Meet the ISDR Council  - we will present you every month somebody else from the current ISDR council . The council members will write small blog posts about themselves including their role in the ISDR and their personal research interessts

In April 2018 we would like to present you

Keely Mills, Honorary Treasurer of the ISDR

My name is Keely. I love lake sediments and siliceous algae. I have learned over time that this declaration works one of two ways, in a pub with people I don’t know, it’s usually a conversation killer. In terms of this blog, I am assured I am in good company, and it is most definitely a conversation starter!

Officially, I act in the capacity of Honorary Treasurer for the ISDR. This is a role I have held since moving back to the UK in 2012 (more on that later). My role as Treasurer means I have a rather large responsibility. I am the person who looks after the Society’s finances, and as the ISDR is a Registered Charity, it means I manage our charitable status compliance. I am also the one person who has met every single member of the ISDR, perhaps not in person, but I am the one behind the scenes who is managing all of your subscription payments to the Society, and who makes sure your copies of Diatom Research make their way to your letterbox. I do love this job, but it can often get pretty hectic with subscription payments, subscription queries, and balancing that with my normal job. I think, mostly, I have it under control, but I will use this forum to apologise in advance for when I drop a few balls, and my ISDR activities slow to a snail’s pace!

Looking perplexed whilst coring Tower Hill Lake (Victoria, Australia)

So, how did I become a diatom professional? Actually, I had never heard of a diatom until Sarah Davies (our current Secretary) started lecturing at Aberystwyth University in 2003, when I was in my 3rd year of my undergraduate degree. Up until then, I was a fan of pollen, but then Sarah waltzed in to a lecture theatre and well and truly turned my attention to the beautifully ornate diatoms. Well, say no more – off I went to undertake an MSc in Quaternary Science where my project used diatom from the Lofoten Islands, Norway, to look at changes in sea level over the Holocene. This led to a PhD looking at diatom records (palaeolimnology) from crater lakes in Uganda, a postdoc using diatom records to assess drought history in Australia, and a short stint at lecturing at Loughborough University! I took up my current role at the British Geological Survey in 2014 a job that still allows me to dabble in the world of diatoms (mainly from Uganda and Malaysia), as well as undertaking applied science as part of our Geoscience for Sustainable Futures programme.

Team Diatom! A recent team selfie whilst on fieldwork in Uganda with other notable diatomists (L-R: Tessa Driessen [PhD student & young diatomist], Richard Nyakoojo [Ugandan colleague who appreciates diatoms after working with us for 10 years], Emilie Saulnier-Talbot, Me, David Ryves [all seasoned diatomists])!

 Even though diatoms aren’t always my primary focus, I keep myself well in the loop – mostly through my activities with the ISDR, through organising the annual British Diatomists Meeting (which I love!), and random things like writing blogs about my favourite diatom (Amphora coffeaeformis…read all about it here). One of the best things that has happened to the Society in the last few years is the creation of this – the blog, the website, the “young” diatomist community. One of my biggest worries is that we might lose touch with our younger cohorts of diatomists – so I’m really chuffed to see that the Young ISDR is going strong! Long may it continue? And if you are not a member of the ISDR, the Young ISDR, or attending one of the many diatom related meetings. Why not? 
Be there, or be centric!


In March 2018 we would like to present you

Eileen J. Cox,  Editor in Chief of "Diatom Research"

Choosing Frank Round as a PhD supervisor in Bristol was my route into working with diatoms, although it took about 6 months until we hit on the topic that became my PhD project. (Fortunately I had also been appointed as a departmental demonstrator so was not constrained by 3 years of funding!) Prior to beginning with diatoms, I worked primarily with green algae, whose identification and taxonomy depend on a different set of criteria to those traditionally employed for diatoms. Furthermore, I was also investigating tube-dwelling diatoms, so examining living material was critical to that, and I never lost the habit.
Following Bristol my career took on a somewhat peripatetic character with a series of research fellowships that both allowed and encouraged diversification, while building on experience. Thus, work on tube-dwelling species that span a number of genera led to the recognition that the existing taxonomic treatment of those taxa was inadequate, and that more detailed taxonomic work on naviculoid taxa (Oxford) was necessary. At that time Navicula was something of rag-bag, which the application of SEM and live observations revealed to be in need of revision, and thus the discrimination of more narrowly defined genera, including the resurrection of historical genera, began.

As the end of my Oxford research fellowship loomed, I was alerted to a Royal Society scheme to encourage European exchange fellowships to develop early career researchers and identified culturing and life history studies of diatoms as an area I would like to develop. That, together with a need to improve my German (at that stage much of the diatom literature was in German) took me to Sylt and the Biologische Anstalt Helgoland to work alongside Gerhard Drebes. Situated in the far north of Germany, this was a somewhat isolated existence, but the experience of growing diatoms and following their life histories provided clear evidence that diatoms do not reproduce their valves precisely at each division, but are subject to change with size, sometimes with significant taxonomic implications.

