1st Annual Meeting hosted by the Ben Gurion University, Israel

The first year of the HoloRuminant project is already behind us, which meant it was time for the first-ever Annual Meeting. The HoloRuminant project partners were kindly invited to Israel by our partners from the Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva. 

This meeting was for most of the partners the first time they met in person. That’s why we kicked off the meeting with a presentation round and some very creative icebreakers. Let’s say that for most of us it is good that we haven’t gone into the craft of architecture! After the icebreaker, we moved to a session that was entirely dedicated to the early-career scientists within the HoloRuminant project. The presentations focused on different aspects of microbiome research, ranging from the establishment of the microbiome to molecular and sequencing methods to quantify them. 

The afternoon was packed with interesting excursions, we visited the germ-free lab which is the only one of its sort that exists up to today. After the lab, we got to learn about Israelian culture at Kibbutz. We learned about the history of the Kibbutz and how it has evolved into what we witness today. After the history lesson, we had a nice picnic at the site before we visited the farm that belongs to the Kibbutz. It was interesting to see how the cows are kept in a climate that is quite different from what most EU partners are used to. The end of the day was marked by a wonderful social dinner, where we got to experience Israelian food and drinks. 

On the second day, we hit off with an interactive session for WP1, led by Chris Creevey. This WP works on the consolidation of existing and the development of novel knowledge on ruminant microbiomes. The meeting provided an excellent platform for a discussion on the workflow and needed SOPs. After WP1, we made a leap towards WP4, presented by Phil Pope who joined us remotely in collaboration with our local organiser Itzik Mizrahi. This work package works on the integration of microbiomes for improving ruminant performance. During the first part of the session, we focused on protein network analysis and the importance and benefits of microbiome-assembled genomes (MAGs). The second part of the session was used to dive deeper into the utilisation of data generated in WP4 for use in other work packages (WP2/WP3).

After a refreshing lunch break, WP2 commenced their session under the leadership of Richard Dewhurst. This work package focuses on colonisation, persistence and consequences of ruminant microbiomes. Richard provided an update on the sampling that has taken place and the recruitments that have been done for the tasks within their work package. After a quick coffee break, Sinead Waters proceeded with updating us about WP3 progress where different trials have taken place or are in progress. We got an insight into the different activities and facilities within the project. Finally, the day was finished off by Jarkko Niemi, he took us into the activities of WP5 that revolve around innovation,  socio-economic impact and stakeholder engagement. Part of his presentation was an interactive discussion on the content for the upcoming focus and workshops. After this packed day of information, all project partners were dismissed for a restful evening.

WP6, communication and dissemination had the pleasure of kicking off the final day of the annual meeting. After a quick overview of all that was accomplished within the first year, partners were put to work with a workshop in which they selected and defined important concepts. The generated results will be used to communicate the project to a wider audience that may not be aware of microbiome research. After a discussion on project management, the meeting was closed and we hopped into the bus for our final excursion toward Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. All in all, we had a wonderful and productive meeting. We are most grateful for the kind and hospitable organisation of our host Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva and we thank them for inviting us to their university and country!