Tag Archives: Fungal Genetics

On the importance of conferences

I just returned from the biennial Fungal Genetics Conference held at Asilomar State Park in Pacific Grove, California. It is wonderful, exhausting, invigorating, at times overwhelming firehose of new information. Nearly 900 researchers who work on fungi in some form come to attend.  This meeting grew out of a primary focus on fungal genetics, but has now become a gathering that encompasses epigenetics, genomics,  ecology, population and evolutionary biology, fungal associated chemistry, medical and animal associated mycology, and education and outreach on fungal biology. For me, it has become a special meeting since my first attendance as a graduate student. I’ve made friends, met mentors, got to know the fungal biology stars and rockstars (and more).

On the importance of gathering

I was thinking about the need for conferences and whether it was worth it for ~900 people to get on planes and cars and assemble in one place for a 4-5 day meeting. We read the papers, communicate by emails and video, what is special about a conference? I think there are a few essential things that come out of the meetings.

One is building community. Science is not done in a vacuum. The connections with close friends are strengthened, projects are discussed well past normal bedtimes. The zone that separates competitors and collaborators can be more flexible, or at least the shape of the competition can seem more human than the generic sense of trying to be first to finish and prove a new theory or idea. The mentorship and advice that comes from late night talks at poster sessions and over breakfast are not easily had outside of the conference. I met my postdoc mentor first at this meeting and that helped chart a lot of career.

Another is to hear the latest work. While some people may only cover summaries of published work, there is the exchange of  information all at once that is hard to get in any other way. The nuance of the ideas shared in a presentation can also communicate more effectively than a written publication in some ways, so I enjoy the chance to hear and share the science in this way. Often the Q&A can bring up additional perspectives that add to the discourse.

A concentrated time to think just about the science. The increasingly busy daily routines make it hard to really sit and think about new ideas. While this conference no means has a lot of time for sitting and thinking, there is both the forced occasion to summarize your own work in a short talk and to try and digest the key points of a research project from others. The constant storm of work before the meeting does lead to the inevitable “I’m still working on my talk” that continue before you give you talk … but still this provides a chance to plant a flag on where you are in a project and get perspective on what the rest of the field is doing.

On the importance of place

I’ve only ever attended this conference at Asilomar Conference Grounds. It is a fantastic place for conferences, because of its history, the setting on the dramatic California coastline, the hallowed ground of historic scientific conferences as well as just the general fun and collegiality that being at ‘science camp’ on a grounds that was at one point a YMCA,YWCA summer camp. It is definitely one of the places many who have attended like to call one of their scientific homes. Much like MBL – Woods Hole or Cold Spring Harbor, or Friday Harbor are key places for doing science (and also places for great meetings) I think Asilomar has a clear place for defining the history of Fungal Genetics.

I’ve been to meetings without the sweeping landscape and in sterile hotel conference rooms. That certainly is less exciting, but doesn’t diminish the scientific discussion. But I think there is something different about a place which has the feel of a camp with outside and inside areas to gather in groups to discuss. Some years when the weather is less cooperating and we only can see misty fog and tug up the zippers on our jackets instead of a short sleeve, I still find myself taking a beach walk to catch up on latest projects with colleagues or listening to stories from the seasoned scientists about how a particular technique was perfected on account of seredipity.

Personal connection

The Fungal Genetics and Neurospora Genetics meetings are also a personal waystone for my career and friendships. I gave my first talk at this meeting as a graduate student and have had the opportunity to continue participate and serve on policy committee to help represent the community. I learned I got tenure just before one of the conferences and was able to celebrate with colleagues and friends where it (usually!) feels like success of any is success for the community. Conferences like these have been an important part of my scientific education and a chance to make lifelong friends with shared interests. I see grad school classmates, mentors, former graduate students or postdocs, and meet new people every time.

Future

I wanted to write these thoughts because it is has always been an exhausting but satisfying conference I look forward to. I also know the perpetuity of these events are not guaranteed. It is expensive to run one of these meetings. We are lucky to have the support of the Genetics Society of America for so much of the logistical aspects of organizing the meeting. Nor take for granted that the costs are still approachable for many to attend. Especially as part of my policy committee service, I am more aware of how much it costs to stay, feed, and rent space at a seaside resort in Northern California. Things can change as to who attends these meetings: pricing inevitably goes up, funding available for travel and conferences may be harder to get, or if for some other reason the diverse spirit or culture of the attendees of meetings might change. I can hope we keep infecting new folks with excitement for fungal biology and genetics to keep our field growing and engaged.