Although I had originally thought that I would only spend a year in Germany, an unplanned meeting with Barbara Meyer (Hickel) from Plön (Holstein) led to a move down to the Max-Planck-Institute for Limnology. Thus from working with marine benthic taxa, I moved to looking at the benthic diatom flora in lakes, and the interaction of diatoms with light, sediment and season. Again, much of the time I was looking at live material, so excluding the inclusion of dead material in my analyses, yet becoming aware of the contrasting ecological demands of different taxa. From lakes, there was another move further south to work in their running water station on the Breitenbach stream system near Schlitz (Hessen). I might have been the only phycologist, but working alongside colleagues from different disciplines underlined the importance of understanding the range of interactions in aquatic ecosystems. 

After over 8 years (not the planned one) in Germany, I returned to the UK, initially working with an ecotoxicology group in Sheffield before obtaining a NERC Advanced Research Fellowship to return to diatoms. With the fellowship funding I aimed to use experimental studies on the growth of different diatoms to understand their ecological responses, given their use as environmental indicators. This was not without its challenges, but provided some interesting results before the opportunity of a permanent position at the Natural History Museum arose.
At the museum, with the combination of its collections, library, microscopical facilities and laboratories, I sought to bring together the different strands of my past experience, integrating experimental work with more traditional taxonomic work. In addition, I was able to develop different collaborations and, particularly through PhD students and post-doc colleagues, explore different questions and use different approaches, extending to working with computer scientists and mathematicians! Working across disciplines means that all participants must be able to explain their own ideas extremely clearly to ensure full understanding, but it also means that preconceptions are challenged and very exciting new conclusions can then emerge.

IDS post-conference field trip in 2016

My links with ISDR go back before its beginnings, as I attended the 4th Diatom Symposium in Oslo in 1976, almost 10 years before the society was officially formed in Paris! Although I have not managed to attend every International Diatom Symposium, I have seen the society develop and the diversity of membership expand, and am delighted with the growth in young student members. Like Ric Jordan, I was also familiar with the British Diatomists’ meetings, and during my time in Germany was encouraged to initiate the German speaking Diatomists meeting (DDT) in 1987, which has now become the Central European Diatom meeting and is still going strong. The value of national, European and international meetings cannot be over-emphasised. Being able to come together with others to hear new ideas, learn about progress in the subject and make new connections and friends, keeps the discipline alive and developing.

The initiation of Diatom Research as the society’s journal provided a platform for diatom focussed research and the continued growth of the journal is a testament to the vitality of the area. While it continues to publish taxonomic and systematic work, any aspect of diatom research can be submitted, and I would like to see greater diversity in submissions, so that it really reflects the full range of diatom research today. Being Editor-in-chief means that I see all the work that is submitted, although the Associate editors are responsible for finding reviewers and evaluating the quality of submissions before forwarding them to me for a final recommendation. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that their work is fundamental to the quality of the journal, although I often spend quite a bit of time helping polish the final versions. (Here I would also put in a plea that authors follow journal instructions as closely as possible!) Similarly, having individuals who are willing to review submissions is essential to maintaining the quality of the journal, and I would encourage everyone who wants to have their work published to see that being prepared to review papers is part of their contribution to the research area.
Any society and its activities are dependent upon membership, and the extent to which members are prepared to invest in that society. Involvement takes time and energy, but the benefits far outweigh the investment, both professionally and personally. International Diatom Symposia began in 1970 with a small group of 15 diatomists, but the baton has been passed down the line over the years, so that the symposia now attract much larger numbers of individuals from around the world. That has to be a mark of success, but it has only been achieved by people stepping forward to take on organisational responsibility. I hope that long continues to be the case.


In January 2018 we would like to present you

Ric Jordan, ISDR Vice President

My first encounter with diatoms was probably in an algology practical class, when I was a 2nd year student at the University of Surrey in Guildford (UK), where my personal tutor was Maurice Moss and my thesis supervisor was Tony Chamberlain –both wrote papers on diatoms, with Maurice being a keen microscopist, and Tony working on biofouling. Through Maurice and Tony, I became a regular participant of the British Diatomist meetings in the 1980s. Reading Hannah’s ‘British Diatom Meeting 2017’ report shows how surprisingly little has changed: “To present and discuss your research in such a warm atmosphere” and “in a place in the middle of nowhere”. It brought back fond memories ... and makes me want to attend one again. It was also during my time at Guildford that I became interested in the scanning electron microscope – a love that continues today. My undergraduate thesis was entitled “Cytochemical and Ultrastructural Studies of Freshwater Diatom Attachment”, and involved Alcian blue/Alcian yellow staining, LM, SEM, TEM, and a whirlimixer !!

