FEMS 2019 Glasgow

Last week I visited the 2019 FEMS European Microbiology Conference in Glasgow. I had the pleasure to participate in a round table discussion on Climate Change, together with Janet Jansson (Pacific Nothwest National Laboratory), Luisa Barzon (University of Padova) and Alexandre Anesio (Aarhus University). All of us gave a short talk to start the session off with. I focused on Microbial Evolution in the Anthropocene, giving examples on how climate change and pollution can shape the ingredients (mutation, LGT, migration, selection and drift) of bacterial evolution. Below a little log scale timeline of Planetary History (adapted from jeff smith) from my presentation to put the Anthropocene into context (complete with some of the proposed markers to delineate this timeperiod in the geological record: radionuclides, black carbon, plastics and chicken bones).  There was some good discussion afterwards, not so much on microbiology, but mainly about the roles and responsibilities of researchers in this most pressing (and depressing) of debates. This included a discussion on flying to conferences to talk about climate change, which can be labelled hypocritical. I actually took the train up from Cornwall to Scotland, an epic 10 hour journey that make you fully appreciate that the UK is a quite long country and that there is room for improvement in its rail infrastructure! I have to be honest and admit that I flew back, more about why that was in the next post. There were a number of very good talks at this conference, including one on CRISPR-Cas by Penryn Campus’ own Stineke van Houte. Other highlights included fabulous talks by Eduardo Rocha on the evolution of Mobile Genetic Elements and by Rolf Mueller on drug discovery in Myxobacteria. Ines-Mandic Mulec and Polonca Stefanic from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia gave talks on their work on social evolution in Bacillus subtilis, one project I am also involved in (watch this space!). Overall a very well-organised conference!

Michiel

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