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- This action funds an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology for FY 2019, Research Using Biological Collections. The fellowship supports research and training of the fellow that will utilize biological collections in innovative ways. This project aims to understand the historical significance of host-associated microbes (microbes that live inside another organism. These include bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. By using museum collections of amphibians, the fellow will examine host-associated gut microbes over time in two regions of the United States. Amphibian museum specimens are especially useful in this regard because of the way in which these specimens were preserved. These specimens preserved fluids, which provide a snapshot of the host-associated microbes at the time of collection. This work will have important impacts on host-associated microbe ecology and evolution. Additionally, the proposed work will involve the participation of Native American students from reservations in South Dakota to expand scientific interest and careers among this underrepresented group.
It is hypothesized that microbial gut communities will vary in diversity and function both within and between amphibian assemblages over spatiotemporal gradients. Such changes may also precede disease related declines of the associated hosts, such as chytridiomycosis in amphibians. These hypotheses will be tested by utilizing recently developed techniques for isolation and purification of degraded DNA. Shotgun metagenomic sequencing will be used for generating host-associated gut metagenome data. Sequence-based taxonomic and functional analysis will be completed using a variety of bioinformatics and machine-learning software on high-performance computing resources. By utilizing museum specimens and their associated locality information, the fellow will also explicate changes in host-associated microbiomes of amphibian assemblages in response to differential land-use and land-cover (LULC) in the Midwest and Northeast United States from the 1880s to present. Statistical mixed-effects models will be implemented for evaluating changes in host-associated microbial metagenomes and will include the integration of publicly available LULC datasets. The project will therefore further the training of the fellow in GIS for integration into microbial ecology research, and also promote the mentoring of students from underrepresented groups in using museum collections for answering questions pertaining to microbial ecology and evolution.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
- Funding Source
- United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
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- Project number
- Microbial Genetics
- Education and Training