Microbiome Award Winners

  

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Microbiome Project

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WINNERS

2017

2016

2015

2014

 2017

Grand Prize
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Michael Montague, PhD
University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Montague’s project aims to examine how varying degrees of social interaction impacts the gut microbiome in rhesus monkeys, while also exploring how the diversity of gut microbial communities influences levels of peripheral and central serotonin. He will first measure female social behavior, followed by shotgun sequencing of gut microbiomes from fecal samples and serotonin collection from whole blood and cerebrospinal fluid. Socially integrated females who interact more frequently in pairwise grooming are expected to possess more diverse gut microbiomes and lower serotonin levels. The ramifications of serotonin in modulating behaviors such as mood, arousal and pain signals its importance to not only the brain-gut-microbiome axis but also for understanding various human disorders, including autism, depression and anxiety, that arise from defective signaling or abnormal metabolism of serotonin. 

 


 

 2016

1st Prize
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Catherine Burke, PhD
University of Technology, Sydney

Dr. Burks's study aims to characterize the gut microbiome in a clinically depressed population in comparison to healthy controls, and will be run in conjunction with a larger clinical trial examining the efficacy of probiotics for the treatment of depression in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. This will increase the current knowledge of the microbiome associated with depression, and importantly provide insight into the potential of microbiome manipulation as a novel treatment for depression, as a link has been established between the gut microbiome and animal models of depression, but only two studies in the past have attempted to characterize the microbiome in clinically depressed human populations.  

 

2nd Prize
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Allyson Martinez, PhD
Texas A&M University, Central Texas 

The goal Dr. Martinez's study is to test whether the bee honey stomach microbiome plays a role in the composition of  honey. The honey stomach is a specialized gastrointestinal structure that only functions to convert nectar into honey, and the microbiome of the honey stomach may play a specialized role in the production of honey. Honey and bees will be collected to determine the chemical composition of the honey and characterize the honey stomach microbiome. This data will be compared to known metagenomic and metatranscriptomic data for the microorganisms identified in the microbiome. These results will allow us to determine the specific contribution of individual microorganisms of the honey stomach microbiome to the production of honey.

 

3rd Prize 
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AndreaTarnecki, PhD
Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida 

Dr. Tarnecki proposes a study which will investigate the effects of oil (PAHs) and a commonly used dispersant on fish immune function and microbiome composition. The investigation will take advantage of funded ecotoxicological tests that will compare fishes during oil/dispersant exposure through feed, water, and sediments to unexposed controls. A suite of immunological parameters will be quantified in that work and will provide linkage data between microbiome structure and fish physiological condition. The value added by exploring microbiome reactions to fish stressors in parallel with this work is significant. This study will provide insight into the effects of pollutants on the host microbiomes and how these changes relate to host health. Members of the bacterial community that are altered during pollutant exposure that correlate with immunosuppression will be identified as potential biomarkers for fish health. Identifying these bacterial biomarkers is the first step in producing a minimally invasive, non-lethal monitoring procedure to quickly assess fish health in the field and in aquaculture during stressor events.


 

 2015

1st Prize
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Gayani Chandrasena, PhD
Environmental and Public Health Microbiology Laboratory

Dr. Chandrasena's project will provide proof of concept that microbial population changes are the leading cause for variability seen in a biofilter's pollutant removal performance. This information can then use to optimize the biofilter design for a range of pollutants. Vegetated sand filters or biofilters are a low energy treatment system, where microorganisms play a vital role in pollutant removal in stormwater. These systems have shown promising yet variable results in reducing a range of stormwater pollutants such as sediments, nutrients, heavy metals, and pathogens despite limited knowledge on how microbial dynamics affect pollutant removal performances in these systems. 

 

2nd Prize
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Christopher Stewart, PhD
Northumbria University 

The goal of Dr. Stewart's project will be to study a cohort of preterm infants (<32 weeks gestation or <1500g birth weight), who have already consented to an IRB/REC approved study of gut health (SERVIS: Supporting Enhanced Research in Vulnerable Infants Microbial colonisation has a large impact on early gut function and health in preterm infants. Analysis will focus on the contribution of the microbiome to early growth (changes in weight and head circumference Z-factors) and nutritional/health exposures on the development of gut microbial communities, how these change over time, and to what extent these changes relate to measures of longer term health or disease (e.g. growth, asthma, allergy).Microbial community profiling from infant stool samples will be coupled with detailed dietary and health information sought from parents using established methods already in use.  

 

3rd Prize 
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Niels Verhulst, PhD
Wageningen University and Research Centre 

 

Dr. Verhulst  proposes a study of the role of skin bacterial and skin volatile composition to understand the interactions between primates and mosquitoes and reveal the mechanisms behind cross-species exchanges of infectious diseases. Primate skin bacterial and body odor profiles will be compared and linked to the host preference of several mosquito species. Potential bridge vectors of malaria will be identified in a field study in Africa and tested for blood meal source and prevalence of human and ape Plasmodium (malaria) species. The study will provide fundamental knowledge about what makes us human in terms of skin microbiota and body odor composition and reveal the mechanisms behind a cross-species exchange of Plasmodium and other infectious diseases.


 

 2014 

1st Prize
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Carl Rothfels, PhD
Duke University
 
The goal of Dr. Rothfels' project is to understand the symbiotic relationship between aquatic ferns of the genus Azolla and the microbiome housed within the chambers of its leaves, which provides the fern with extraordinary nitrogen-fixation abilities and the ability to remediate water contaminated with high concentrations of heavy metals and other toxins. The results of this microbiome project will provide the first comprehensive picture of Azolla "superorganism" symbiosis.
 
2nd Prize
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Craig McConnel, PhD
Colorado State University
 
Dr. McConnel's project will focus on dairy cattle, which harbor and shed large quantities of Escherichia coli 0157:H7, a chief source of microbial contamination in dairy, meat and agricultural products. A better understanding of the microbial communities of shedding and non-shedding dairy cows will lead to mitigation strategies that limit bovine dissemination of O157:H7 on dairies, reducing contamination of the human food chain and subsequent human infection.

 

 
3rd Prize 
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Arwyn Edwards, PhD
Aberystwyth University
 
Dr. Edwards' research centers on glaciers and ice-sheets, which are neglected but vital microbial habitats. This microbiome project seeks to capture the endangered microbiomes of glacial systems worldwide. Outcomes of the project, coupled with outreach activity, will help re-cast the discourse pertaining to the consequences of glacier loss in endangering microbial biodiversity.