We are our own zoos, harboring about 39 trillion bacteria symbionts, about as many as our cells. These bacteria, collectively called our microbiome, are indispensable for our health; they fight our infections, process our food, guide our behavior, and protect us from diseases. So, when our bacteria are disrupted so is our health.
The recent research article, written by Bard graduate Dylan Dahan ’15 and professor Gabriel Perron, in collaboration with professors Brooke Jude and Felicia Keesing, used zebrafish as a model to investigate how arsenic poisoning affects fish microbiomes. The researchers found that microbiomes were readily affected, with striking consequences such as loss of bacterial community members and potential increases in antibiotic resistance.
Arsenic poising in contaminated drinking water affects over 60 million people in Bangladesh and West Bengal. This research will inform how contaminated water may be altering peoples microbiomes and thus supports the case for cleaning contaminated water.
Full citation: Dahan, D., Jude, B. A., Lamendella, R., Keesing, F., & Perron, G. G. (2018). Exposure to arsenic alters the microbiome of larval zebrafish. Frontiers in microbiology, 9.
On the photo: Dylan Dahan (class of 2015) presenting his data.
In recent years, many have speculated that climate change is the driving force behind the spike in cases of Lyme disease in the northeastern United States. It would be really useful for the public if we could use climate data to predict places and times at risk for Lyme disease. In her senior project, Sarah Weiner used public records from the United States Drought Monitor to create a climate index. Then, with guidance from professor Felicia Keesing, Sarah built statistical models to see whether this climate index could be used to predict year-to-year variation in Lyme disease incidence at the county level. Sarah found that climate is not a practical way to predict Lyme disease outbreaks, and that other factors, such as location, are much better predictors.
This spring semester, two Bard biology students (Maia Weisenhaus and Sadie Marvel) were enrolled in a microscopy tutorial with professor Brooke Jude. Every week they would come up with new ideas for projects, and then figured out how to do them as they went along. In the words of one of the students: “It’s fun to learn these microscopy techniques without the formal structure of being in a class. It’s very exploratory!”
You can see more photos from the tutorial on the tutorial tumblr.
Five biology students brought their senior project posters to the Hudson Valley Life Science Group (HVLSG) Spring Research Symposium, which was held at Vassar college this year. The conference was a blast, with about 30 students participating, and a great keynote lecture about frogs and owls (by Vassar professor Megan Gall).
Bard students enrolled in the Field Methods in Ecology course, taught by professor Cathy Collins, spent spring break in Costa Rica at the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology. Students designed and executed studies to characterize rainforest microclimates, estimate diversity and abundance of butterflies, and quantify the biomass removed from the forest canopy by leaf cutter ants–all while being surrounded by the sloths, monkeys, anteaters, tarantulas, and toucans!
You can read more about their experience on the course blog, and see more photos at the blog photo album!
This winter the lab of professor Brooke Jude published nine draft genomes of bacteria endemic to the Hudson Valley watershed. This work is a result of several senior projects performed in the Biology program, and three graduated biology students (Alexandra Bettina, Georgia Doing, and Kelsey O’Brien) are now first authors on three publications!
Bettina, A. M., Doing, G., O’Brien, K., Perron, G. G., & Jude, B. A. (2018). Draft Genome Sequences of Phenotypically Distinct Janthinobacterium sp. Isolates Cultured from the Hudson Valley Watershed. Genome announcements, 6(3), e01426-17.
Doing, G., Perron, G. G., & Jude, B. A. (2018). Draft Genome Sequence of a Violacein-Producing Iodobacter sp. from the Hudson Valley Watershed. Genome announcements, 6(1), e01428-17.
O’Brien, K., Perron, G. G., & Jude, B. A. (2018). Draft Genome Sequence of a Red-Pigmented Janthinobacterium sp. Native to the Hudson Valley Watershed. Genome announcements, 6(1), e01429-17.
In this new paper, Bard professor Elias Dueker and collaborators study microbes that fly in the air, after small droplets of water get lifted from the ocean surface by the coastal wind. They found that depending on the wind speed, different amounts of microbes were picked up, and they were transported different distances into the city. They also described which types of microbes are more likely to get airborne, compared to those found below the water surface.
Citation: Dueker, M. E., O’Mullan, G. D., Martínez, J. M., Juhl, A. R., & Weathers, K. C. (2017). Onshore Wind Speed Modulates Microbial Aerosols along an Urban Waterfront. Atmosphere, 8(11), 215.
Animals caught in ‘ecological traps’ prefer the worst available habitats. This happens when environmental change makes habitats look superficially attractive when they are actually dangerous. Ecological traps are increasingly common, but it remains unclear how susceptible animals are to them. Aquatic flies, for example, can be highly attracted to asphalt because it reflects polarized light the same way that natural water bodies do.
In this study, Bard professor Bruce Robertson and his students exposed seven ecologically similar species of aquatic flies to different levels of polarized light, including abnormally strong polarized light associated with man-made habitats that are dangerous to them. They found that, in every species tested, animals actually preferred levels of polarized light typical of asphalt where their eggs perish, over levels typical of natural ponds. We also found that the degree of their preference depended on whether the cue was closer or more distant from a natural river.
Citation: Robertson, B. A., Keddy-Hector, I. A., Shrestha, S. D., Silverberg, L. Y., Woolner, C. E., Hetterich, I., & Horváth, G. (2018). Susceptibility to ecological traps is similar among closely related taxa but sensitive to spatial isolation. Animal Behaviour, 135, 77-84.
In the fall 2017, Assistant Professor of Biology, Eli Dueker, was awarded a grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for his work with the Saw Kill Watershed Community (SKWC), which he founded. The goal of the project is to improve understanding about connections between land-use and stream/watershed conditions. SKWC will develop and implement long-term planning to help preserve the watershed and reduce threats and will expand regionally by reaching out to neighboring watershed community groups.
Read more: https://sagehouse.blog/2017/11/20/college-and-community-a-watershed-partnership/