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2007 Small Matters: Microbes and Their Role in Conservation

Microscopic organisms – including viruses, bacteria, archaea, and single-celled eukaryotic organisms – comprise the vast majority of life on the planet, yet startlingly little is known about their true diversity and the multitudinous roles they play in the ecosphere.  The knowledge that we do have tends to come from either those organisms that can be cultured in the laboratory or those that make us or other organisms sick.  However, the revolution of using DNA sequences to discover and describe microbial diversity has drastically altered our view of the microbial world and its players.  Now, new biochemical processes, including new forms of photosynthesis and even electricity-generating bacteria are being discovered as culture independent and broader explorations into new habitats are performed.  Yet at the same time that we begin to uncover ne hidden potential benefits or micro-organisms, the news is also replete with stories of so-called emergent diseases that threaten human and other organisms on the planet.

Small Matters: Microbes and Their Role in Conservation brought together scientists from the traditionally disparate fields or microbiology and conservation, including biogeochemists, marine microbiologists, disease ecologists, and microbial systemists, as well as conservation practitioners, wildlife managers, policy makers educators, students, and the general public to explore this intersection of two fields that, until now, had not been considered in depth.  Several broad questions were addressed including: How much microbial diversity is there on the planet?  How does this diversity affect other organisms, both positively and negatively?  How should conservation practices take microbial life into account?

"Small Matters: Microbes and Their Role in Conservation" was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, with support from the National Science Foundation, the Mack Lipkin Man and Nature Series, and the Joseph and Joan Cullman Conservation Foundation, Inc.  Additional support was provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society.


AGENDA

DAY ONE
THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2007

9:00 OPENING REMARKS
Ellen V. Futter, President, American Museum of Natural History
and Michael J. Novacek, Senior Vice President and Provost of Science, American Museum of Natural History

9:00 SESSION I
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE TINY: DETECTING AND DESCRIBING MICROBIAL DIVERSITY

INTRODUCTION
Session Moderator: Susan Perkins, (Symposium Content Coordinator) Assistant Curator, Invertebrate Zoology and Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History

Keynote Address
THE TREE OF LIFE AND THE DIVERSIFICATION OF EUKARYOTES
Laura Katz, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Smith College

Keynote Address
IT’S A JUNGLE IN THERE: MICROBIAL DIVERSITY IN THE HUMAN BODY
David Relman, Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology, and Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Stanford University

ALLOPATRIC ORIGINS OF MICROBIAL SPECIES: EVOLUTION OF GENOMIC DIVERSITY IN MICROBIAL ISLAND POPULATIONS
Rachel Whitaker, Assistant Professor of Microbiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

GENOMIC WINDOWS INTO MICROBIAL SPECIES
James Tiedje, University Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University

MICROBIAL MACROECOLOGY: PATTERNS IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF MICROBIAL BIODIVERSITY
Brandan Bohannan, Associate Professor, Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene

DIVERSITY AND BIOGEOGRAPHY OF MARINE VIRUSES
Mya Breitbart, Assistant Professor, College of Marine Science, University of South Florida

2:00 SESSION II
CAN'T LIVE WITH 'EM? DISEASES AND OTHER HARMFUL MICROBES — BUT ARE THEY A NECESSARY EVIL?

Session Moderator: Mark Siddall, Associate Curator, Invertebrate Zoology and Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History

Keynote Address
THE ROLE OF PARASITES AND PATHOGENS IN FOOD WEBS
Andrew Dobson, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

Keynote Address
MICROBIAL DIVERSITY, BIOGEOGRAPHY, CLIMATE, AND HEALTH
Rita Colwell, Chairman, Canon US Life Sciences, Inc.; and Distinguished Professor, University of Maryland College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS – INCREASING PREVALENCE OF MICROBIAL TOXINS AND IMPACTS
Patricia M. Glibert, Professor, Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland

BIODIVERSITY LOSS AND THE RISE OF ZOONOTIC PATHOGENS
Richard Ostfeld, Senior Scientist, Institute of Ecosystem Studies

PLANT-SOIL BIOTA INTERACTIONS AND PLANT INVASIONS
Kurt O. Reinhart, Ecologist, Department of Biology, Indiana University

SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL DRIVERS OF EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASES IN HUMANS
Kate Jones, Academic Fellow, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London

5:00 THE MACK LIPKIN MAN AND NATURE SERIES RECEPTION AND POSTER SESSION
Hall of Northwest Coast Indians


7:00 2007 Mack Lipkin Man and Nature Series Panel Discussion
SAVE THE MICROBES, SAVE THE WORLD: THE FATE OF MICROBIAL LIFE ON A CHANGING PLANET
LeFrak Theater
FREE ADMISSION

Moderator: Julie Burstein, Public Radio International and WNYC Radio
Panelists:
Rita Colwell, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Chairman, Canon US Life Sciences, Inc.
James Staley, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Washington
Susan Perkins, (Symposium Content Coordinator) Assistant Curator, Invertebrate Zoology and Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History


DAY TWO
FRIDAY, APRIL 27, 2007

9:00 SESSION III
CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT 'EM? THE ROLE OF MICROBES IN THE SUSTAINABILITY OF LIFE ON EARTH

Session Moderator: Rob DeSalle, Curator, Invertebrate Zoology and Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History

OPENING REMARKS
Eleanor Sterling, Director, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History

Keynote Address
OF MICROBES AND MACROBES: ARE MICROORGANISMS ECOLOGICALLY DIFFERENT FROM THEIR PLANT AND ANIMAL DESCENDENTS?
Shahid Naeem, Professor of Ecology and Chair, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University

Keynote Address
MICROBES AND BIOGEOCHEMICAL PROCESSES: DUMB, BLACK-BOX BIOREACTORS IN THE DIRT?
Peter Groffman, Senior Scientist, Institute of Ecosystem Studies

11:10 SESSION IV
THE INTERSECTION OF MICROBIOLOGY AND CONSERVATION: CASE STUDIES

Session Moderator: Felicity Arengo, Associate Director, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History

THE 5,000 VIRUS GENOME PROJECT: USING NEW SEQUENCING TECHNOLOGY TO ANSWER QUESTIONS IN BIODIVERSITY AND ECOLOGY
Marilyn J. Roossinck, Scientist, Plant Biology Division, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

LESSONS FROM OLIGOTROPHS
Stephen J. Giovannoni, Pernot Professor, Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University

THE DIRECT AND INDIRECT EFFECTS OF PARASITES ON PLANT COMMUNITY RESTORATIONS
Bitty A. Roy, Associate Professor, Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene

SHEDDING NEW LIGHT ON A DARK TOPIC: THE MICROBIAL WONDERLAND OF CAVES
Diana Northup, Visiting Associate Professor of Biology, and Professor Emerita, Centennial Science and Engineering Library, University of New Mexico

VIRUSES, MICROBES, AND THE DECLINE OF CORAL REEFS
Forest Rohwer, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, San Diego State University

SEX, DRUGS, AND PENGUINS: A STUDY OF ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE IN ANTARCTICA
Robert V. Miller, Regents Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Oklahoma State University

3:35 SESSION V
CAPSTONE PANEL DISCUSSION

Moderator: George Amato, Director, Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History

Panelists:
Durland Fish, Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, and Director, Center for EcoEpidemiology, Yale School of Medicine
Jessica L. Green, Assistant Professor, Yale School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
Michele K. Nishiguchi, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Department of Biology, New Mexico State University
Paul Turner, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University
Bess B. Ward, Chair, Department of Geosciences and William J. Sinclair Professor of Geosciences, Princeton University

5:00 CONFERENCE ADJOURNS

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