Tiny Earth (International) Winter Symposium Offers Giant Perspective on Antibiotics and Public Health Emergencies

Green Bay, Wis.—Student researchers take the stage (virtually) for the Tiny Earth Winter Symposium, Dec. 14-15, 2020. While last year’s event was showcased at the Lambeau Field Atrium, a virtual environment makes this year’s showcase no less valuable, as this event is a centerpiece of the collaborative and innovative efforts of students across the globe, working together to mitigate the global public health crisis of antibiotic resistance.

The Tiny Earth Winter Symposium is free and open to the public with a Zoom registration at https://tinyearth.wisc.edu/tiny-earth-2020-winter-symposium/.

The Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and founder of Tiny Earth, Jo Handelsman, will kick off the symposium on Dec. 14 and a panel of experts will convene on the second day of the symposium (Dec. 15) to discuss public health emergencies and solutions to address them. The inequities and economics of public health, as well as scientific literacy, will be featured topics. Symposium participants will then have an opportunity to engage in a discussion around actions we can take in our communities to spread awareness of the challenges and solutions to address them, and most importantly, have a chance to share the research they have been working on all semester.

UW-Green Bay students join 10,000 other students from 300 other college and universities across 47 states and 27 countries, in some version of the Tiny Earth course which is aimed at discovering new antibiotics. The course started at UW-Madison in 2018. While uncovering new antibiotics is the end-goal, the discoveries made along the way are worth the effort. The course provides students with the opportunity for original thinking and scientific exploration, and can inspire them to pursue STEM careers. Last year’s event at Lambeau Field was attended by 550 citizens from the state of Wisconsin.

UW-Green Bay Biology Prof. Brian Merkel, teacher of the course at UW-Green Bay and co-chair of the international event, says the symposium is important during this pandemic.

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase the value of partnerships to mitigating large problems to a wide audience. For my part, Tiny Earth represents the realm of what is possible when innovative partnerships emerge for the greater good. The symposium wholly reflects the value of collaboration for this purpose.”

Students get their own soil sample to test. They isolate bacteria, conduct gene sequencing, Merkel says. “The students realize they are part of something that’s bigger than them and they’re contributing to an international effort. This goes beyond a celebration of research. This is a visionary idea to help our students get excited about their STEM careers while building an international network.”

Merkel said that without question, participation has often jump-started his students in paths toward research, medicine, and more. Merkel is available for media interviews. Reach out by e-mail at merkelb@uwgb.edu.

About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs to more than 8,500 students with campus locations in Green Bay, Marinette, Manitowoc and Sheboygan. Established in 1965 on the border of Green Bay, the University and its campuses are centers of cultural enrichment, innovation and learning. The Green Bay campus is home to one of the Midwest’s most prolific performing arts centers, a nationally recognized 4,000-seat student recreation center, D-I athletics, an award-winning nine-hole golf course and a five-mile recreational trail and arboretum, which is free and open to the public. This four-campus University transforms lives and communities through student-focused teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities, powerful connections and a problem-solving approach to education. UW-Green Bay’s main campus is centrally located, close to both the Door County resort area and the dynamic economies of Northeast Wisconsin, the Fox Valley region and the I-43 corridor. UW-Green Bay offers in-demand programs in science, engineering and technology; business; health, education and social welfare; and arts, humanities and social sciences. For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu.


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