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Conference catch-up: Online genomics meetings in late 2021 by Biodiversity Genomics and GIGA

About the blog author: Dr. Jose (Joe) Lopez is a molecular biologist, professor at Nova Southeastern University and current AGA council member.  He has published over 80 peer-reviewed papers encompassing the molecular genetics of marine organisms (sponges, corals, bryozoans), gene expression, marine microbiology and metagenomics, symbiosis, molecular evolution and the organization of organismal relationships via systematics/phylogenetics in diverse projects. For over 20 years, the Lopez lab has focused on applying molecular tools to profiling marine organisms, from microbial impacts on water quality to developing marine invertebrates as experimental models. More details are available at the lab homepage.



Genomics meetings 2021

Although starting to fade in our rear view mirror, the latter half of 2021 was a good time to attend genomics conferences.  Firstly the fully online conference ”Biodiversity Genomics 2021: sequencing genomes across the planet” was funded by the Darwin Tree of Life and Wellcome Sanger for the second year in a row.  The effort was attended and supported by the growing worldwide community of diverse genomics scientists. Recorded talks from BG 2020 and 2021 are now available as a Youtube channel.

With relatively short notice, GIGA organizers led by Dr. Jean-François Flot of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Belgium were able to successfully hold our fourth GIGA community meeting. The meeting was conducted from 16-18 November 2021 fully online and at minimal costs to participants.  Of course most scientists, including GIGA members greatly miss in-person meetings, especially since we had a very successful GIGA III meeting in Curaçao in 2018 (co-sponsored by AGA).  More funding was provided for GIGA IV by an AGA SEA grant, if an in-person meeting had been run. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic prevented it, but it will hopefully happen in 2022 or 2023.  Networking is best when we can speak with each other, and is especially valuable for early career researchers. Thus, GIGA IV meeting should be viewed as a placeholder to keep the GIGA community engaged until we can meet in person after the pandemic.  Special thanks were due to the full GIGA conference organizing committee:

Alice Dennis – University of Potsdam, Germany

Rosa Fernández – Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain

Jean-François Flot – Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

Fabrizio Ghiselli – University of Bologna, Italy

Gonzalo Giribet – Harvard University, USA

Nadège Guiglielmoni – University of Cologne, Germany

Kevin Kocot – University of Alabama, USA

Jose Lopez – Nova Southeastern University, USA

Adelaide Rhodes – National Center for Biotechnology Information, USA

Jeffrey Robinson – University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA

GIGA IV had four formal symposia dedicated to a) PCI Genomics, b) the EU Innovative Training Network (ITN) IGNITE,  c) genomics of Mollusca and d) genomics of little-known (but interesting nonetheless) groups of animals; plus a fifth session of contributed talks on the last day, and finally GIGA’s general assembly. The PCI Genomics session featured an introductory presentation of this new diamond-access venue for articles dealing with genomics, followed by two talks on papers recently submitted there (including one by former IGNITE student Nadège Guiglielmoni). IGNITE is a European Union-funded ITN (Innovative Training Network) that has been training 15 doctoral students across multiple countries in the EU; eight IGNITE students presented their results in this session, including Ferenc Kagan’s findings on the evolution of maternal genes from priapulids, tartigrades and brachiopods, and a presentation by Fabian Ruperti on functional proteomics of freshwater sponges. One highlight of the session on molluscan genomes was the announcement by Dr. Rebekah Rogers (University of North Carolina Charlotte) of upcoming whole genomes for 15 bivalve species.

Overall, GIGA IV hosted 144 total registered participants.  All talks were recorded and made available to registered participants. The organizing committee cleverly employed the Keybase app to form a conference channel as a way to archive talks and continue the question and answer sessions offline among participants.  An exciting finale to the three-day meeting was the announcement of a new set of governing board officers for GIGA, which you can find on the GIGA homepage. The GIGA community looks forward to working with the AGA, the Earth Biogenome Project (Lewin et al., 2022) and other genome scientists to advance genomics training and research.



Lewin H.A et al 2022. The Earth BioGenome Project 2020: Starting the Clock. Proc Natl Acad of Sci USA. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2115635118

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