Microbiobial Ecology at ISME18: an EAG Sponsored Student Reports Back

I am a PhD student studying the affect of permafrost thaw on microorganisms in permafrost in Svalbard. Like many ecology studies, my work brings together many topics such as biology, geography, geology, and climate. This August I was excited to attend and present my work at a leading conference in the field of microbial ecology, ISME18, in Lausanne, Switzerland. This conference is so fun to attend because researchers from diverse fields come together here to share their questions, methods, and findings related to microbial ecology and how microorganisms interact with and affect their environment.

A microbiologist could never be bored at ISME18. I attended oral presentations on viruses in clouds (by Janina Rahlff), the emergence of eukaryotic cells (by Thijs Ettema), and biogeochemistry in the deep biosphere (by Jens Kallmeyer). I was introduced to new techniques in microbial ecology like DNA stable isotope probing (by Ella Sieradzki), single-cell multi-omics using microfluidics (by Haruko Takeyama), and indirect sampling of deep groundwater using flowback experiments (by Cara Magnabosco). This conference did not disappoint!

One of my favourite parts of ISME18 was networking with colleagues from around the world. As an early career researcher, building my network is important as I look forward into my career. I presented a poster about culturing thermophiles from Svalbard permafrost. This offered me the opportunity to brainstorm with and receive feedback from many researchers in different fields. Conversations about my work in this setting were both fun and productive. I returned from this conference with new ideas about my own work and a larger network of future colleagues.


To early career researchers wishing to attend ISME in the future, I say DO IT! Not only will you be exposed to new ideas, tools, and techniques by microbial ecologists working in different environments, but you will also have a ton of fun! I would encourage you to do a poster presentation of your work, no matter which stage of your research you are at. The conversations you have about your work with others will stimulate new ideas and propel your work forward. Also, you will make new friends!

I am glad I attended ISME18 this August in Lausanne and I am grateful to the European Association of Geochemistry for sponsoring me. Attending this conference re-ignited my curiosities about the many ways microorganisms interact with the world. After a few tough years doing research in the pandemic it was great to share my excitement for this field in person with others equally as excited about it as I am.

About the author

Margaret Cramm is a PhD student affiliated to Queen Mary University of London and the Natural History Museum. Questions about the limits to life on Earth and elsewhere drive her curiosities. She is particularly interested in the relationship between life and time. When she is not in the lab or in front of her computer she is traveling, reading graphic novels, or listening to live music.

Twitter: @microbemac


Check out the TikTok video Margaret created about presentions at ISME18 at https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMNcrX7AS/.