Catalysis Meeting

The origin and evolution of animal-microbe interactions

PI(s): Margaret McFall-Ngai (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Michael G. Hadfield (University of Hawaii-Hilo)
Start Date: 10-Oct-2010
End Date: 10-Oct-2011
Keywords: adaptive radiation, coevolution, evolutionary novelty, species interactions, evo-devo

Technological advances in molecular methods over the last decade have enabled biologists to define the diversity of the biological world more accurately than ever before. Emerging data have convincingly demonstrated that the vast diversity of evolved life is microbial, and the evolution of plants and animals in the last sixth of the earth's history has occurred as a patina upon a microbe-dominated landscape. In addition, exciting new data are revealing that plants and animals require for their health intimate, life-long and coevolved relationships with the microbial world. Integration of these new and seminal discoveries into biological thought will be critical for all aspects of the biological sciences, from biomedicine to environmental biology, yet such integration will be impossible without changes in the basic fabric of the discipline. In addition to the strongly reductionistic or highly divergent trajectories of the subspecialties of biology over the last 50 years, the structures of departments, professional societies, and university-campus physical plants are not conducive to an essential synthesis. The proposed Catalysis Meeting at NESCent would bring together a diverse assemblage of biologists with the aims of considering this issue, building alliances, and developing a roadmap for the way forward for the field. A tangible and immediate goal is to produce a short publication, for a highly visible scientific journal as a joint effort from the entire set of participants, one that will describe the fruits of our efforts to define the problems and outline the solutions for the synthesis of microbiology and macrobiology.