The study of microbial community (microbiome) associations with various taxa is a research area that has exploded in breadth and importance in the last decade. This enormous surge in research interest is in large part due to the availability of high-throughput molecular instrumentation and techniques that are growing at a rate generally seen as outpacing Moore’s Law. The importance of individual and population level microbial communities has become apparent in contexts ranging from individual health to long term evolutionary implications.
My current research is interested in the role of microbial communities in an amphibian disease system. Specifically, the amphibian fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has been implicated as a major contributor to amphibian declines and extinction events. The role of the amphibian cutaneous microbiome has been of interest in this disease system for the development of an exploitative probiotic based protection.
Specific ongoing work includes studying the community level effects of the Gammaproteobacteria Serratia marcescens and how it may influence host susceptibility to chytridiomycosis. It is thought that mechanistic elucidations from this bacteria, a common member of amphibian microbial communities, can shed light onto important molecular mechanisms. The information from this work is important from both a basic standpoint in understanding host-microbiome interactions, as well as from an applied standpoint in developing novel tools for treating amphibian chytridiomycosis and protecting at-risk amphibian species.