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Head of collection Gerard Verkley appointed as president of ECCO

Every human being is an organism inhabited by large colonies of other organisms. That is one thing all people working at partners of ECCO, the European Culture Collections’ Organisation, are well aware of. Knowing about the existence and importance of microorganisms is a humbling experience. For example: humans are by no means a match, in total weight, for microorganisms.

Member organisations of ECCO know: they collect, store and study all kinds of microorganisms: viruses, archea and bacteria, microalgae, yeasts and filamentous fungi.
In ECCO, 76 collections from 26 European countries are united. During the last ECCO meeting Gerard Verkley was appointed President of the organisation.
‘It’s an honour’ Verkley states. ‘ECCO is important, firstly because of its scale. We are a European organisation. That makes us an important stakeholder. Besides that, as ECCO collections, we play an important role in science, we deliver reference strains of organisms for government laboratories, for scientific organisations, health organisations etc.
ECCO exists since 1982. Every new collection that joins ECCO, adds relevance.
It means, more collections can share their knowledge and strains, and the role our organisation can play in our communities grows.
‘Operating collectively, exchanging knowledge and expertise, adds up. The quality of all collections will rise in this way.’
In the meantime ECCO, representing 76 collections of microorganisms makes these tiniest of all organisms more visible to the general public. Verkley: ‘For most people talking about microorganisms like fungi, bacteria and viruses causes an itch. It’s not like a collection of orchids, that people know of and that they can come over to watch and enjoy. Nothing like that. We are sometimes and we have to be, restricted.’ Which doesn’t mean that ECCO can’t help making the unseen better known and accepted and appreciated for what it is: extremely interesting and important stuff.

To show the unseen is what they did during the 38th annual meeting of ECCO in Torino, Italy.
‘We cannot see them with the naked eye, they are microscopic […] yet their total weight exceeds the weight of all human beings’, a catalogue from a public exhibition of amazing microorganisms states. The exhibition was organised during the annual ECCO meeting in Italy last week. Large and beautiful pictures of the, by their sheer nature, always overlooked microscopic creatures were to be seen on the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, amidst cars and people in the city centre of Torino.
The exhibition was also a photo competition. Winner of the first prize was Jan Dijksterhuis of the Westerdijk Institute for his beautiful picture of Penicillium chrysogenum. We are proud, as was Jan. He happily accepted the bottles of excellent wine for himself and his fellow photographer Wim van Egmond.
Cheers to all voters.