A pair of recent papers from the lab were highlighted for the creative use of DNA metabarcoding to solve problems and ask new questions in fields that span ecology and biomedical science.
1. Our recent paper documenting variation in diet-microbiome linkages in African megafauna was highlighted on the cover of PNAS, Brown University's news, The Division of Biomedicine's 'Kudos' memo, and in the media. This open access paper reflects the results of a long-term collaboration with Rob Pringle from Princeton, Paul Musili from the National Museums of Kenya, a creative honors thesis by Julianna Hsing, and the microbiome-bioinformatics chops of current grad student Bianca Brown.
2. Our recent paper in mSystems creatively translated the DNA metabarcoding approaches that we've been using for wildlife research into a biomedical context to evaluate the plant component of human diets. Using DNA-based evidence of human diet composition could be highly complementary to the current standard of asking human subjects to maintain diet logs in research on human health and nutrition. The paper was highlighted as Editor's pick in the area of Clinical Science and Epidemiology by the journal, as well as in a thoughtful commentary by Frank Maixner, who further highlighted the connections between this work and the fields of archaeology and ancient DNA. The paper was co-led by Aspen Reese based on samples from a prior experimental study investigating the influences of diet interventions on human gut microbiomes, which was led by Lawrence David.
The lab was thrilled to host a special set of seminars by Prof Karen Warkentin this week. The special seminars were co-organized by EEB and oSTEM, Brown's chapter of the national non-profit professional society that aims to empower LGBTQIA+ folks working in STEM fields. At Brown, 24% of undergraduates and 18% of graduate students reported that they identified as LGBTQ+, according to the 2018 climate survey.
The EEB-hosted seminar focused on adaptive variation in hatching time by tropical frogs -- "Proximate and ultimate causes of plastic hatching timing" -- a classic system in evolutionary ecology, and a connection to our lab's research roots in the wet tropics of Central America.
The oSTEM-hosted seminar told -- in part -- Prof Warkentin's personal story and perspective on the value of diversity in STEM. It was modeled after the Opening Plenary at the 2019 ESA meeting, and entitled "Different people ask different questions: A queer perspective on studying diversity in life history and behavior." Videos of the ESA plenary and related talks can be viewed here.
Both seminars were attended by a broad cross-section of folks at Brown. Thank you, Prof Warkentin, for making the visit! Thank you, oSTEM, for partnering with our group and EEB to make this special visit such a success!