Microbial ecology recently got a big boost due to the fantastic development in novel molecular technologies, particularly related to DNA/RNA sequencing technologies, developed by microbial ecologists and biotechnologists during the past 5–10 years. Most engineers have not been exposed to this exciting development and even fewer can foresee how this can be used in water engineering. In few cases these technologies are already significantly changing our capabilities to design, control and apply microbial communities in water engineering, and the hope is to inspire many researchers, developers, consultants and other persons involved in water engineering to join this exciting new era. In both IWA and ISME (International Society of Microbial Ecology) it is acknowledged that a deeper understanding of microbiological processes is of great value both in terms of fundamental science as in its application in various processes important for the environment and the quality of life.
Groundbreaking advances in microbial ecology including the continuous development of cutting edge methods and at the same time, recognition of the need for new solutions to water-related problems strongly call for an intensified collaboration between microbial ecologists and water professionals to foster innovation in water and wastewater treatment processes.
The scientific focus needs to comprise identity, physiology, ecology, and population dynamics of relevant microbial populations (including viruses, bacteria, archaea and higher organisms). Many of the already available tools, concepts, theories and challenges of the work that are common to all engineered biological water treatment processes can be combined and employed, allowing for novel insights and practical applications.
There is also a need to establish effective science-based approaches for identifying and solving practical problems and develop innovative processes in biological wastewater treatment, resource recovery and other engineering systems covered by a number of IWA specialist groups such as: Microbial Ecology and Water Engineering, Health Related Microbiology, Biofilms, Anaerobic Digestion, Nutrient Removal and Recovery, Waste stabilization Ponds, and others.
The mission of the Bio Cluster is to inspire, facilitate and support the mutual exchange of knowledge and the cooperation among Specialist Groups in IWA on one hand and between IWA and ISME on the other hand, all in the field of microbial ecology research and its application for water science and management.
The main task of the Bio Cluster is to coordinate activities across ISME and participating IWA Specialist Groups. Examples of cluster activities include, e.g. workshops during the congresses of both IWA and ISME, and IWA SG conferences; ISME/IWA Bio Cluster Award to give prizes to those who have extraordinary achievements at the interface of microbial ecology and engineering, etc.