Not all change is bad, influx of new people or shifts in the scope of main research topics can invigorate a field with new ideas. Certainly some things will be different by 2019, but I hope many of us find ourselves back to Asilomar for the next installment of the Fungal Genetics conference.

 

Link to the program and a PDF link

Meeting wrapup from ECFG12 in Seville

I recently returned from a successful ECFG12 in Seville, Spain held at the end of March. Some of us flew into Madrid first and took the high speed train to Seville (about 2 1/2 hours) which was a great way to relax and get out of planes after a transatlantic flight. We boarded the train in Madrid and stepped off in Seville. Very fast trains

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The countryside at 200km/hr

The  satellite meetings held before the conference include organism-specific conferences including Neurospora, Fusarium, Dothiedeomycetes, and Colleotrichum and AsperFest

ECFG Sattelite meetings

The conference content was excellent – I am reminded whenever I go to a fungal genetics meeting how fast paced the field has become with the application of genomics and genetics driving studies of cell biology, evolution, and industrial uses of fungi.

It was quite fun to see many of my long term collaborators and colleagues who work in this field. I am also especially interested to see many “non model” systems becoming more tractable with the tools that can be developed based on genome sequencing, transformation techniques, and a growing research community. The separation of “model system” work from applied or medically less clear to me .

This included symbiosis and fungal “communication” or interactions with other organisms such as Hypocreales fungi that are insect associated, as well Dan Vanderpool and his project working on Ophistoma fungi associated with beetles, some interesting Lichen genomics from environmentally sampled thalli from work from Toby Spribille.  Work presented by Jessie Uehling from work by collaboration with the Labbé  (ORNL) and Vilgalys (Duke) labs included a description of endohyphal symbiotic bacteria associated with Mortierella elongata fungus (a “zygomycete” early diverging lineage) which is associated with tree roots.

I unfortunately missed some of the concurrent session that was happening at the same time but some interesting talks in “Unconventional gene regulation” that I would have liked to hear more about.

I also got to hear good work presented in the session on Fungal development and genomics where Minou Nowrousian spoke on Pyronema genome and developmental biology, Francis Trail‘s talk on Fusarium fruiting body development.

I also enjoyed the session I spoke in, organize by Hanna Johannesson and Toni Gabaldón which included great overviews on application of phylogenomics and genomes to fungal biology. This ranged from Hanna on evolution of sex chromosomes in Neurospora tetrasperma,  Saccharomyces and the (amazing) power of yeast genetics and molecular biology (Maitreya Dunham, @dunhamlab) to mycorrhizal fungal genomics (Francis Martin, @fmartin1954), Toni (@gabaldonlab) and the PhylomeDB project but also the analysis of the WGD in Saccharomyces which suggests an alternative scenario for the duplication that may have arisen through allopolyploidization (hybridization between two species) rather than autopolyploidization. Several other great talks in our session including Jaqueline Hess on variation in Amanita genomes, Sarah Schmidt on identifying  AVR2 gene in Fusarium oxysporum.

The plenary sessions were plentiful with highlights across the fungal genetics spectrum. From Phycomyces biology (which has had much of its main origins and efforts in Spain) to Magnaporthe (@talbotlabexeter). Many more interesting work highlighted in the program and links to the abstract book are available. I expect a published report on the meeting will come in the future. Overall I really enjoyed the chance to mix more European and international colleagues and talk about the virtues of football and tapas!

Some of us spent a few more days after the meeting to enjoy Spain or meet with friends. For example Zack and I planned some great Neurospora experiments over tapas and sightseeing.  Hope to be back to Madrid and Spain again soon.

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Eels and shrimp tapas
Eels and shrimp tapas

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Posters for Fungal Genetics Conference

To those making their posters for Fungal Genetics meeting, we salute you. Get those 3’10” x 3’10” works of art printed & ready to impress the 900 colleagues who will be at the conference.  I’ll try and count the distribution of fabric posters vs the big prints vs the hand-made 8×11 sheets. I think I’ll also be giving unofficial awards for best non-boring Venn Diagram (think outside the banana) or other memorable data viz. The abstract book should be released soon and I hope to get a Wordle up like from years past. I’m curious to see what topics are trending and if it belies how the fields are changing to address areas in biofuels, use of next gen sequencing, or other areas.

Consider submitting your posters to F1000 or other repositories if you want to share you work outside the meeting. I’m even seeing on public on twitter already from @BenoitCalmes.

The twitter hashtag is #FUNGAL2013 so get your clients ready.

