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The 9th International Mycological Congress, Edinburgh, UK. 1st-6th August 2010
Summary The IMC9 took place in Scotland’s gorgeous and, during the course of the congress, sunny capital Edinburgh, and attracted more than 1600 delegates from 80 countries. Around 450 oral presentations and over 1200 poster presentations divided into 4 poster sessions addressed a broad range of scientific themes, including cell biology, biochemistry and physiology, environment, ecology and interactions, evolution, biodiversity and systematics, fungal pathogenesis and disease control, as well as genomics, genetics and molecular biology. Several pre- and post-conference excursions to the Atlantic West Coast, Royal Deeside and Firth of Forth / Lammermuir Hills offered the opportunity to explore different mycological habitats in Scotland.
Highlights The congress took place at two venues: Usher Hall and the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC).
To make it easier for delegates to find their way, the pavement between these buildings was decorated with huge fungus tags, and regular traffic jams were caused by policemen stopping passing cars to ensure safe street crossing for the bunch of Mycologists.
The first congress day started with 23 Special interest group (SIG) meetings fitted in two time slots, followed by the congress welcome ceremony. One highlight was the very entertaining keynote talk of John Taylor (University of California at Berkeley, USA) on the poetry of mycological accomplishment and challenge, a beautiful melange of Scottish poetry and mycology.
Each of the following congress days started with a plenary lecture. Gero Steinberg (University of Exeter, UK) talked about organelle transport in fungal cells with emphasis on endosome and secretory vesicle motility. Joseph Heitman (Duke University, USA) gave an overview on the diversity of microbial pathogens in the fungal kingdom and their place in the fungal tree of life. Fungal phylogeny was also addressed by David Hibbett (Clark University, USA), who stressed opportunities, but also challenges in detecting and naming new fungal species by modern technologies. The fungal taxonomy focus was additionally underlined by several nomenclature sessions throughout the congress week, aiming, amongst others, at having one name for one fungus and the possibility of moving away from Latin names. At Thursday’s plenary, Nick Talbot (University of Exeter, UK) beautifully illustrated the molecular genetics of plant infection by the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae with its “pressure dome” appressoria. The last congress day had two plenary lectures: Alastair Fitter (York University, UK) addressed the Glomeromycota as an important, yet forgotten phylum, and stressed gaps in knowledge and needs for future research. Finally, Nancy Keller (University of Wisconsin at Madison, USA) talked about secondary metabolites as the fungal treasure box and focused on recent findings in the regulation of secondary metabolite synthesis.
Next to the SIG meetings and plenary talks, oral presentations took place in 45 symposia divided into 5 parallel sessions. Here are just 3 examples of the many interesting talks: Håvard Kauserud (University of Oslo, Norway) presented results from a meta analysis concerning climate change effects on the time of fruiting of fungi in Norway; Yuriko Nagano (JAMSTEC, Japan) reported the discovery of 3 new fungal species in marine subsurface sediments 40. 5m below the seafloor; and Patrick Hickey (University of Edinburgh, UK) gave an insight into organelle transport in fungal hyphae using time-lapse imaging techniques.
On the margins of the congress, BMS, BSPP and MSA hosted a reception at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where invited guests had the opportunity to visit the exhibition “From Another Kingdom: The Amazing World of Fungi”.
It shows the great diversity of fungi and stresses the great importance they play in all aspects of life. A range of additional events like courses, talks and films are offered to ensure a more thorough interaction between the fungal world and the public. I can warmly recommend this exhibition which is running until November 21st, 2010, so if you travel to Edinburgh before don’t miss out!
The end of congress party was a great opportunity for informal conversation, and to sample an amazing diversity of delicious food from all over the world, accompanied by a choice of great Whiskies. One highlight was the Scottish Ceilidh dance band ‘The Occasionals’, giving the enthusiastic crowd instructions on dancing steps of different Scottish Ceilidh dances.
Overall, the congress was a great opportunity to meet colleagues from the Mycologists family and to update ones knowledge on all aspects of fungal biology. I am grateful to the BSPP for part-funding my attendance at the IMC9 to present a poster on potential effects of global warming on different life cycle stages of oilseed rape pathogens in Germany. It was surprising for me that climate change effects on fungi have received relatively little attention from researchers so far, so a lot of work still needs to be done on this exciting field of fungal biology.
