Jun. 27, 2023 | Announcement, News

Hello from Houston

A recap of the NMDC’s activities at ASM Microbe 2023

Several members of the NMDC team (Emiley Eloe-Fadrosh, Julia Kelliher, Ingrid Ockert, and Simon Roux) recently traveled to Houston, Texas to attend ASM Microbe 2023. The city was experiencing a historic heat wave – temperatures hit 90°F, as attendees went in and out of numerous sessions in the well-air conditioned George Brown Conference Center. Many members of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) have been concerned by such shifts in climate; this year, the society launched the Climate Change and Microbes (CCM track) to explore the role of microbes as mediators of climate change in basic and applied research.

NMDC Program Lead Emiley Eloe-Fadrosh kicked off the NMDC’s activities with a presentation on the importance of advancing microbiome data infrastructure for discovery and innovation on June 14, during the session titled, “Microbiome Therapeutics: Innovation, Opportunity and Challenges.” At the conference’s Opening General Session, ASM’s CEO Stefano Bertuzzi discussed the importance of microbiologists working to restore the public’s trust in scientific knowledge. As he explored ways that ASM members could address this daunting challenge, Bertuzzi identified the NMDC as a pivotal initiative that was creating vital scientific infrastructure.

A group of six people stand in front of a podium.

ASM CEO Stefano Bertuzzi, NMDC Program Lead Emiley Eloe-Fadrosh, NMDC Ambassador Reid Longley, ASM Microbiome Data Prize Winner Benjamin Callahan, NMDC Ambassadors Ishi Keenum, and Saraí Finks meet before the start of the ASM Town Hall.

While the NMDC team was active throughout the conference, June 17 proved to be their busiest day. The day began with the Town Hall that was attended by over 70 participants. ASM CEO Stefano Bertuzzi opened the session noting the excitement that NMDC is generating within the larger microbiology community. Eloe-Fadrosh followed with a brief introduction to the NMDC. She noted the ways that the initiative has grown during the pilot phase and has expanded to include many partners, including NSF’s NEON and the NASA GeneLab. Then Benjamin Callahan, the 2023 ASM Microbiome Data Prize awardee, talked about the importance of the “I” (for interoperability) in the FAIR data principles, highlighting how quantitative measures can be used for cross-study microbiome comparisons. Callahan is the second awardee of the prize; The NMDC coordinated with ASM to launch the ASM Microbiome Data Prize in 2021.

The rest of the session allowed the audience to learn more about three of the NMDC’s Ambassadors: Reid Longley, Ishi Keenum, and Saraí Finks. Longley talked about his work on fungal microbiomes and the concept of ‘microbiomes within microbiomes.’ Keenum gave an overview of the importance of metadata and why it’s important particularly for her research to understand microbiomes across wastewater systems. Finally, Finks talked about how NMDC EDGE has helped advance her research on viruses and plasmids in the human gut.

Following the Town Hall, NMDC Communications Specialist Ingrid Ockert gave a poster spotlight presentation on the NMDC’s products and engagement strategy during the Profession of Microbiology’s poster session. Last, as part of the new Climate Change and Microbes track, Engagement Lead Julia Kelliher moderated a session examining the challenges of studying the interplay between climate change and its impacts on environmental microbiology: “Research Design for Climate Related Studies.” Forty attendees joined the discussion, which featured Hugh Cross from NEON, Ariane Peralta from East Carolina University, and Kelly Wrighton from Colorado State University. The panelists discussed topics including the importance of establishing baseline data and coordinating interdisciplinary teams. All panelists highlighted the challenges that they face organizing small scale studies to inform a larger understanding of climate science. They ended the session by encouraging their audiences to seek out novel cross-disciplinary collaborations as they investigate the interplay between climate and microbiomes.

Next month, the NMDC team will be presenting at the Mycological Society of America. Stay connected with us to learn more: Follow us on social media (Twitter, Mastodon, and LinkedIn) and sign up for our newsletter at

A woman stands at a podium. Four people sit next to her at a table, listening.

NMDC Lead Emiley Eloe-Fadrosh moderates the panel discussion at the ASM Microbe Town Hall.




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