Two triennial events, the 11th Symposium of the International Society of Root Research (ISRR11) and the ninth International Symposium on Root Development (Rooting2021), offered the root research community a closer look at projects from around the globe.
In 2021, more than 700 participants from 52 countries had the opportunity to virtually attend both events as a joint venture. The two meetings are generally held in separate years. However, because of travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizing committees of both symposia decided to host the two meetings as a fully-joint and virtual-only conference. The event, which was held May 24-28, was organized to provide as much live interaction among participants as possible.
The Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG) at the University of Missouri, with additional organizing committee members from the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and St. Louis University, and the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom co-organized the joint meeting. The MU Conference Office served as the virtual host of the conference.
“The joint meeting brought together the global root research community to foster exchange and discuss new discoveries, developments and challenges in root biology,” said Bob Sharp, Curators’ Distinguished Professor in the Division of Plant Sciences and director of the IPG. “The scientific sessions addressed root research across different scales from the molecular- to the ecosystem-level in agricultural and natural systems.”
Sharp served as chair of the ISRR11 organizing committee, and Felix Fritschi, C. Alice Donaldson Professor in Bioenergy Crop Physiology and Genetics in the Division of Plant Sciences, chaired the international program committee. Professor Malcolm Bennett of the University of Nottingham, UK, chaired the organizing committee for Rooting2021.
Various time zones had to be considered when developing the schedule for the sessions, as live interactions were an important focus for the committees. As a result, the scientific sessions were held from 3 a.m. to 10 p.m. US Central Daylight Time (CDT) to meet the international demand. Hence, the meeting carried the title, “Root Biology Never Sleeps!”
“The schedule was designed to maximize opportunities for live engagement by meeting participants from around the world,” Sharp said. “Participants joined the online meeting hub to listen to prerecorded talks, which were followed by live question and answer sessions with the speakers. The virtual posters were accompanied by short, prerecorded talks and ample opportunity for virtual live communication with poster authors was available for all participants.”
The conference featured numerous speakers from across the globe, including two from Mizzou – Sidharth Sen and Alexandra Housh. Sen, a recent doctoral graduate in the Institute for Data Science and Informatics and currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Plant Sciences, spoke in the Root Stress Biology session about a multiomics approach to identify drought-related signatures in maize nodal roots. Housh, a recent doctoral graduate in the Department of Chemistry and currently a National Nuclear Security Administration Postdoctoral Fellow in Washington, D.C., presented on shoot-root light conduction effects on biological functions of the growth-promoting bacterium Azospirillum brasilense during the Root-Microbe Interactions session.
Best poster awards were presented during the final day of the virtual conference.
The joint meeting also featured a highly-successful Graduate Student and Postdoc Ambassador Program. This competitive program, offered for the third time as part of the ISRR meeting series, offered training activities and networking opportunities for 21 early career root scientists from 10 countries around the world.
“This conference was a great example of international collaboration and allowed us to showcase research projects on a global level,” Sharp said. “Despite the circumstances, we were able to successfully deliver an exciting conference to the worldwide root research community.”