My first real job was at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge, where I worked as a micropalaeontologist, studying Quaternary diatoms in Southern Ocean sediments. While at BAS, Julian Priddle introduced me to the marine genera, Rhizosolenia and Proboscia – which resulted in a series of papers, particularly in collaboration with Ryszard Ligowski. Although, reluctantly, I left BAS after only three years, my connection to polar diatoms is still strong, and I am a long-standing participant of the polar diatom colloquia and workshops (see To zoom forward, I have now spent 25 years in Japan, in Yamagata University, where my students work on diatom taxonomy, evolution and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. Gone are those halcyon days with wet film and enlargers in darkrooms, letter set transfers on plates, and knobs and buttons on the SEM – now the young diatomist works almost entirely in digital. Even books and reprints have been largely replaced by pdfs – perhaps I am too old-fashioned, but, unlike my students, I still like to peruse the hard copies and potter about in my personal library.

I have forgotten when I first joined the ISDR, but perhaps it was in the late 1980s, when I was regularly attending the British Diatomists’ meetings and the British Phycological Society winter meetings. My first IDS was Tokyo 1996 – which was overshadowed by the sudden death of the symposium host, Professor Hiromu Kobayasi, who was also the ISDR Vice President at the time. However, it was a great meeting and I participated in both the mid- and post-conference excursions; I remember my Masters student Masamichi Shiono (of Shionodiscus fame) gave a poster presentation on freshwater diatom assemblages in lake sediments around the volcano, Mount Bandai. Since then I have attended most of the IDS (missing only Croatia and the USA), and later served on the Council from 2000-2002.

After more than 200 years of diatom research, there are still plenty of opportunities for young diatomists to make a name for themselves. Despite a plethora of papers on floristics and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, we really know so little about diatom ecology. For instance, there is a paucity of data on diatom assemblage changes in nearshore-offshore transects, multi-year records from the same station, or vertical distribution (e.g., from surf to shade flora). Unlike many other plankton groups, we still have no biogeographic zonation scheme for marine diatoms, and our knowledge of the assemblages from some habitats (e.g., mangroves, marine lakes) and on certain life styles (e.g., as epizoic diatoms, endosymbionts) is still very poor.

As the Berlin meeting (and the start of my presidency) approaches, I’d like to think that young diatomists will be strongly motivated, not just to look for new challenges in diatom research, but also to compile reliable ecological datasets that will allow us to use diatoms as environmental proxies with more confidence. Then, perhaps, the importance of diatoms in applied biology and micropalaeontology will be finally realised.


In December 2017 we would like to present you 

Mark Edlund, ISDR President

In first grade, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I confidently said (and correctly spelled)—scientist! Not a fireman, not an astronaut, but a scientist. Some amazing parents, a science aunt, and a few influential teachers kept me on that path. I finally met my first diatom as a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, but it was Prof. David Czarnecki’s Freshwater Algae class at Itasca Biology Station that made me realize that something as small, but as globally important as diatoms, could be the focus of my work.

My name is Mark Edlund, and I am the current president of the ISDR. I joined the ISDR in 1987—as a young diatomist-in-training under Dr. Gene Stoermer—following some face-to-face encouragement from Dr. Frank Round, current ISDR president at the time. For me the ISDR serves as a professional home—I’ve attended almost every IDS meeting since 1990, served on the ISDR Council, been on the Editorial Board of Diatom Research since 2006, published in Diatom Research, co-organized the 21st IDS, and was elected President in 2016.  My role of president involves coordinating Council on any decisions regarding the society, working to make sure our biannual symposium finds a host and is well organized, and working with society matters and meetings at and between our symposia.

In my day job, I’m a Senior Scientist at the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, an environmental research station of the Science Museum of Minnesota. I also have adjunct academic appointments at the University of Minnesota and the University of Iowa that allow me to work with graduate students and teach the annual Ecology and Systematics of Diatoms at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. My research on diatoms has centered on three broad areas. Life histories have long attracted my research efforts, from the cytology and mechanics of sexual reproduction, life history adaptations, to how the diatom life history influences ecology. Diatoms are also excellent ecological and paleoecological indicators, and my work has addressed lake nutrient criteria, management targets, anthropogenic and climate response, and landscape evolution. Finally, large and ancient lakescapes present unique ecological settings for diatom diversity, but also are some of the most sensitive to environmental change. Taxonomy bridges all of these areas and I am a contributor and on the Editorial Review Board of the important web site DOTUS—Diatomsof the United States.

I’ve happily watched the ISDR evolve to become today’s society serving the needs of the world’s diatomist community. Our journal has moved to a major publisher, larger format, with a significant increase in impact factor. We’ve worked to establish a stronger presence on the web and social media, and most importantly a group of young diatomists has taken up the torch to ensure that the society and diatom research has a strong future. You can read a short history of the society and symposia at:


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