In September 2016, we organized the first North American meeting of hydroid biologists (“Hydroidfest”), which was attended by approximately 60 people and, according to a post-meeting survey and informal feedback, was a huge success. We exceeded our own expectations for enthusiastic participation by the community and we accomplished our stated goal of bringing together the North American hydroid research community. Our long-term goal is to grow the cnidarian scientific community in North America and Hydroidfest was a big step in that direction. We began planning for the 2018 meeting in mid-to-late 2017. After surveying the broader cnidarian research community and speaking with the organizers of previous Nematostella meetings, it became clear that a broader meeting that encompassed all cnidarian model organisms was needed. Thus, the Cnidarian Model Systems Meeting (aka “Cnidofest”) was born.
Thanks to rapidly advancing technologies, the cnidarian community is poised to make important breakthroughs; it is no longer necessary or even sensible to limit the number of model systems used to conduct detailed functional studies. Large collections of genomic and transcriptomic data have been generated and single-cell sequencing technologies are now beginning to refine these data sets further. These data, in combination with new gene editing capabilities, are opening novel experimental avenues and enabling us to use cnidarians to answer fundamental biological questions.
A number of North American laboratories, both well-established and newly established, have recognized the great potential of cnidarian models and are now using these animals to address fundamental biological questions. We are pleased that many of these laboratories are represented here at Cnidofest 2018. Our long-term goal is to hold our US-based meeting every two years, alternating between east and west coasts, thus balancing travel burdens for scientists in our growing community.
We welcome you to Cnidofest and look forward to an exciting and productive meeting. Thank you for joining us as we seize this opportunity to join together and celebrate our shared interest in and love of cnidarian model systems.