Host-Microbe Interactions; Genomics; Metagenomics; Comparative Microbiomes; Human and Non-Human Primate Models for Gastrointestinal and Vaginal Microbiomes; The Role of Microbiomes in Human Diseases of the Gastrointestinal Tract and Vagina.
My major research interests are in using microbial physiology and genetics, microbial genomics and metagenomics, and microbial ecology to understand host-microbe interactions in vertebrates. These interests are in production species such as cattle, swine and poultry, and in models of disease for humans. With respect to productions species, we are interested in models that address nutrient utilization, primarily the rumen fiber-adherent microbiome as a model for improving forage utilization. We are also interested in understanding the roles of beneficial and pathogenic organisms and antibiotic use in domestic production animals, as well as approaches that will enable the detection of diseases in livestock and provide critical genetic contexts for understanding food safety. With respect to humans and non-human primates, we are using the framework of the Human Microbiome Project from the NIH Road Map to address issues in health and well-being. One interest is how bacterial communities colonizing the gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts of primates impact health, survival, fecundity, population fitness, and ultimately evolution of the host. Our other major interest is in characterizing the microbiome in the human vagina that are associated with bacterial vaginosis. We also hope to elucidate microbial risk predicators for preterm birth, one of the unfortunate outcomes from untreated and undetected bacterial vaginosis. As part of this project will are applying high throughput genomic technologies to identify microbes and make gene predictions that can lead to personalized medical diagnostics; genomic information physicians could use as predictors of risk and positively impact clinical outcomes and women's health.