Magdalena Siebold, Georg-August- University of Goettingen, Germany
The International Mycological Congress is the most important scientific forum where highly important aspects of mycology are discussed from all over the world. The very first Congress was organized in 1971 in Exeter and this year it was held in the UK again, in Edinburgh, the picturesque capital city of Scotland. The conference was a huge success thanks to Prof. Nick Read`s and Prof. Lynne Boddy`s enthusiasm. Four police officers and two bagpipers also deserve recognition for securing the over 1600 attendees getting over safely from Usher Hall to The Edinburgh International Conference Centre. The friendly atmosphere of the welcome reception, as well as the visit of an exhibition called “From Another Kingdom: the Amazing World of Fungi” in the Botanic Gardens and the End of Congress Party, made networking more than easy.
The meeting provided a broad overview of five overlapping themes in cell biology, biochemistry and physiology; genomics, genetics and molecular biology; pathogenesis and disease control; evolution, diversity and systematics; and environment, ecology and interactions.
The keynote from Prof. John Taylor (University of California at Berkeley) summarised the achievements and remaining challenges of the mycology world, whilst cunningly smuggling the words of Robert Burns into the speech.
Repeated several times during the conference, the main message of this excellent talk was “Think Big!”.
While the number of described species is growing rapidly, Prof. David Hibbett from Clark University believes that this knowledge can still keep future mycologists occupied for the next 1170 to 3000 years, as mentioned in his plenary talk. He took the opportunity to raise the question of the Latin dominance for species description. An expressive and funny example was chosen to illustrate the difficulty of species’ description: the current lack of a Latin language in Google’s translation web service.
There were also some excellent presentations about DNA barcoding: Keith Seifert, from Agriculture & Agrifood in Canada, gave an overview of the long term aim that researchers focus on, when they’re involved in barcoding research. International networks are formed in order to establish some large scale fungal barcode projects, such as the ‘International Barcode of Life’ and now the ‘internal transcribed spacer’ (ITS) is accepted as the fungal barcode by the Barcode of Life database. The ITS region was actually used by scientists in order to identify medical fungi by Wieland Meyer from the University of Sydney, as well as fungal species in indoor environments by Robert Samson (CBS-KNAW Fungal Biodiversity Centre). Ewald Groenewald, from the CBS-KNAW Fungal Biodiversity Centre, has been focusing on adding new house-keeping genes such as actin, beta-tubulin and translation elongation factor 1-alpha for specific species that have a low ITS resolution, which allowed the identification of organisms with quarantine importance in Europe.
A new generation pyrosequencing method is highly valuable, as it provides a huge amount of sequence data to assess fungal diversity of environmental samples. Marc Buee, from INRA, showed that the abundance and the diversity of temperate forest soils are much higher than previously hypothesized by using 454 sequencing. Marieka Gryzenhout (University of Pretoria) extended this assessment by explaining that pyrosequencing data revealed the presence of numerous endophytes, which were not growing in culture, from Eucaliptus grandis trees.
David McLaughlin, from the University of Minnesota, announced that the reconstructed database of selected ultrastructural and biochemical characters useable in phylogenetic and other analyses, was now available, as part of the bigger project of assembling a fungal tree of life. Ronald P. De Vries (CBS-KNAW Fungal Biodiversity Centre) presented a new database called FUNGGROWT containing a set of genes encoding putative carbohydrate active enzymes, as well as carbon source profiles of fungi using 35 different carbon sources.
In the conference pack, which every participant received, a questionnaire could be filled in in order to allow participants to express any of their concerns regarding the nomenclature. A debate about the problems of fungal nomenclature was organized and resulted in a 4-words tag line: “One goal, one name”. The goal of the nomenclature is now to simplify its naming policy, by choosing either the anamorph or the teleomorph name of a species, by the time of the IMC10 in Thailand, instead of the current use of both.
I would like to thank the BSPP, as well as the GCRI Trust of Warwick HRI for having provided the needed funding to attend the Mycological Congress. The conference was a valuable scientific highlight which provided me with several ideas, interesting concepts and new contacts and I plan to use them to complete my Defra funded PhD project on DNA barcoding and biotyping of major Fusarium pathogens.
Viktoria Vagany, Warwick HRI, the University of Warwick
When I walked through Edinburgh’s Meadow Park I was excited to attend the 9th International Mycological Congress held at The Edinburgh Conference Centre and Usher Hall. This well run conference (held from 1st to 6th of August 2010) was organized and sponsored by the British Mycological Society, International Mycological Association, Elsevier, The University of Edinburgh, RMS, Federation of European Microbiology Society, DANISCO, Eisai Associates of Cape Cod International and The British Lichen Society. Over 1700 delegates from 83 countries participated.
