The lab is incredibly excited to welcome Mary Burak! Mary is joining the lab as a Fulbright Scholar based in Kenya followed by an IBES Voss Postdoctoral Fellowship. Together these prestigious awards will support Mary for three years both in Kenya and at Brown. Mary will collaborate with a number of major NGOs as well as scholars at the University of Nairobi, the National Museums of Kenya, and Mpala Research Centre to address critical data needs for the conservation of large carnivores and herbivores across Kenya.
Mary completed a PhD in Os Schmitz's lab at Yale University in 2023. She is a star and we are so keen to learn from her and collaborate with her over the next few years and beyond!
Congratulations to Robert Ang'ila for publishing a paper based on his Masters research in African Journal of Ecology! Robert's paper reports on spatial associations between the abundance and diversity of wildlife and understory plant communities across the massive CTFS-ForestGEO plot at Mpala Research Centre in Kenya. The work highlights how fine-scale variation in soil and topography can shape plant-herbivore interaction networks that play out over much broader scales. Great work, Robert!
A million congrats to Bianca Brown on her latest publication, which now appears typeset and formatted in Molecular Ecology! Bianca's insight, creativity, and leadership are on full display in this masterpiece of a paper that investigates patterns of phylosymbiosis in the small mammal community at Mpala Research Centre. Bianca highlights the importance of phylogenetic scale in investigations of phylosymbiosis and underscores the value of studies that investigate how local ecological context can modify our 'global' expectations about host-microbiome associations. Way to go, Bianca!
Brown BRP, Goheen JR, Newsome SD, Pringle RM, Palmer TM, Khasoha LM, Kartzinel TR. 2023. Host phylogeny and functional traits differentiate gut microbiomes in a diverse natural community of small mammals. Molecular Ecology doi: 10.1111/mec.16874
Collaborator and University of Wyoming PhD student, Leo Malingati, appears on an episode of the documentary series Wildlife Warriors and shares his experience studying the small mammals of Mpala Research Centre!
The conversation featuring our work to analyze small mammal diets -- poop science!
Short video available on YouTube. Episode on Vimeo.
Congratulations to Robert Ang'ila on the successful defense of his MSc thesis. Robert has pioneered important work at the Kenya ForestGEO site located at Mpala Research Centre, where he ran camera traps and conducted vegetation surveys to understand how large mammalian herbivores interact with their physical and biotic environments. Robert's insightful thesis results will have a mark on the field and launch him forward in his career as a wildlife conservation researcher. Congratulations Robert!!
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.
Congratulations to Courtney Reed for winning big -- two awards in one week! Courtney won first place in the flash talk competition at the IBES Blue Sky event. She also won an IBES Graduate Student Research Training and Travel Award. These awards highlight he importance of Courtney's research on how defaunation impacts ecosystems in Kenya. Thanks to IBES for supporting our work and helping amplify our research -- and way to go Courtney!
As the fall semester gets into swing, the lab is having a lot of fun and making progress on research. Several milestones should not go unnoticed, and there are photos to boot. In no particular order: