Plenary speakers

Plenary speakers

Debashish Bhattacharya

Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA

 Debashish Bhattacharya is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers University. His group and collaborators work in the field of algal genomics and evolution and investigate the complex paths of algal origin through endosymbiosis. Phylogenetics, genomics, a variety of bioinformatic approaches, and functional methods are used to understand how organelles were integrated into “host” cell metabolism. His group works on the intriguing photosynthetic amoeba Paulinella that gained its photosynthetic organelle (plastid) independent from plants and algae and provides an invaluable resource for understanding how organelles evolve. The Bhattacharya group also maintains interests in novel approaches to algal biology, including work done with Mehdi Javanmard at Rutgers Electrical and Computer Engineering to develop a device and statistical models to determine cell health by studying their impedance response in an electrical field.

Plenary talk: Using Paulinella to decipher how organelles are integrated into host biology

The endosymbiotic origin of oxygenic photosynthesis in the ancestor of algae and plants was a turning point for our planet that laid the foundation for the rise of plants, humans and other multicellular life. The widespread photosynthetic organelle in eukaryotes, the plastid, originated about 1.6 billion years ago in a heterotrophic protist via primary endosymbiosis.
The extreme age of this event has made it very difficult to discern the foundations of primary endosymbiosis in terms of host and endosymbiont integration. All extent plastids are highly derived and reflect 100s of millions of years of divergent evolution in Archaeplastida and algae with secondary or tertiary plastids. This metabolic integration is of vital importance because phototrophic primary production supports many key ecosystems on our planet and provides potential sources of green energy. Therefore, the finding of an independent plastid primary endosymbiosis in the rhizarian amoeba lineage, Paulinella, offered an important model to gain fundamental understanding of how organelles are formed. This plastid, referred to as a chromatophore, originated about 100 million years ago from an alpha-cyanobacterial donor. In my talk, I will describe our recent collaborative work with members of the Paulinella clade that focused on nuclear and chromatophore genome evolution, the role of horizontal gene transfer in these taxa, incident light usage, photosystem efficiency, and how the formation of composite genes may have provided adaptive traits vis-à-vis the novel organelle. These results provide key insights into what was once considered an unreachable goal: to reconstruct early events that mark the transition from symbiont to organelle. Specifically, I will address if and how the chromatophore differs from algal/plant plastids in terms of photosynthetic capacity. Do the photosystems in the chromatophore behave like those in free-living cyanobacteria, or is it plastid-like? And, what does this reveal about host control of organelle function?

Assaf Vardi

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.

The Vardi Laboratory aims at exploring the cellular mechanisms involved in sensing and acclimation to diverse environmental stress conditions during algal bloom dynamics in the ocean. Our research utilizes the recent advances in the field of chemical ecology, combined with cell biology approaches to understand the role of chemical signals (infochemicals) and reveal their function in regulating cell fate decision as programmed cell death, defence and shift in life cycle. We develop model systems in the lab, representing key biotic interaction (host-virus, host-bacteria, predator-prey and allelopathy) which regulate the fate of algal blooms, in order to discover novel signalling and metabolic pathways employed during these interactions. Newly identified genes, lipids and metabolites induced during specific interactions are used as a functional biomarkers for the study of the ecological impact of algal blooms in microbial food webs of natural population in the ocean.

Plenary Talk:  The metabolic cross-talk of algal-pathogen arms race at sea 

Phytoplankton are unicellular algae that form massive oceanic blooms, covering thousands of square kilometres and responsible for half of the photosynthetic activity on Earth. Microbial interactions that regulate the fate of algal blooms play a profound role in determining nutrient cycling in the ocean and feedback to the atmosphere. Nevertheless, we are still lacking fundamental understanding of the cellular mechanisms and the chemical language that mediate these interactions. We therefore develop model systems in the lab, representing key biotic interaction that are dominant in algal blooms, such as host-virus, host-bacteria, predator-prey and allelopathy. By utilizing the recent advances in the field of chemical ecology, combined with cell biology and single cell genomics approaches, we aim to understand the role of chemical signals (infochemicals) and reveal their function in mediating cell-cell interactions and cell fate decision. Specifically, we focus on how pathogens rewire the metabolic capabilities of their algal hosts as part of the infection strategy. Newly identified genes and metabolites induced during specific pathogenic interactions are used as functional biomarkers to study the impact of microbial cross-talk on the metabolic landscape of microbial food webs in the marine environment.

Laura Airoldi

Laura Airoldi is Associated Professor at the University of Bologna, Italy. She received a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of Genova, and carried out research at several institutions in Italy, Australia, USA and UK. She was a Fulbright Research Fellow at Stanford University. She serves the editorial Board of Marine Ecology Progress Series. She is Regional Coordinator for the Mediterranean Sea in the global Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network, and is involved in European/global projects (e.g. the MARFOR project on Functional Variability and Dynamics of Responses of Marine Forests to Global Change, the World Harbour Project) on biodiversity conservation in increasingly urbanised marine environments. Her research focuses on understanding how multiple threats act in concert to drive the progressive degradation, fragmentation and loss of canopy-forming seaweeds at local, regional and global scales, and identify concerted solutions for their conservation and restoration.

Myriam Valero

Myriam Valero obtained her PhD from University of Montpellier (France) on speciation with gene flow in a tetraploid grass species. She worked for several years on plant mating system evolution during her post-doctoral position and as a CNRS researcher at the University of Lille (France). She studied the relative role played by the reproductive system (i.e. clonal propagation vs sexual reproduction; selfing vs hermaphroditism; maintenance of sexual polymorphism as gynodioecy and androdioecy) and dispersal capability in shaping the genetic architecture of species. In Roscoff Biological Station, she leads a French-Chilean Laboratory that develops theoretical and experimental work on evolution of life history traits in seaweed. The group is also interested in the role of hybridization and its effect on speciation using a combination of experimental approaches and population genetics structure analyses. Finally, her international lab focuses on the processes that cause changes in marine coastal biodiversity in relation to climate-oceanographic change and human activities at both community and population levels such as conservation genetics and biodiversity of kelp forest and evolution of seaweed domestication.

Public lecture

Mirko Orlić

Mirko Orlic obtained Ph. D. at the University of Zagreb where he works as a professor of geophysics. Also, he is a full member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts and the president of the Croatian Committee for Geodesy and Geophysics. Visited several oceanographic institutes in Europe, worked as a visiting scholar at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (La Jolla, Ca, USA). Initiated and led a series of physical oceanographic experiments in the Adriatic; since 1983 supervises tide gauge station at Bakar. Participated in a number of projects, led five national projects and eight international projects. Major research interests include physical processes in the sea, atmosphere-sea interaction and methods of data analysis. Thus, for example, he investigated the currents and circulation of the Adriatic Sea, worked on the formulation of a method that enables global sea levels to be related to global temperatures and contributed to the development of partial wavelet analysis that has recently found application not only in geosciences but also in economy. Authored and co-authored more than 80 refereed publications, more than 140 conference communications and a book on weather and climate of the Adriatic area. The publications have up to now received more than 1700 citations. Was editor of Geofizika, three conference proceedings and a book, guest editor of Journal of Geophysical Research and Journal of Marine Systems. Obtained the Fulbright Award, the Croatian State Science Award and the Croatian Academy Science Award.