Rideal bursar Jessica Poole attends 'The Power of the Small'

14 Nov 2012

Jessica Poole was awarded a Rideal Travel Bursary to attend 'The Power of the Small' : 14th International Symposium on Microbial Ecology, hosted by the International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 19-24 August 2012.

Jessica writes: My poster: 'Effect of Silver Nanoparticles on Ammonia Oxidation in Estuarine Sediments' summarised the chemical and (micro) biological effects of introducing man-made silver nanoparticles to estuarine environments. It showed that a reduction in nitrification potential, as well as a reduction in bacterial amoA gene copies occurred over a number of timepoints from 1-14 days when 50 mg/l nanosilver was added to estuarine and freshwater sediments, but no effect on nitrification potential or amoA gene copies by adding 0.5 mg/l nanosilver.

I learnt more detail about the process of nitrification and what environmental factors can affect nitrification from others' presentations and posters. I also met a group of people who have produced toxic silver nanoparticles biologically using specific bacterial cultures, rather than chemically (as is normally the process).

The ISME-14 programme included some great keynote presenters, all of whom are outstanding microbiologists. My particular favourites included Prof Michael Wagner of the University of Vienna, Austria, and Prof Nicole Dubilier of the Max Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology, Germany.

I felt that the key focus of ISME-14 was to encourage us to start thinking about microbial processes at the finer level. For example many talks focused on the development and application of techniques that allow us to discern the role, activity, function or behaviour of single cells within entire microbial communities from environmental samples, rather than at the group level. This seemed especially relevant in light of the increasing use of pyrosequencing techniques to categorise environments, and we were reminded that just because genes are present in an environment, the organisms hosting them may not necessarily be active.

I am currently in the third year of my PhD and have recently secured a postdoctoral position beginning in January 2014 which will involve at least six months work-based at the University of Calgary and the University of Edmonton, Canada. At ISME-14 I met a very friendly group of scientists based at the Universities of Calgary and Edmonton who I now look forward to working with. I also met a group of interesting people from Belgium who are able to synthesise silver nanoparticles using bacterial cultures, and who would be interested in making comparisons between chemically and biologically produced silver nanoparticles in terms of their toxicity.

I was lucky enough to be accompanied by two other members of my research group at the ISME conference, so we will be able to share our experiences with the rest of our group who were unable to attend. I noticed a couple of presentations on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi which is directly relevant to one of my colleagues.

Attending ISME-14 was a fantastic experience.I learnt a lot about new and upcoming techniques in microbiology and the kinds of detailed discoveries that have been made as a result of them. I also was able to meet a variety of interesting and like-minded microbiologists from all over the world, some of whom I hope to see again and perhaps collaborate with in the future.

Jessica Poole
Essex University

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