Nearly 70 scientists from 14 countries gathered at Kruger National Park in South Africa to share the latest research in metagenomics, as AMI Healthy Land Scientific Advisory Group member Professor Don Cowan reveals.

The international conference series, Functional Metagenomics, was initiated in 2012. Functional Metagenomics 2024 was the 6th in the meeting series, and this year it was held in the Skukuza Conference Centre, inside the world-renowned Kruger National Park, South Africa, from June 2 to 5.


FMG-2024 delegates in front of the Skukuza Conference Centre

The meeting was hosted by Don Cowan (University of Pretoria, South Africa), supported by a small but enthusiastic international organizing committee (Trevor Charles, University of Waterloo, CA, Marla Trindade, University of the Western Cape, ZA, Wolfgang Streit, University of Hamburg, DE, Alexander Wentzel, SINTEF, NO, and Mark Liles, Auburn University, AL, US).

The discipline of functional metagenomics encompasses a wide range of ‘omics’ technologies used in microbiome studies, with two core focus areas: the analysis of microbial community functionality at various levels, and the use of recombinant DNA/RNA expression techniques as a tool for the discovery of novel biomolecules and functions. The meeting program was structured to incorporate a wide range of relevant science.


Hippos near the conference centre

Attended by nearly 70 participants from 14 countries and across the complete career spectrum, the three-day meeting comprised 9 Keynote and Invited Lectures, 26 oral presentations and 16 poster presentations. Keynote lectures, from a number of internationally recognized senior researchers, included the latest advances in molecular bioprospecting, microfluidics, genome-guided identification of biomolecules, and the use of metaproteomics to unravel microbial community functionality.


From left - Prof Wolfgang Streit, Prof Ruth Schmitz, Prof Stephanie Burton and Prof Don Cowan

The meeting was generously sponsored by Applied Microbiology International, The South African National Conventions Bureau (SA Tourism), GigaScience, and Inqaba Biotechnology. In addition to exhibitions, the sponsors were also provided an opportunity in the program to present their services.

Networking time is a critically important aspect of any meeting, and conference participants were able to enjoy drinks and canapés in the Railway Station café on the Sunday evening, a game drive and Bush Braai on the Monday evening (with an unscheduled light show from an enormous electrical storm), and the Conference Banquet at the Skukuza Golf Club on the Tuesday evening (where a hippo and a spotted hyena made appearances for the enjoyment of the guests).

The International Organizing Committee is now discussing options for the next meeting in this series, tentatively scheduled for 2026 in Germany.


Close encounter on one of the game drives