Neurospora business lunch at Asilomar

[From Kevin McCluskey at the FGSC]

I am pleased to send this invitation to the Neurospora Luncheon which will be held Wednesday at the Fungal Genetics Conference. It will take place in the Chapel and box lunches will be available. This luncheon is for everyone who works with Neurospora or who wants to work with Neurospora. Please come and hear what is going on and share your opinions. It is especially important that Post-docs and students come to these meetings.

Neurospora Business Meeting

26th FUNGAL GENETICS CONFERENCE

Asilomar 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 12:15 pm – 2:00+ pm

12:15 pm	Announcement of Perkins Award recipients for 2011
12:25 pm	FGSC and Neurospora meeting update- Kevin McCluskey
12:30 pm 	Fungal Genetics Reports update- Matt Sachs
12:35 pm	Neurospora e-news-  Kathy Borkovich
12:40 pm 	Update on Neurospora gene set, James Galagan - discussion
1:00 pm	Fungal Genome Database- Jason Stajich - discussion
1:15 pm  	Update on Systems Biology grant- Kathy Borkovich and Steve Osmani, James Galagan, Matt Sachs
1:30 pm	Update on QTL grant-  John Taylor and Louise Glass
1:40 pm	Update on bioenergy grant-  Louise Glass
1:50 pm	Announcement  for "Neurospora 2012" - March 8 - 11, 2012
		Scientific Program Chairs: Stephan Seiler and Matt Sachs
 	        Further discussion - topics from the floor.

Fungal conferences abstract wordle

I am preparing to read through the abstracts submitted for the 26th Fungal Genetics Conference in choosing talks for my session and I wondered if there were any changing trends in the topics over the years. While I won’t put up the Wordle for this year’s abstracts till the booklet is published, I thought I’d see how the topics trended in the last few years for some of these meetings. Will be fun to do this for a few more years back to see whether real trends emerge.

The data is a little cleaned up but the text included institution and individual names so things like university and department show up as prominent in some of these graphs.

Here is the Neurospora 2010 meeting (wordle page)

Neurospora 2010 abstracts Wordle
2010 Neurospora abstracts Wordle

 

Neurospora 2008 (wordle page)

2008 Neurospora conference abstracts Wordle

25th (2009) Fungal Genetics Conference (wordle page)

25th Fungal Genetics Abstracts
25th Fungal Genetics Wordle

24th (2007) Fungal Genetics Conference (wordle page)

24th Fungal Genetics abstracts Wordle

 

The gates are open for FGC 2011

Time to get those abstracts polished, and register for Fungal Genetics 2011 at the Asilomar conference center. The registration site is now open and you have till Dec 14 to register and submit your abstract.  Don’t delay, this is a great meeting and it can fill up.  The topics presented are a broad range of evolutionary, genetics, molecular, developmental biology of fungi and industrial applications of fungi, teaching mycology and genetics.

Hope you can make it!

Fungal Genetics 2011

Scientific program for Fungal Genetics

The scientific program is up on the FGSC website. Plan out your dash between sessions, or where you will get that coffee break meeting. This will be the largest attended fungal genetics meeting yet so will be fun to see so many people enthusiastic about the field. Look forward to seeing some of the blog readers and encouraging some guest post contributions in the future as well.

Registration opens for 25th Fungal Genetics

FG25 LogoRegistration opens today for the 25th Fungal Genetics conference at Asilomar. The preliminary program is also available with a great slate of speakers already lined up and plenty of opportunity for many students and postdocs to present their work.

The 24th conference help in 2007 was great and expect a similar great opportunity for sharing science and networking with the fungal genetics community.

Related links

Attend Fungal Genetics 2009!

If you are interested in fungal genetics and genomics, comparative biology, and of course dancing with fungal geneticists, plan to attend the 25th Fungal Genetics Meeting held at the beautiful Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. Below is info sent out from the Policy Committee and registration opens in a little over a month.  Budding (and conidiating) artists can also submit a Logo design so we have cool T-shirts to wear.

25th Fungal Genetics Conference Registration and Program

The Fungal Genetics Policy Committee invites you to attend the 25th Fungal Genetics Conference, sponsored by the Genetics Society of America.   The meeting will be held March  17-22, 2009 at the Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove, California (near Monterey, California).

The FGSC is pleased to announce that the scientific program and registration information are available online at the FGSC website

Registration for the meeting will take place online at the FGSC and GSA websites from October 27th-December 12th.

Financial aid applications are due November 14th.

Abstract submission deadlines are the same as the registration deadlines, from October 27th to December 12.

LOGOS – Please Submit your artwork

We are also pleased to invite the submission of logos for the meeting. Past logos are available for review

The winner will receive a complimentary t-shirt.

Please send logos to the FGSC by October 17, 2008.