After two years of postponement, the Ishaq Lab is excited to welcome Dr. Alaa Rabee as a Visiting Researcher from now until December of this year!! This is made possible by a prestigious award to Dr. Rabee from the Central Department of Missions at the Ministry of Higher Education, Egypt, which fosters research collaboration between Egypt and the U.A.
Dr. Rabee joins us from the Desert Research Institute in Cairo, Egypt, where his work focus on researching microbial communities in the digestive tract of ruminants and how they can be used for animal production, bioengineering, and sustainable development.
Last year, Alaa and I published our first collaborative paper together, based on his work on microbial enzymes from the rumen of sheep and camels and potential for use in biofuel production. We are also working on another, based on microbial activity (transcriptomics) in the rumen of camels on different diets. That project has engaged two undergraduate students in data visualization, including Myra Arshad who started in my lab as an REU student last summer.
During his six month stay, he’ll be working with rumen microbes from various livestock, as well as giving seminars and sharing his experience in research.
Did you know that camels have three stomach chambers or that they have to throw up their own food in order to digest their food properly? Have you felt excluded from science spaces before? Then this blog post is for you!
Allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Myra, and I am a rising senior at SUNY Stony Brook University, where my major is Ecosystems and Human Impact, with a biology minor. In a nutshell, my major is interdisciplinary with a focus on conservation and ecology within human societies.
If I were to describe my college experience in one word I’d pick “surprises”. I never actually saw myself being a scientist in my middle and high school years. I found it hard to care about abstract concepts or theories that felt so far removed from humanity, particularly minority communities. But, during college I found myself falling in love with environmental studies, and along with it, the beautiful complexities that come with being human in our increasingly anthropogenic world.
At UMaine, we focus on the One Health Initiative, which views the health of humans, animals, and the environment as interconnected. When COVID-19 caused everyone to go into lockdown, I was fortunate to find this farm was looking for crew members, with a focus on food security. While certainly not how I planned to spend the summer of 2020, farming for underserved communities is where I saw how impactful One Health was. Organic farmers commonly use plastic mulch as a popular alternative to pesticides for weed suppression. At my home institution, I lead a project on the impacts of microplastics on earthworm health, an Ecotoxicology lab (students of the lab affectionately gave it the nickname “the Worm lab”). We use earthworm health as an indicator of soil health, which in turn is crucial for crop flourishment. The Worm Lab and farming emboldened me to pursue science and, ergo, look for this REU!
At UMaine, I am a member of the Ishaq Lab where I work on the camel metagenome project. Basically, scientists in Egypt raised camels on different diets, then used samples from their feces to sequence their microbial genome. These microbes live in the camel rumen (part of the camel stomach), and help the camel digest their food. What I do with Dr. Ishaq’s lab is, I perform data analysis on these sequences to see how the microbial gene profile changes with different diets. Camels are essential for transportation and food for the communities that rely on them, so finding the most efficient feed for them is important. Camels also release methane depending on their diet so it’s possible humans could control methane production of camels through their diet.
Being a part of the REU ANEW program for 2021 definitely has been an interesting experience, since it is the first time this program has been conducted virtually. Even though I would have loved to have seen everyone in person and spent time in lovely Orono, Maine, I’m glad for the research opportunity as it has further solidified my love of research and the One Health initiative.