ISDR26: A reflection on diatoms and the people who study them
by Caroline McKenzie |
Diatoms are globally widespread, highly diverse and deeply linked to ecological life as we know it. Perhaps then, it is unsurprising that such diverse organisms have a way of bringing together people from different walks of research. Material scientists, biotechnologists, taxonomists, ecologists, geologists, bioinformaticians, molecular biologists and phylogeneticists are all united under the umbrella of ‘diatomist’. Experiencing a gathering of diverse specialists at ISDR26 was something of a treat for me coming from a biochemical/molecular background. I learnt so much about the sheer breath of diatom species and how they interact with, and indicate for, the environment. Personally, I was challenged in my assumptions of how we use model organisms to represent ‘diatoms’. How can one or two organisms truly reflect the ecological diversity present? Perhaps in future I will assess claims with a more nuanced eye.
Aside from the diatoms, I found that the people studying them were friendly, encouraging and cared not just about my research but about me as a person. This was a refreshing experience in the often fast-paced world of scientific research. I am hopeful that relationships established in Yamagata will be nurtured and flourish over the years. In particular, meeting the network of young diatomists stimulated a desire in me to continue studying, sharing and caring about these tiny organisms. I was given the opportunity to share my research and ask questions of others. To discuss, and eat, and laugh and sing with new friends from across the world.