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Nature Conference 2017 Roundup

The Nature Conference Nature Conference: Environmental Microbial Biofilms and Human Microbiomes: Drivers of Future Sustainability recently held in Singapore provided great insights into the scope of research focusing on biofilms and microbiomes around the globe.

‘Knowledge does not grow well in insularity.’ Prof. Alan Chan thus opened the Nature Conference on Environmental Microbial Biofilms and Human Microbiomes: Drivers of Future Sustainability, in Singapore.

Chan is Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University, the conference’s host venue and promoted the increasingly broad recognition that inter-disciplinary cooperation was essential to raise the quality of urban living and promote sustainable cities.

Indeed, the line-up of speakers at this meeting attests to just that. The commonality of microbial biofilms and applicability of understanding microbiomes were themes addressed by delegates from fields ranging from marine systems to environmental engineering to medical microbiology.

The conference brought together world leaders in biofilm and microbiome research for a highly productive meeting that promoted fruitful dialogue. Many perspectives from broad-ranging fields were presented throughout the forum with the aim of generating novel viewpoints for future environmental and human sustainability from the perspective of microbial and microbiome systems.

One of the prominent threads throughout the meeting was the integration of multiple disciplines in researching various systems. The consideration of microbial systems in the conceptual framework of eukaryote ecology, coupled with a well-integrated multidisciplinary approach is providing the depth of insight needed for solid translational outcomes.

The theme of sustainability was loosely woven throughout the presentations and discussions, and at times seemed a little abstracted from many of the high-resolution studies presented. However, from a birds-eye view, and considering the content presented during the meeting as a whole, the links to sustainability are not too tenuous. The microbial world is at the heart of every ecosystem on the planet, and over the past century we have, often unknowingly, disrupted the systems that sustain us.

For example, by attempting to control the relatively few deleterious (to humans) microbes that cause disease we have disrupted the balance of co-evolved microbiomes that have sustained us, and the planet, for millennia. As this meeting has aptly demonstrated, we are now in a position to give the microbial world the recognition it warrants, and the more deeply we understand the microbes that permeate our world, the more benefits we can derive for sustainable environmental health and human wellbeing.

Each of the theme-based sessions featured in the conference was followed by an open floor discussion, lead by a panel of presenters, leading to some interesting dialogue and, sometimes, alternative perspectives. This feature of the program allowed the audience and speakers to engage in broader conceptual discussions and find commonalities in often disparate systems as well as the unifying approaches for studying these systems.

For a more complete coverage of the conference presentations, see npj Biofilms and Microbiomes Community posts