Upcoming Ecometagenomics Symposium at the 2014 Joint British/French Ecological Society Meeting

We’ve just finalized details for an upcoming RCN-sponsored symposium at the Joint 2014 Annual Meeting of the British Ecological Society and Société Française d’Ecologie, to be held December 9-12, 2014 at the Grand Palais in Lille, France. Early bird registration is open until October 13th, so don’t delay if you’re interested in coming along!

Symposium Title: Accelerating ecology and biodiversity research via ecometagenomics: species, communities and environmental DNA.

Our confirmed list of speakers is as follows:

  • Pierre Taberlet, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine Grenoble – “Introduction to DNA metabarcoding” (Keynote)
  • Kristy Deiner, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology – “Biomonitoring macroinvertebrates with environmental DNA”
  • Serita Frey, University of New Hampshire – “Fungal Biodiversity: Sustaining the Wood-Wide Web in Temperate Forests”
  • John Colbourne, University of Birmingham UK – “Genomes as Indicators of Environmental Health”
  • Dorota Porazinska, University of Colorado Boulder – “Highly endemic diversity patterns of soil microscopic taxa”

Symposium Description:  High-throughput sequencing technologies now offer tremendous opportunities to make major inroads into our understanding of global biodiversity, macroecology, species detection/biomonitoring and multi-level trophic interactions. For microbial eukaryotic taxa, we can now conduct en mass biodiversity assessment using taxonomic gene markers at a fraction of the time and cost required for traditional (morphological) approaches. Complimented by metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, metabarcoding of larger organismal communities and the analysis of “free” environmental DNA (eDNA), the possibilities of enhancing current approaches to biodiversity are vast. In addition, as databases of genes with functional descriptions expand and links between genotype and phenotype extend, metagenomic approaches become useful for linking functional diversity and ecosystem function. Despite this promise, current bottlenecks and roadblocks lie in the development of useful distributed tools, links between molecules and morphology/ecology, and common data standards to allow global comparisons across individual studies. In order to make the most of emerging high-throughput sequencing approaches, we must draw on expertise from diverse disciplines, including microbial, molecular and contemporary ecology. The goal of this session is to catalyze cross-disciplinary discussions between the ecology and environmental sequencing communities and showcase the opportunities that currently exist for 21st Century ecologists. This session will begin with an overview of environmental sequencing approaches, introducing participants to the methods, data types and current advantages and limitations of DNA-based studies. This session would stimulate critical discussion related to the 2014 meeting theme of “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services,” with interdisciplinary links to other international and EU-focused topics (Marine, Freshwater, and Agro-ecology). Since community-based molecular genetic analysis  represents an emerging ecological discipline, it is important to enhance linkages between the environmental DNA community and those focusing on contemporary ecological challenges, to facilitate high-throughput ecological research that will be relevant at the European scale.

This BES session proposal is timely: The understanding of patterns and mechanisms of biodiversity is among the central goals of ecology, yet patterns of the diversity of microscopic organisms continues to remain greatly uncharacterized and unexplored. Spatial patterns of species diversity are important because they generate knowledge for setting priorities for conservation, monitoring, and restoration programs that are strongly advocated in the European Union. Given that microscopic taxa are major components of detrital foodwebs and play key roles as decomposers, predators and parasites, the application of high-throughput sequencing is critical for expediting our understanding of species’ diversity and functional attributes.

 

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