Track 1: Cellular chat – Talking to your neighbours

Communication within and between cells is of utmost important for survival. Cells constantly communicate with neighbouring cells in their surrounding and accordingly change their behaviour. In multicellular organisms, communication allows cells to specialize, leading to developmental patterning. Reversely, miscommunication can lead to destabilisation of multicellular systems and disease development. In this track, we will have four themes that cover these aspects:

  1. Intracellular communication: this theme focuses on the molecular basis for communication within cells and how cells integrate various stimuli to coordinate a response. Underlying principles are important for any cell type, including synthetic life forms.
  2. Intercellular communication and development: in this theme the coordinated response of groups of cells is addressed from the molecular to the tissue level, which is key for morphogenesis and development in all domains of life.
  3. Communication and recognition. How do communicating cells recognize one another and discriminate between good and bad neighbours?
  4. Miscommunication and disease. In this theme, we will address how miscommunication between cells causes instability of multicellular systems and diseases.

Track 2: From small talk to full blown discussions; Communication from genes to an organism

This track will be subdivided at multiple levels in three themes:

  1. Understanding the language of the genome
    This section focusses on the understanding of the language of the genome including, but not limited to, regulation of gene expression and epigenetics and genetic interactions. Keywords: Genome Biology, Genetics, Epigenetics, Genome stability
  2. Say what? Translation from genes to an organism
    This section covers the genetic processes underlying the physiology and development of a wide-range of organisms including plants, vertebrates, invertebrates. Keywords: Genetic regulation at organism level, Organogenesis, Genetic disorders/dysregulation and its physiological impact.
  3. Communication in the past and future between genes and environment
    This section includes the broad impact of long term environmental changes on genetic adaptation and vice versa, in disease, species, and populations.
    Keywords: Evolutionary genetics, Tumor evolution, Genetic responses to the environment, Genetic selection, Paleogenetics

Track 3: Perceive and respond

This track focusses on multiple levels through which different microbe, plant, animal species interact with their environment, with each other, and with other species, for their survival, health and development.

  1. Sensory perception of the environment: This theme is about how organisms perceive the environment, including the others that inhabit it. There are several sensory modalities, such as visual stimuli, touch, pheromones, chemical messengers, sound, etc. Often a specific combination of these modalities is required to bring over a message from one organism to the other. The ability to perceive and individual differences in perception determine to a great extent the receivers’ response and thereby behavior in the environment.
  2. Environmental stress and coping strategies : This theme is about the effect of stress on micro-organisms, animals and plants, and the strategies that are employed to cope with stress, leading to adaptation or maladaptation. Natural selection shapes the stress response. Understanding of the evolutionary history of stress responsivity, how it gives advantage and the costs of it, helps to understand how species survive (and thrive).
  3. Microbiota-host interactions in health and disease: A microbiota is an ecological community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms found in and on all multicellular organisms studied to date from plants to animals. A microbiota includes bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi and viruses. Microbiota are crucial for immunologic, hormonal and metabolic homeostasis (as well as brain function) of their host, and influence their health and disease. Microbiota are also found in the roots of plants influencing plant health and growth.

Track 4: The natural world in the Anthropocene

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are under threat in terrestrial and aquatic systems across the globe. The success of the human species results in the (over)exploitation and destruction of natural resources, altered global biogeochemical cycles and even changed our climate. How will our nature look like in the future? Will species and ecosystems be able to adapt and recover, or is their collapse inevitable? And what is the role of humans? Are we up for the challenge of preserving and restoring the integrity of our planet for future generations? We will focus on three themes: populations, ecosystems and human societies:

  1. Populations: we will explore the characteristics of winners and losers of the natural world in the Anthropocene. We aim to gain insight into how species interact with their environment and can cope with new environmental conditions, or become even more successful than before (e.g. via range shifts or rapid evolutionary adaptations).
  2. Ecosystems: interactions between species and how these affect ecosystem processes are central. We focus on newly discovered interactions and processes in natural and man-made landscapes, as well as state-of-the art insights in anthropogenic impacts on ecosystem functions and possibilities to counteract negative impacts.
  3. Human societies: the human species and its options for shaping the future of the natural world will be discussed. What are the major lessons we learned from ecology about the interdependence of humans and the natural world? How will humanity tackle the key challenge of safeguarding the natural world for future generations? In this theme we envisage multi-disciplinary contributions.

Track 5: Pushing the boundaries: novel approaches in biological measurement and analysis

Progress in biological research hinges to a large extent on continuous innovation in measurement techniques, experimental setups, concepts, and approaches to data analysis and computational modelling. Indeed, scientists keep pushing the boundaries of our ability to study biological phenomena at all levels, ranging from morphology to function, and from regulation to interactions and evolution.

Here we focus on these new methods and technologies for measurement and analysis that drive today’s scientific discoveries.

We invite contributions on biological systems of all scales (from fm to km) and all levels of organization (from the molecular to the ecosystem level). As today’s life science projects often require instrumentation, expertise and skills from a broad range of disciplines, this track welcomes cross-talk between traditional disciplines (e.g. physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science) and technologies (e.g. bioimaging, ~omics, (bio)engineering, nano-technology, bioinformatics and computational (systems) biology) to advance biological research.

We strive to have contributions that go beyond pure technical detail and provide insight in the trends in the particular domain of research.