From little things to the world stage
The study of small things continues to reap big opportunities for UTS microbial ecologist Dr Jean-Baptiste Raina, who has been invited to chair and organise a session at the 16th International Symposium on Microbial Ecology (ISME) Conference in August, the largest conference for microbial ecology in the world. This is a first for an Early Career Researcher (ECR) and is the result of Dr Raina being awarded the Tom Brock Postdoctoral Award at the 15th ISME in 2014.
In another first for UTS, Dr Raina together with four other ECRs from different Universities will be organising a fully funded workshop in 2017 (supported by the not-for-profit publishing group, The Company of Biologists (CoB)). Held in historic Wilston House in the UK, it will be an intensive five day program, bringing together scientists with world class expertise in marine microbial symbioses, covering everything from corals to microbiota to interactions with larger marine animals.
Dr Raina joined the UTS Climate Change Cluster in 2014 and has since been further recognised for his innovative and creative research with a DECRA, JG Russell Award and UTS Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship. His research within the C3 Ocean Microbes and Healthy Oceans research program seeks to better understand the microbial processes that, not only, underpin the marine food web, but also mediate the biological and chemical cycles that control global climate. Technically it’s a difficult task, akin to exploring the ocean one drop of seawater at a time, requiring unique approaches, multidisciplinary skills and a new set of tools combining microfluidics, chemistry and oceanography.
Imaging technology is one such set of tools and the speakers Dr Raina, and co-convenor Jillian Waters, from Cornell University, have organised for ISME will highlight recent breakthroughs in microbial imaging, bringing together outstanding ECRs from diverse backgrounds including Naama Geva-Zatorsky, Harvard Medical School and Jessica Mark Welch, from the Marine Biological Laboratory in the US. UTS colleague Dr Cynthia Whitchurch, from the i3 Institute, will present her latest results using the in-house state-of-the-art Microbial Imaging Facilities (MIF).
“High-resolution imaging of microorganisms enables us to better understand their behaviour and how they interact with each other. It is an area of research that is currently blooming because of the rapid improvement in instrumentations and techniques and this session will be the perfect opportunity to reflect on the latest research breakthroughs,” Dr Raina says.
The ISME Conference will no doubt be great preparation for the 2017 Company of Biologists workshop “Symbiosis in the microbial world: from ecology to genome evolution” with five ECRs, including Dr Raina organising the full workshop.
“It is great working with the early career scientists, including Jean-Baptiste, on this Workshop as they are so enthusiastic. It is a great opportunity for them as they can create the Workshop format that they want without having to worry about funding,“ says Nicky Le Blond CoB Co-ordinator.
“The idea is to bring together 20 speakers from 2 different fields that would not normally meet to create the cross fertilisation of ideas and to encourage collaborations. The feedback from these meetings is always amazing with a lot of the most senior scientists saying that they are the best meetings they have ever attended.”
The difficulties involved in studying the ocean’s smallest inhabitants are being overcome thanks to the unique and versatile skill sets of talented scientists such as Jean Baptiste Raina.