There were many shorter (30 min) talks today, so I'll focus on a few that I found most interesting. Janet Siefert gave a interesting talk on her studies of the "living stomatolites" (large cyanobacterial colonies) of the Mexican desert and how they and associated organisms live under such phosphorous-limiting conditions. Particularly interesting was her discovery of a new species of Bacillus that had many apparent cyanobacterial-derived genes. Janet was replacing Ken Nealson (who couldn't attend for health reasons). I had been hoping to meet Ken as one of the many hats he wears is head of the environmental microbiology division of the JCVI, meaning that he's technically been my boss since mid April. Oh well.
Susan Glasauer talked about her work in studying the biodiversity of metal-reducing bacteria in the Jura mountains of Switzerland. There's more growing there than wine grapes (although the same iron-rich soil that makes for such good wine country is also partly responsible for the microbial diversity)
And to finish off the day, the father of bacterial and archaeal (no, I won't say the "p" word) biodiversity studies, Norm Pace himself, gave an special award lecture as he had been chosen for this year's Abbot-ASM Lifetime Achievement Award. While he made his usual arguments against the use of the word "prokaryote" (which I fully agree with in theory, if not entirely in practice), I found it interesting that he now considers the rRNA tree to represent the nuclear lineage (shades of Jim Lake) rather than the organismal tree.