Registration open for Microbes and Social Equity speaker series, Jan 19 – April 27

Registration is now open for the Microbes and Social Equity speaker series, which is in its second year this spring. Hurry, the first seminar is on Wednesday, Jan 19th!

The seminars are free and open for anyone to attend, but require registration to Zoom for each of the talks. You can find the full speaker list and registration links to all the talks on the 2022 series page, which will update as we confirm additional speakers.

Microorganisms are critical to many aspects of biological life, including human health.  The human body is a veritable universe for microorganisms: some pass through but once, some are frequent tourists, and some spend their entire existence in the confines of our body tissues.  The collective microbial community, our microbiome, can be impacted by the details of our lifestyle, including diet, hygiene, health status, and more, but many are driven by social, economic, medical, or political constraints that restrict available choices that may impact our health.   

Access to resources is the basis for creating and resolving social equity—access to healthcare, healthy foods, a suitable living environment, and to beneficial microorganisms, but also access to personal and occupational protection to avoid exposure to infectious disease. This speaker series explores the way that microbes connect public policy, social disparities, and human health, as well as the ongoing research, education, policy, and innovation in this field. 

“The Microbes and Social Equity Speaker Series 2022”

Spring 2022; Jan 19 – Apr 27, Wednesdays at 12:00 – 13:00 EST

Presented over Zoom. Registration is free, and required for each seminar.

Hosting Organization: MSE and the University of Maine Institute of Medicine


“Microbes at the nexus of environmental, biological, and social research”

Dr. Sue Ishaq, PhD

January 19, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk

Sue Ishaq, photo courtesy of Patrick Wine, 2021.

About the speaker: Dr. Sue Ishaq is an Assistant Professor of Animal and Veterinary Science at the University of Maine, in the School of Food and Agriculture. She received her doctorate in Animal, Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Vermont in 2015 where her graduate study focused on the rumen microbiology of the moose.  She held post-doctoral positions at Montana State University, and a research faculty position at the University of Oregon.  Since 2019, her lab in Maine focuses on host-associated microbial communities in animals and humans, and in particular, how host and microbes interact in the gut. In addition to her research on gut microbes, Dr. Ishaq is the founder of the Microbes and Social Equity working group.  This group formed to examine, publicize and promote a research program on the reciprocal impact of social inequality and microbiomes, both human and environmental.


“The Human Microbiome and Health Inequities”

Dr. Katherine (Katie) Amato, PhD

January 26, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

Dr. Katie Amato. Photo borrowed from Northwestern University.
Dr. Katie Amato. Photo borrowed from Northwestern University

About the speaker: Dr. Katherine (Katie) Amato is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Northwestern University. From her faculty profile page: “Katie Amato is a biological anthropologist studying the gut microbiota in the broad context of host ecology and evolution. She is particularly interested in understanding how changes in the gut microbiota impact human nutrition and health in populations around the world, especially those with limited access to nutritional resources.”

Faculty profile page.

Talk summary: The talk explores how the microbiome is likely to be a mediating pathway that translates disparities in people’s environments to disparities in health outcomes. It outlines the current state of the literature in this area and broadly suggests ways to move forward. Dr. Amato’s recent publication on this topic can be found here.


Title TBD

Dr. Liat Shenhav, PhD

February 16, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

Dr. Liat Shenhav. Photo borrowed from Twitter page.
Dr. Liat Shenhav. Photo borrowed from Twitter page.

About the speaker: Dr. Liat Shenhav is an Independent Research Fellow at The Rockefeller University

Institutional profile page.


“20 important questions in microbial exposure and social equity + recent work on urban greenspace microbiomes”

Dr. Jake Robinson, PhD

Feb 23rd, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

A black and white portrait of Dr. Jake Robinson, who is wearing a black shirt and light sportscoat over it. Jake is outside in front of some bushes.
Dr. Jake Robinson

About the speaker: Dr. Jake Robinson is an ecologist and researcher. He recently completed a PhD at the University of Sheffield, UK. His academic interests lie at the intersection of microbial ecology, ecosystem restoration and social research. He will soon be publishing a book called Invisible Friends, which is all about our extraordinary relationship with microbes, and how they shape our lives and the world around us. 

Professional page.


Title TBD

Dr. Douglas Call, PhD

March 30, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

About the speaker: Dr. Douglas Call is a Regents Professor at the Paul G. Allen School for Global Health, in Molecular Epidemiology, and the Associate Director for Research and Graduate Education, at Washington State University.

Faculty profile page.


“Decomposition as Life Politics” 

Dr. Kristina Lyons, PhD

April 6, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

Dr. Kristina Lyons. Photo reused from the University of Pennsylvania faculty page.
Dr. Kristina Lyons. Photo reused from the University of Pennsylvania faculty page.

About the speaker: Dr. Kristina Lyons is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and with the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. She also holds affiliations with the Center for Experimental Ethnography and the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies. Kristina’s current research is situated at the interfaces of socio-ecological conflicts, science, and legal studies in Colombia and Latin America. Her manuscript, Vital Decomposition: Soil Practitioners and Life Politics (Duke 2020), was awarded honorable mention by the Bryce Wood Book Award committee from the Latin American Studies Association. She has also collaborated on the creation of soundscapes, street performances, photographic essays, graphic novels, popular education audiovisual projects, community radio programs, digital storytelling platforms, and various forms of literary writing.

Professional page.

Talk summary: How does attention to and stewardship of soils point to alternative frameworks for living and dying? Dr. Lyons explores the way life strives to flourish in the face of violence, criminalization, and poisoning produced by militarized, growth-oriented development in the midst of the U.S.-Colombia war on drugs.


Title TBD

Dr. Travis J. De Wolfe, PhD

Date TBD, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST.

About the speaker: Dr. Travis J. De Wolfe, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia.

Institutional profile page.


Title TBD

Dr. Maya Hey, PhD

Date TBD, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST.

About the speaker: Dr. Maya Hey is a postdoctoral researcher with the Future Organisms project as part of an international trans-disciplinary team investigating Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). She brings a humanities and social science perspective to the life sciences, calling upon feminist, intersectional, and multispecies approaches to map out human response-ability in a more-than-human world. She is vested in questions related to fermentation, particularly as they relate to discourses of health, the rhetoric of microbiomes, and how we come to know microbial life.”

Professional page.



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