Registration starts at 4:00pm on Sunday, July 15th

then Join us for the opening reception at 5:00pm!


Schedule Detail   Abstracts   Details for Presenters All Attendees Detail

Click for PDF Schedule at A Glance
Updated 07/10/18

Keynote Speaker:

Ed Yong – science journalist and writer.  Author of the book on symbiosis: I Contain Multitudes

Ed Yong is a science journalist based in Washington DC. Ed cares deeply about accurate and nuanced reporting, clear and vivid storytelling, and social equality. He writes about everything that is or was once alive, from the quirky world of animal behaviour to the equally quirky lives of scientists, from the microbes that secretly rule the world to the species that are blinking out of it, from the people who are working to make science more reliable to those who are using it to craft policies. His stories span 3.7 billion years, from the origin of life itself to this month’s developments in Congress.



Plenary Speakers:

Rebecca Vega Thurber – Oregon State University

Dr. Rebecca (Becky) Vega Thurber is an associate professor of microbiology. She has been teaching microbiology and conducting research on marine microbial ecology at OSU since 2011. Her lab investigates the role and dynamics of bacteria and viruses in marine hosts and habitats in order to better understand the proximate causes of disease, habitat degradation, and ecosystem alterations. Dr. Vega Thurber graduated from University of Santa Cruz in 1994, receiving two Bachelors of Arts degrees in Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology and Marine Biology. In 2005 she received her PhD from Stanford University in Biological Sciences. She conducted her NSF postdoctoral fellowship work in the laboratory of Dr. Forest Rohwer at San Diego State University.


Margaret McFall-Ngai – University of Hawaii, USA

Dr. Margaret McFall-Ngai is currently Director of the Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC), University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Professor at PBRC’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory. Her laboratory studies two areas: 1) the role of beneficial bacteria in health using the squid-vibrio model; 2) the biochemical and molecular ‘design’ of tissues that interact with light.  In addition, she has been heavily involved in promoting microbiology as the cornerstone of the field of biology. Dr. McFall-Ngai also currently holds emeritus status at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was recently (2011-2013) a Moore Scholar at California Institute of Technology. Dr. McFall-Ngai has been a Guggenheim fellow, and is a member of the American Academy of Microbiology (2002), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2011), and the National Academy of Sciences (2014).


Joel Sachs – University of California at Riverside, USA

Joel’s lab investigates plant-bacterial interactions with a focus on nitrogen fixing mutualisms. There are three overlapping research programs that they focus on: I) the coevolution of bacterial exploitation and plant control, II) genome evolution and population biology of plant-associated bacteria, and III) mechanistic bases of plants control over bacterial mutualists. They use a variety of approaches, including field, experimental, histological, in vitro, and genomic analyses.


Peter Kennedy – University of Minnesota

Peter Kennedy is a mycologist broadly interested in plant-microbe interactions.  He has worked most extensively on the ectomycorrhizal fungal symbiosis, focusing on how the structure of ectomycorrhizal fungal communities is influenced by factors such as interspecific competition, host specificity, and biogeography. Peter received his bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College and his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.  He was a post-doctoral research fellow at Point Reyes National Seashore before joining the faculty at Lewis and Clark College as an assistant professor of biology in 2007. In 2013, Peter moved to the University of Minnesota to become an associate professor in the departments of plant and microbial biology and ecology, evolution, and behavior.  He is a recent recipient of outstanding young investigator awards from both the Mycological Society of America and International Mycological Association.


Toby Spribille – University of Alberta, Canada

Toby Spribille is a naturalist with an interest in plant life of boreal and mountain forests. His published work spans community ecology and conservation as well as species diversity, phylogenetics, genomics and microscopic composition of the lichen symbiosis. Originally from Montana, Toby has degrees in plant biology from Germany and Austria. He was the inaugural recipient of the Aino Henssen Award by the International Association of Lichenology and is an assistant professor of symbiosis at University of Alberta, Canada.


Elizabeth Arnold – University of Arizona

Elizabeth Arnold (Betsy) is an evolutionary ecologist and fungal biologist with interests that link symbioses in communities ranging from Arctic tundra to tropical forests. She earned her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona and joined the faculty there in 2005 after completing an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Microbial Biology at Duke University. Her lab focuses on the evolution, ecology, and applications of plant-fungal and fungal-bacterial symbioses, with a strong commitment to outreach, inclusivity in the sciences, and STEM education.


Gary Stacey – University of Missouri-Columbia

Gary Stacey is Curators’ Professor and MSMC Endowed Professor of Plant Sciences and Biochemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His research focuses generally on molecular aspects of plant-microbe interactions, including studies of the beneficial legume-rhizobium symbiosis and plant-fungal pathogen interactions. He has also been instrumental in the development of genomic resources for the study of soybean. He has mentored 37 postdoctoral fellows and 25 Ph.D. and 7 M.S. graduate students. He has authored or co-authored more than 240 peer-reviewed research articles, 78 book chapters, and 13 patents. Two of his patents support the product Optimize TM sold by Novozymes, Inc., to enhance rhizobial inoculant performance on soybean. In 2014, he was named a Curators’ Professor by the University of Missouri and that same year was identified by ASPB as one of the most cited authors in their society journals. In 2008, he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In 2010, he was elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology and, in the same year, Fellow of the American Society for Plant Biology.


Seth Bordenstein – Vanderbilt University







Seth Bordenstein is an evolutionary biologist in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. He is the founding director of the international science education program Discover the Microbes Within! The Wolbachia Project and the Vanderbilt Microbiome Initiative. He is also Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation. His laboratory endeavors to understand the evolutionary and genetic principles that shape symbiotic interactions between animals, microbes, and viruses and the major applications of these interactions to human health. Towards these goals, the lab employs hypothesis-driven approaches to study intimate symbioses between arthropods and obligate intracellular bacteria that modify sexual reproduction and facultative symbioses between animals and gut microbes that impact animal health, fitness, and evolution. He is the recipient of the 2014 Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2014 Chancellor’s Award for Research, and 2018 Chancellor Faculty Fellow Award from Vanderbilt University.