1) Microbially-mediated ethanol resistance in Drosophila
In summer of 2015, I joined the labs of Will Ludington and Mike Eisen at UC Berkeley. I am investigating how the intestinal microbes of D. melanogaster allow their host to survive on high-ethanol diets. This work has implications for evolutionary biology, as the microbiota may be a factor allowing D. melanogaster to expand its niche to high-ethanol diets (that is, rotting fruit), as well as informing human health since there is a known role of microbes and microbial byproducts in alcoholic liver disease.
2) Virus discovery in mosquitoes
From June 2013 to June 2015, I was in Shannon Bennett’s lab in the Department of Microbiology at the California Academy of Sciences (a research institution and public museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco). As a postdoctoral researcher, I employed shotgun metagenomic sequencing to uncover viruses in natural mosquito populations. This work has found that mosquitoes harbor a diverse assemblage of viruses that are related to, but evolutionarily distinct from, known mosquito-vectored human viral pathogens. The long-term goal of this research is to understand how different factors, such as local mosquito diversity, the availability of mammalian hosts, and the degree of anthropogenic disturbance influence mosquito-associated microbial communities.
3) The natural microbiota of wild Drosophila
In June of 2013, I completed my dissertation in the Population Biology Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis. While advised by Artyom Kopp, my research focused on the microbial communities that are associated with natural Drosophila populations. This research found that diet is more important than host species in structuring the microbial communities of Drosophila. Furthermore, we found that the most common microbes associated with wild Drosophila are only sometimes used in laboratory experiments, suggesting that laboratory experiments may not be fully representative of natural Drosophila-microbe interactions.