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Early Career Scientists Symposium: Natural History Collections: Drivers of Innovation

Jocelyn Colella, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of New Hampshire; Kelly Speer, Biodiversity Genomics and George E. Burch Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institute of Conservation Biology
Friday, March 12, 2021
1:00-3:00 PM
A virtual symposium held on five consecutive Fridays beginning March 5, 2021.

REGISTRATION required for Zoom entry. Registrants will receive the Zoom link and passcode via email. See links this page to register and for more information.

Session II (Moderator: Taylor West)

1 pm Jocelyn Colella

1:30 pm Kelly Speer

2 pm Panel discussion: Jocelyn Colella and Kelly Speer

Jocelyn Colella
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences Department, Hubbard Genome Sciences Center, University of New Hampshire

Talk title: Connecting next-generation museum collections to public health

Natural history collections are recognized repositories of molecular data, critical for measuring change through time. Historically, technology has had limited access the molecular secrets of aged specimens; however, high-throughput short-read sequencing has recently enhanced our ability to interrogate historical archives. Although specimen-derived DNA is not often amenable to long-read sequencing, creative reduced-representation genomic approaches that circumvent issues of DNA quality (e.g., RADsequ, exome capture) have catalyzed the field of museomics. New linked-read sequencing approaches (e.g., 10X Genomics) further enhance our ability to generate quality de novo genome assemblies from degraded specimens. These methods geographically connect short-reads in genome-space, creating assemblies with greater completeness and contiguity relative to shot-gun only assemblies. New technologies and the expanding availability quality reference assemblies from across the tree of life, increasingly enable comparative and population genomic studies that leverage the temporal depth and geographic breadth of museum archives. We use population-level genomic sampling across multiple species of Peromyscus (deer mice), a well-represented taxon in natural history collections, to identify genetic mechanisms of dehydration-tolerance. Desert-adapted deer mice may never drink water or urinate during their lifetime, yet they remain behaviorally and cognitively intact under extreme dehydration. In contrast, there are millions of dehydration-related deaths in humans each year. Identification of the genes and regulatory regions involved in desert adaptation in other mammals will help identify candidate loci for potential gene therapies in humans. A strong link between museums and public-health will bolster funding for these critical repositories and expand molecular applications. As the primary consumers of cryogenic tissue resources, it is the responsibility of the molecular biology community to contribute to the growth and maintenance of collections through the active contribution of biological resources via fieldwork or the incorporation of long-term specimen preservation costs into grant applications.

Kelly Speer
Biodiversity Genomics and George E. Burch Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genomics, Smithsonian Institute of Conservation Biology, National Zoological Park and Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History

Talk title: Determining drivers of symbiont evolution in a multi-tier hierarchical system

The use of natural history specimens is continually reimagined beyond the original intent with which they were collected. Recently, natural history specimens have been used to examine change in host-associated microbial communities through time in response to environmental change. Leveraging the inherent nestedness of host-parasite-microbiome assemblages to minimize sources of variation, I examine how the microbiomes of insect parasites change across space, time and environments, and assess the implications of these changes for pathogen prevalence. I focus on the bacterial microbiome of bat flies (Streblidae and Nycteribiidae), which are obligate, blood-feeding ectoparasites of bats, that vector pathogens to their hosts. I find that bat fly microbiomes are extremely specific to the species of fly they occupy regardless of abiotic factors. However, habitat fragmentation, time and geographic space also contribute to variation in the microbiome of bat flies. This variation is not correlated with prevalence of two arthropod-vectored pathogens of bats, but possibly strain-level occurrence. As greater interaction between humans and wildlife leads to increased zoonotic disease events, it is imperative to explore natural history collections as untapped sources of information about the progression of pathogen spread and corresponding wildlife microbiome change.

Read more, including about the speakers and their talks, on the ECSS website:


Illustration: John Megahan. Image credits: Eric LoPresti, John Megahan, Timothy James, Linda Garcia
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Link:
Event Password: Zoom passcode will be sent via email to registrants
Event Type: Livestream / Virtual
Tags: AEM Featured, Biology, Biosciences, Bsbsigns, early career scientists, Museum, Museum - Herbarium, Museum - Zoology, Research, Research Museums Center, science
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Museum of Natural History, School for Environment and Sustainability, Museum Paleontology, Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, University of Michigan Biological Station, Program in Biology, Museum of Zoology, Research Museums Center