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The conference was held over five days in Pacific Grove, California, in the grounds of the Asilomar Conference Centre on the tip of the Monterey Peninsula. The meeting reached capacity, with 917 delegates attending from 34 countries, and 40 US states, demonstrating the truly international nature of the fungal genetics research community. Around half of those present were faculty staff, 20% were postgraduate researchers and 31% were students. The conference featured five plenary sessions, 32 concurrent sessions with 243 talks and 662 posters, in addition to luncheon workshops, ad hoc meetings, and discussion forums.
The first plenary session, chaired by John Taylor, covered the ecology and evolution of fungi. This interesting, very different evolution is increasingly being revealed through the use of cutting edge techniques, such as next generation sequencing. Much of this work has only recently become possible through improvements in the available technology.
This session was impressive for both the depth and the precision of the questions addressed in various talks. The first talk of the conference, given by Rachel Dutton, was particularly delightful, exploring the use of cheese as an experimental ecosystem. Corby Kistler hosted the third plenary session ‘Interactions’, which sampled the broad spectrum of fungi, their interactions, and their important consequences. Fungi tend to be viewed as part of a black box of bio-degraders. Within these communities, fungi must interact with other organisms, with many of which they have established long-term coevolutionary relationships. For example Alga Zuccaro talked about how the Sebacinales display highly diverse interactions with their plant hosts including saprotrophy, endophytism and mycorrhizal nutrition. The concurrent sessions covered an excellent range and scope of topics; with more interesting talks occurring than any one person could attend, varying from fungus-plant interactions to stress responses and senescence.
The poster sessions provided a useful and interesting supplement to both the plenary and concurrent sessions; with many covering different aspects of the research discussed during the talks. The posters provided another important networking opportunity for the conference attendees, allowing students, postdoctoral researchers and faculty staff to mingle and discuss ongoing research. The importance of networking was emphasised repeatedly throughout the conference; and mentioned during many of the sessions. The plenary speakers were asked to meet with other staff and students after each session; coffee and tea breaks allowed discussion of the various talks; and the meals, held within the Crocker dining hall, allowed many of the attendees to mingle further. The site chosen for the conference, the Asilomar conference grounds, kept the attendees together. This prevented them from disappearing after the lectures; and facilitated further socialising.
The Honored Perkins/Metzenberg lecture was given before the banquet on the final day by Michael J Hynes, a leader in fungal genetics research. His talk included much of the history of fungal genetics; and stories of many of the earliest Fungal Genetics conferences.
He also re-iterated the importance of social networking, particularly online, but emphasised the importance of not letting it take the place of actual research.
The academic and social sides of the conference were a huge success; with delegates attending from around the world. The location, conference layout and timetable, and emphasis on networking provided a superb environment for discussion and learning. I would like to thank the BSPP for their generous support, which enabled me to present my research at such an important international conference.
Helen Pennington Imperial College London