JAMS Report Aug 2012

JAMS Monthly Meeting Report 29th August 2012
Prepared by Mike Manefield
Though faced with a depleted audience owing to strong attendance of JAMS members at the 14th International Symposium on Microbial Ecology in Copenhagen, Denmark, speakers Dr Oliver Morton, Ms Jazmin Oszvar and Ms Zoe-Joy Newby gave three entertaining and informative presentations with JAMS trademark diversity of subject.
Oliver kicked off with confessions of a clinical microbiologist in his presentation entitled ‘Beware the mulch! Adaptation to its natural habitat makes Aspergillus fumigatus a formidable human pathogen’. The presentation illustrated violent interactions between germinating Aspergillus spores and human dendritic cells including a stunning transcriptomics analysis of the response of Aspergillus fumigatus to the presence of human immature dendritic cells over time.
The arrival of pizza caused a reshuffle in the schedule and a chance for USyd honours student Jazmin to down some cider before taking the stage. Jazmin gave an excellent account of her honours work supervised by Nick Coleman in a presentation entitled ‘What is the substrate of the sMMO-like genes of Mycobacterium strain NBB4?’ Through knockout construction and heterologous expression sound progress has been made in identifying the substrate suspected to butanol. Significantly, Jazmin has been successful in introducing DNA into NBB4 through electroporation. The work offers insight into hydrocarbon processing in the environment and potential biotechnological tools for bioremediation and biocatalysis.
The main presentation of the evening was given by USyd PhD candidate Zoe-Joy Newby supervised by David Guest. Zoe-Joy presented an inspiring field study of the distribution of notorious plant pathogen Phytophthera cinnamomi in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. This foundational study linked the presence of Phytophthera in soil samples detected through painstaking germination assays to a risk model predicting the vulnerable locations in Sydney’s world heritage listed back yard. A timely reminder of how little we know about plant pathogens in pristine ecosystems and of the potentially unique microbiology of our native wilderness.