Plant biology symposium slated for June at University Park

Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will host world-renowned scientists as part of the 21st Penn State Plant Biology Symposium: Wild and Tamed Phytobiomes, set for June 19-22 in the Huck Life Sciences Building on the University Park campus.

The symposium, organized by the Plant Biology graduate program of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and the Phytobiome Initiative of the College of Agricultural Sciences, will feature invited and contributed lectures, poster sessions and two workshops. The deadline to submit abstracts to be included in the abstract book is Friday, May 4. Abstracts may be submitted after this date, but will not be included in the abstract book.

"We really have some of the top scientists in phytobiomes and related fields coming here to Penn State," said Kevin Hockett, assistant professor of microbial ecology in the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, who co-chairs the symposium organizing committee.

Distinguished speakers will include Mary Firestone, of the University of California, Berkeley, a leader in soil microbial ecology and recently elected member to the National Academy of Sciences; George Kowalchuk, of Utrecht University, an international expert in environmental genomics and co-editor-in-chief of the flagship journal of the International Society of Microbial Ecology, ISME Journal; and David Weller of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, a member of the team that elucidated the microbial basis of suppressive soils and recipient of the American Phytopathological Society's Ruth Allen Award for outstanding contributions that have the potential to change the direction of research in plant pathology.

Also speaking will be Linda Kinkel, of the University of Minnesota, associate editor-in-chief of Phytobiomes Journal and steering committee member of the Phytobiome Alliance, an international alliance of private, academic and governmental partners; and Gwyn Beattie, the Robert Earle Buchanan Distinguished Professor of Bacteriology for Research and Nomenclature at Iowa State University, a member of the Phytobiomes Alliance board of directors.

"We've also recruited a number of early-career scientists who've made important contributions to the field," said Terrence Bell, assistant professor of phytobiomes and co-chair of the organizing committee. Scientists such as Ashley Shade, of Michigan State University; Sarah Lebeis, of the University of Tennessee; and Kyle Wickings, of Cornell University, recently have established independent labs but have made important contributions to understanding the interactions between plants and their microbial and arthropod neighbors, Bell said.

Other speakers will include Neil Sharkey, Leland Glenna, and Gary Felton, all of Penn State; Trudi Baker, Indigo Agriculture; Joana Falcao Salles, University of Groningen; Karen Garrett, University of Florida; Jennifer Martiny, University of California, Irvine; Andrea Ottesen, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Joel Sachs, University of California, Riverside; and Etienne Yergeau, INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier.

A half-day workshop at the beginning of the conference will focus on the numerous challenges and opportunities associated with managing phytobiomes to increase agricultural production without the need to increase water and synthetic fertilizer and pesticide inputs.

The conference will conclude with a self-mentoring workshop, "How to Be Your Own Best Mentor," by nationally acclaimed mentor and director of the Penn State Microbiome Center, Carolee Bull, head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology. The workshop will help participants develop a personal mission statement that they can use to identify knowledge and skills they need to be successful in their careers.

For more information, visit the symposium website at, or contact Hockett at or Bell at

Last Updated May 02, 2018