2011 Microbial Population Biology Gordon Conference Microbial population biology covers a diverse range of contemporary issues. Firmly founded in evolutionary biology and ecology with a strong integrative approach, the GRC in Microbial Population Biology attracts researchers from evolutionary biology, ecology, computational biology, molecular biology, medical microbiology and epidemiology, bacterial genetics, population genetics, and more recently, systems biology and metagenomics. This application seeks funding to support speakers and students at the 2011 meeting of the Microbial Population Biology GRC. One major emphasis of this meeting is the evolution and dynamics of infectious disease. Recent years have seen the emergence of HIV, SARS, West Nile (in the U.S.), MRSA, and a new H1N1 pandemic a year ago. While the treatment and mechanistic study of diseases typically falls within the domains of clinicians and microbiologists, the emergence of new infectious diseases is primarily a problem in evolution and ecology. Molecular biology might tell us which mutations adapt a bird flu virus to human-human transmission, but it is evolutionary biology that asks about the fate of those mutations once arisen, and epidemiology tells us if a virus is dynamically able to spread. Evolutionary and population biology are equally critical in understanding how to control diseases once they have 'emerged.' A second focus is our microbiome, the collective multitude of microbes living on us. Deceptively, this new topic may seem disconnected from infectious disease, but it may prove to be relevant to infectious disease and much more. Although basic work is now being done to identify what constitutes our microbiome, how it differs among us, and how it changes, population biology (including ecology) will provide the foundation for understanding the processes governing microbiome composition and how it might be manipulated to our benefit, such as the effects various probiotic and prebiotic species have on our health and our susceptibility to infectious agents. Progress on these problems requires that physicians talk with population and evolutionary biologists;that theorists talk with experimentalists. We propose to bring together a diverse spectrum of scientists to focus on these issues at the fore of microbes and human health. In this meeting, therefore, a strong emphasis is being placed on applications, with talks from industry and academicians attempting to control and influence microbes of human relevance. The ensuing exchange of ideas, often fuelled by open debate among the full spectrum of meeting participants, will provoke the emergence of new concepts and approaches for these important health issues.
Microbes are important to our health. Some cause infectious disease, others are part of our microbiome - the thousands of species inhabiting our gut and other surfaces that mediate our interaction with the environment. Much understanding of microbes has been and is being made at a mechanistic level, but understanding of the evolutionary and population dynamics of microbes and their communities lags. We propose a meeting of a broad swathe of scientists, including physicians, epidemiologists, molecular biologists and evolutionary and other population biologists, to focus on microbes and human health at the 2011 GRC on Microbial Population Biology.