Preliminary Schedule:

Sunday, July 15

Evening – Opening Reception

Monday, July 16

Daytime – Plenaries and contributed presentations

Evening – Keynote address

Tuesday, July 17

Daytime – Plenaries and contributed presentations

Wednesday, July 18

Free day for field trips and personal time

Thursday, July 19

Daytime – Plenaries and contributed presentations

Evening – Banquet

Friday July 20

Daytime – Plenaries and contributed presentations


Session Themes

  • Susceptibility and resilience of symbioses in the Anthropocene
  • Ecology of Symbioses
  • Mechanisms of host-microbiome interactions
  • The host-microbe interface:signaling, recognition and regulation
  • Tinkering with symbiosis: experimental insights into host-symbiont systems
  • Rise and fall of symbiosis: evolutionary transitions
  • New tools and approaches for studying symbiosis
  • Protist-host interactions (including corals, lichens, other algal host interactions)
  • Fungal-host, symbiont-fungal interactions (including lichens, mycorrhizae, insects,)
  • Bacteria-host interactions (including gut symbionts, plant epiphytes/endophytes, insect endosymbionts, chemoautotrophic bacteria-animal symbioses, luminous bacteria-animal symbioses)
  • Virus-host interactions
  • Microbe-microbe interactions


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


Ruth Gates – University of Hawaii, USA

 Dr. Ruth D. Gates is the Director of, and a researcher at, the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), University of Hawaii at Manoa. She attained her PhD from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England and completed her postdoctoral training at the University of California at Los Angeles. She moved to Hawaii in 2003 and has built a dynamic and globally recognized research group at the HIMB that focuses on coral health. Leveraging advances in this basic research area, Ruth and her colleague Madeleine van Oppen won the 2012 Paul G Allen Ocean Challenge with their idea to assist the evolution of corals and develop capacity to improve the prognosis for reefs in the face of climate change. Ruth is the elected President of the International Society for Reef Studies and a passionate advocate for coral reefs.


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.


Betsy 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.


Liping Zhao – Rutgers University, USA and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

Liping Zhao is currently the Eveleigh-Fenton Chair of Applied Microbiology at Rutgers University. He is a senior editor of the ISME Journal and associate editor of the journal Microbiome. He is a fellow of American Academy of Microbiology. His team has been applying metagenomics-metabolomics integrated tools for systems understanding and predictive manipulation of human gut microbiota for metabolic health. Liping has contributed significantly to the understanding of the role of the interactions between nutrition and gut microbiota in obesity and related metabolic
diseases, e.g. they found that endotoxin-producing opportunistic pathogens isolated from obese human gut can induce obesity in germfree mice. The SCIENCE magazine featured a story on how he combines traditional Chinese medicine and gut microbiota study to understand and fight obesity (Science 336: 1248).


Gary Stacy – 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.