As I’m working with Fusarium vascular infection of oil palm, studying its epidemiology, genetic diversity and molecular diagnostic tools, having the Special Interest Group Meeting (SIG) before the conference was ideal. I attended sessions on evolution and biodiversity of basal lineage of fungi, mathematical modelling and molecular diagnostic approaches. Most of the presentations involved mathematical modelling on hyphal networks, which provided an ideal framework of hyphae movement and prediction of growth rates towards the resource. With regards to molecular diagnostic approaches, JW Woodhall presented about the analysis of soil DNA, in conjunction with a robust soil extraction method, which can detect fungal material in soil with real-time PCR. In other talks, the fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) method in which signal intensities of the target rRNA are correlated with the ribosome content of the target cell, were discussed, such as in fungi in the environment, for example Aureobasidium pullulans.
Recently, actively growing freshwater fungi and germinating conidia have been detected with taxon-specific FISH probes in an alpine stream. A multiplex detection based on padlock probe technology has been developed by the Plant Research International Group (PRIG) from the Netherlands and offers flexible, adaptable and high level of specificity and multiplexing through these diagnostic tools. Cor Schoen (PRIG) described how the padlock based technique has the potential application of detecting quarantine pathogens, pathogens on cultivated crops, identification of micro-organisms based on multiple motifs and/or indicator organisms for soil health status.
Basically, I gained a lot of knowledge from this SIG meeting, as one of my aims is to develop a rapid detection and quantification of Foe in diseased plant tissue, soil, seed and pollen for quarantine purposes in order to (1) prevent transcontinental spread and (2) to test efficacy of putative resistant or tolerant palm genotypes. This is because vascular wilt disease caused by Foe is a devastating disease of oil palm in West and Central Africa; surprisingly it has not been reported in South East Asia, in spite of long term importation for breeding of African seed and pollen, shown by our lab to be contaminated with Foe. These tools can be used for quarantine purposes of any imported materials in order to help South East Asia avoid and/or be prepared for this potential problem.
After this excellent start, all delegates were welcomed by the IMC9 organizing committees and sponsors at Usher Hall.
John Taylor (University of California, Berkeley, USA) gave a motivating keynote entitled ‘The poetry of mycological accomplishment and challenge’. As this conference took place in Edinburgh, many of the committee including John wore some nice Scottish traditional costume. I wanted to buy myself a kilt as well but it’s too expensive for a student like me.
The conference started with several different topics in parallel such as fungal epigenetics, future strategies for the control of fungal diseases, cryptic species and speciation in the morning session followed by applied genomics and industrial mycology, environmental sensing and responses, origin and coevolution of lichen and mycorrhizal fungi with plants for the afternoon session. Though I would love to have attended each of them, my focus was on future strategies for the control of fungal diseases. Gabriel Scalliet (Syngenta) talked about the impact of high throughput sequencing technologies in disease control research. They have mapped the genetic factors of Mycosphaerella graminicola with resistance towards fungicides by using Solexa Genome Analyzer II platform. This means high throughput sequencing has enabled the application of forward genetics to mode of action and mode of resistance identification.
There were more than 600 posters during the conference and because of that scale, each poster was only allotted for a one day poster session; that short time was disappointing after so much effort went into it. I presented a poster entitled ‘Fusarium vascular infection of oil palm: Epidemiology, genetic diversity and molecular diagnostic tools’. I met many researchers working in the same field as me. Some of their research focussed on genomic and metabolic analyses as tools for Fusarium classification (Ulf Thrane from Microbial Biotechnology, Denmark), F. oxysporum f. sp. vanillae, causal agent of vanilla stem root rot (Pinaria from Botanic Garden Trust, Australia), phylogenetic survey of Japanese species of Fusarium (T. Aoki from National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Japan), biocontrol activities of Trichoderma harzianum and Aneurino Bacillus migulanus against F. oxysporum f. sp. gladioli. There were many other inspiring delegates from all over the world.
The conference continued with many more presentations under several major themes such as evolution, diversity and systematics, cell biology, biochemistry and physiology, genomics, genetics and molecular biology, pathogenesis and disease control and also environment, ecology and interactions. As a traditional plant pathologist, there were several presentations that caught my attention particularly on the use of indigenous Trichoderma as a plant growth enhancer of productivity of forest nursery in Borneo (R A Hill) and also a presentation by C. Zachow on the effect of Trichoderma and cooperating bacteria against Rhizoctonia root rot.
I would like to thank the BSPP for the financial assistance and for giving me the opportunity to share my experience in this report. Furthermore, I would like to thank my supervisor Dr. Richard M.
Cooper (University of Bath) for encouraging me to take part in this conference. At least, I can say that I’ve now climbed up Arthur’s Seat. See you all in Thailand for the next IMC conference.
Terima kasih (thank you).
Hefni Rusli, University of Bath