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Open Mic Science: Microbes, Coral Reefs, and Human Disease [Bainbridge]

“Join us on Tuesday, May 7, 8:00 p.m., at the Treehouse Cafe to hear our May OMS Speaker: Assistant Professor Jesse Zaneveld.

 Talk Title:
     There and Back Again: Surprising Connections Between the Microbial Ecology of Threatened Coral Reefs and Chronic Human Disease

  Although we tend to mostly notice animal and plant diversity in the world around us, most of life's diversity is microscopic. Communities of microorganisms - called microbiomes - live in and on us. Our microbiome plays important roles in everything from how much energy we get out of our food to how we process pharmaceutical drugs. It turns out that most other animals and plants also have microbiomes. Symbiosis with microorganisms even extends to threatened species of corals that lay the foundation for tropical reefs like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
    This talk will discuss our Global Coral Microbiome Project, which is mapping the diversity of microorganisms living on corals at worldwide sites ranging from Saudi Arabia to Mo'orea.
    This project has shown that associations between corals and certain bacteria have persisted over millions of years of evolution and are more influenced by their coral host than by the environment.
    It will also discuss our long-term experiments in the Florida Keys which suggest that disruption of these ancient symbioses between corals and their microbiomes plays a role in how overfishing, nutrient pollution, and global warming are impacting reefs worldwide. Most surprisingly,  we've uncovered a new pattern in how coral microbiomes respond to stress that seems to be similar to a widespread but under-appreciated pattern in how human microbiomes change during a wide variety of chronic illnesses, including HIV/AIDs and inflammatory bowl disorders.

     Together, this research explores how the unseen microbial world influences everything from human health to reef conservation.

      Dr. Jesse Zaneveld spent much of his early childhood sailing across the South Pacific on a small boat with his family. After growing up in Corvallis, Oregon and studying biology and political science at the University of Oregon, he moved to Boulder, Colorado where he did his Ph.D work in the laboratory of Dr. Rob Knight. There, he developed new methods for understanding the human microbiome using analysis of massive DNA sequencing datasets. This research led to the development of the popular PICRUSt software package, which uses evolutionary modeling to predict the metabolic and functional capabilities of understudied microorganisms.
      He then joined the laboratory of Dr. Rebecca Vega Thurber at Oregon State University, where he applied these computational methods to study the microbiome of threatened reef-building corals. That research led to the formation of the Global Coral Microbiome Project which is a global effort to explore the microbial diversity on coral reefs.

Dr. Zaneveld is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington Bothell where he teaches, does research, and mentors students in projects at the intersection of evolution, computational biology and the microbial world. His research has so far produced 32 scientific publications been featured in media such as The Atlantic and the documentary ‘Saving Atlantis’.”
— source: Open Mic Science newsletter <> update, 2 May 2019.