastal Cornwall. Will and I will be collaborating with Richard, more on that soon.

Britt Koskella from University of Exeter Tremough Campus (in Penryn, Cornwall) presented her very cool work on bacteriophages infecting Pseudomonas bacteria infecting horse chestnut trees. (Britt and I did a postdoc at the same time in Oxford with Angus Buckling, now also at Tremough.)

PhD student Selina Church from Exeter University talked about Vibrio vulnificus which is responsible for particularly nasty infections. She is currently using the LDH cytotoxicity virulence assay which sounded like something Will and I should look into.

Finally, head of Plymouth Universities Centre for Research in Biotranslational Medicine professor Simon Jackson spoke about his research on lipopolysaccharides in the environment. The centre is equipped with a variety of post-genomics tools; Will and I will visit soon and report here.

A wide variety of topics were covered, from sheep manure to data buoys and horse chestnut trees suffering from bleeding canker to jaundiced Cornish pensioners. Definitely very interesting and everybody agreed that this is a great format to stay up to date with research in the region and to forge new research links. After lunch, it was decided to settle on the same basic format: a keynote speaker (from outside the SouthWest), a variety of shorter talks (PhD students are encouraged), followed by informal discussion. Karen offered to host the next meeting at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in April, great!


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