Three-week long international Bioinvasions Workshop draws to a close 2022-11-25
On November 16-19, 21 graduate students (10 from the USA and 11 from FABI) spent three last days together, along with a contingent of USA and FABI instructors, as part of the three-week long Bioinvasions Workshop sponsored by the USA National Science Foundation and FABI. On the morning of 16 November, students and faculty members jointly outlined collaborative journal manuscripts based on analyses of Amanita muscariagenome data conducted during the course and planned for the near future, including an investigation on the phylogeographic history of this invasive ectomycorrhizal mushroom species. On 17 November, a research symposium was held at FABI, during which the audience enjoyed a morning session of excellent 30-minute talks from both US and FABI senior investigators, on topics ranging from the value of botanical gardens for plant health research, to the myths of mycorrhizal networks in forests, to the genomics and evolution of invasive fungi. The afternoon session provided opportunities for US and FABI graduate students to present results from their research on topics including the history of Amanita muscaria in South Africa, the genomics of fungal siderophores and novel biosynthetic gene clusters, the interplay between grass invasions and soil microbes, and the evolution of invasive duckweed in response to management.
A fully stimulating and educational day ended with a reception at Future Africa, including a lesson in African drumming. On the morning of Friday, November 18, the international group of faculty staff provided diverse career and professional development advice for the cohort of graduate students, including grant proposal writing, mentoring, job searching and interviews, mentoring, and how to approach issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. After an afternoon excursion to the Pretoria National Botanical Garden, the three-week course ended on the ultimate high-note, with the FABI year-end function at the University of Pretoria’s Future Africa campus. A Saturday visit to the Hazel Food Market allowed our visitors one last excellent opportunity to sample local cuisine and to stock up on gifts for loved ones, and then they were off to catch their flights home. Altogether, this international partnership provided world-class training opportunities for all the graduate students involved, and forged deep international collaborations and friendships that will benefit all involved for many years to come.