It has been a while since I last posted as I have been quite busy travelling (and Cornwall is not exactly centrally located). Two weeks ago Pawel, Tremough colleague Britt Koskella and myself went to visit Martha Clokie and her lab at the University of Leicester. Martha is a phage biologist working on a wide range of topics, from ecology to structural biology and on a range of different systems, including phages of the marine phototroph Synechococcus and of the human pathogen Clostridium difficile. She has also co-edited two very useful bacteriophage protocol books. All lab members presented their work which was great. It did not leave too much time for discussing future projects, tag-sequencing phage marker genes from the environment is one of them, but I am sure we’ll collaborate in the future. The first time I met Martha was at a Viral Ecology Group meeting (in 2008 I think) and she will organize a new meeting next year in Leicester. I will help out with that and Britt and I will then organize the next meeting in 2014 in Cornwall.
Last Sunday I went to see Insomnium play in London with a bunch of Tremough lab mates which was great. Next day I met up with Adam Eyre-Walker at the University of Sussex in Brighton. Together with colleagues from Wageningen and Nijmegen we are working on a user-friendly pipeline to quantify the rate of adaptation in prokaryote genomes; I will write a detailed post about that topic as soon as the website is live and the paper is out. It was great to meet Adam for the first time, working together is a lot easier in real life than via skype.
The same day I took two very slow trains to Exeter to give a presentation at Streatham Campus the next day. I was invited by mathematical biologist Ivana Gudelj and her postdoc Michael Sieber. My friend Francesca Fiegna also works with Ivana, on a project using the fruiting body forming bacterium Myxococcus. Francesca and I both did our PhD’s in Tuebingen with Greg Velicer on Myxo. The last couple of talks I gave I tried to include a bit of everything I did over the past few years which was pretty hard because my projects were actually quite varied. Because of this, and because Francesca and Ivana are interested in Myxococcus, I decided to give a talk on my PhD work. I am loosely involved in a Myxococcus genome sequencing project with Greg and his postdoc Sebastian Wielgoss so I will surely post on this fascinating bug in the future.
Last Thursday, Will and I took the train to Plymouth. We first visited the National Marine Aquarium. Will knows director David Gibson as they both did a PhD in fish parasitology in Stirling. Will and I are both aquarium enthusiasts (even keeping the same fish) so regardless of the links of the ECEHH with the aquarium, we needed little incentive to visit! We had the full behind the scenes tour, including standing on a narrow bridge over the main tank, with 2.5 million liters the biggest in the UK.
A sand tiger shark in the Carribean tank complete with a full-size replica of a WWII Supermarine Walrus Seaplane. The tank is over 10 meters deep.
Education is a main activity of the aquarium and hopefully Will and I can work together with the aquarium to bring our research on coastal pathogens to the attention of aquarium visitors and school children. In the afternoon we visited Mike Allen at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Mike gave us a tour of the labs and very generously offered us use of any equipment we would be interested in. He has all kinds of kit to filter bacteriophages from water and his technician John is a real expert so this will be a great way of introducing these methods to our own lab.
John, Will and Mike in the lab.