Wednesday, August 5, 2009: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
Blrm A, Albuquerque Convention Center
Jessica L. Green
There are at least 10 times more microbial cells than human cells living on and in the average human body. It has become increasingly evident in the last few years that understanding the ecology of this human-associated microbiota is crucial to understanding the human body. Recent research suggests that the biodiversity of human-associated communities is much higher than previously understood, and that these communities may be intimately involved in human health and disease. The proposed symposium will provide an overview of this emerging research area, with an emphasis on the role ecologists can play in increasing our understanding of the "rainforest within" and its role in the "sustainability" of the human body. The speakers will discuss human-associated communities from a number of different perspectives, including how such communities assemble, their diversity and dynamics, their response to disturbance, and their impact on aggregate processes (such as development, digestion, and disease resistance). After a 15-minute introduction, five 30-minute presentations will be given. Each talk will be authored by a pair of scientists, one ecologist, and one biomedical researcher, to maximize the accessibility of the topic to an ecological audience and to promote an interdisciplinary perspective. The talks will be presented by one individual, but both authors will be present for a 45-minute panel discussion at the end of the symposium. The presentations will be ordered to provide a comprehensive overview of the topic, starting with a presentation regarding the human microbiome as an ecological community, followed by two talks concerning the biodiversity and assembly of human-associated communities, and concluding with two talks regarding the role of human-associated communities in human health and disease. The organizers have contacted the Ecology Editor-in-Chief regarding publishing papers from the proposed symposium in a special feature or issue of Ecology that would be co-published with a medical journal. He is very enthusiastic about the idea. The organizers have also discussed potential funding for the proposed symposium and special feature with the ESA development staff, and they are enthusiastic about working with the organizers to obtain outside funding.
ESA Microbial Ecology Section