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 was to grow the community of cnidarian researchers in North America, and Hydroidfest was a big step in that direction. 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.
The first Cnidofest was held in 2018 and was attended by more than 120 people. Due to the COVID pandemic, we were forced to cancel Cnidofest 2020. In its place we started a monthly Cnidarian Zoom Seminar Series, which draws an international audience. We are currently planning Cnidofest 2022. We intend to hold Cnidofest every two years, alternating sites in order to balance the travel burden for our community.
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 refining 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.
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.