SPAAM Summer School 2023: Introduction to Ancient Metagenomics

The SPAAM community ( runs an annual online summer schools to provide basic grounding in ancient metagenomics, a small but expanding field without representation in established curriculum. Given the inter-disciplinary nature of ancient DNA, students of the summer school are often from a wide range of both discipline and computational backgrounds. In addition, to promote diversity in the field, the summer school has been explicitly designed to be entirely online, allowing participants to attend from around the world.

The workshop functionality of de.NBI Cloud has been extremely helpful in maximising the accessibility of students to consistent software environments to ensure everyone starts on a level playing field. In particular the web-browser based desktop environments were a great help due to a large number of students with limited command-line experience and variability in computational setup power of their own machines.

For administration and deployment, the cloud portal interface made it very easy to spin VMs up and down as necessary, even in cases where we had to completely reset the environment for very waylaid students, as well as quickly sending the access information via email to all students both en masse as well as for particular students. The environment snapshotting functionality meaning the software and data environments only needed to be set up once, and then easily used across all student VMs was also very helpful.

A major positive aspect of working with de.NBI for our summer school that I really benefitted from, and also would be one of the reasons why I would highly recommend working with de.NBI cloud, is the extremely responsive and helpful helpdesk, who always effectively solved problems or answered any questions with very short turnaround times. This was both very helpful during preparation but also for the real-time support during the summer school itself. I commend the de.NBI cloud team for both the high quality 'computational' and the 'human' support of their platform.

James Fellows Yates
James Fellows Yates from Microbiome Sciences Group, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology