As one of the longest running of all Gordon Research Conferences, Applied and Environmental Microbiology (AEM) continues to provide a unique forum for discussing new approaches, technologies, and insights that advance our understanding and increase our appreciation of the oldest and most abundant life forms on Earth.
The 2021 Conference will address one of the most urgent questions in microbiology: How can we leverage what we have learned from revolutionary technological advances to provide a conceptual framework, a set of core principles, for understanding and predicting the role of microbes in ecosystem functioning, from human holobionts to aquatic ecosystems. Microbiomes are present everywhere on Earth, and they mediate the biogeochemical processes that enable life to thrive in nearly all ecosystems. Increasing evidence links microbes to many aspects of human, animal, and plant health, with potential benefits for food security and the treatment of diseases as well as the restoration and management of ecosystems facing rapid environmental change. We are in a Golden Age of applied and environmental microbiology. Transformational innovations in molecular techniques have catalyzed the censusing of microbial diversity across many ecosystems, resulting in massive sequence datasets. However, the field is predominated by descriptive or correlative studies and the causes or mechanisms underlying the functioning of microbial communities often remain elusive. By deriving a system of fundamental principles that govern the behavior of microbial communities, their role in ecosystem functioning can be uncovered and their benefits to society realized.
As with previous AEM Conferences, 2021 will provide an open forum for the presentation and discussion of the latest research findings on the ecology and applications of microorganisms in a broad spectrum of natural, industrial, and clinical environments. Together we will address scales ranging from the single cell to highly complex (eco)systems and embracing a diverse range of research areas, including ecophysiology, microbial evolution, phylogenomics, host-commensal interactions, infection dynamics, viral ecology, sociomicrobiology, and the incorporation of microbial explicit information into predictive models. Topics for each session are intentionally broad to attract scientists with a diversity of experiences, ages, approaches, and philosophies. Together we will explore the mechanisms and environmental controls that drive microbial communities, with the goal of developing a predictive understanding of ecosystem functioning and the effects of disturbance on those systems.
The GRC-AEM is happy to continue its close collaboration with a Gordon Research Seminar (GRS). GRS-AEM 2021 will highlight the mechanisms by which microbial networks impact our environment and our health. The symposium will address the decoding of fundamental principles that govern the ecological dynamics of microbial communities in various ecosystems, including microbe-microbe interactions (trophic interactions, signalling and communication, and genetic exchanges), microbe-phage interactions (eco-evolution and phage-mediated selection), and microbe-host (migration, colonization, and adaptation), microbe-environment interactions (biogeochemical processes, resistance and resilience to change). The symposium will highlight the boundaries of microbial ecology, with both classical and cutting-edge techniques, to characterize fundamental ecological principles of microbial populations as well as to discover opportunities to develop potential biotechnologies. Discussions will be encouraged that move the field of microbial ecology beyond describing and towards maintaining healthy and balanced host and environmental ecosystems.