MSE paper published on “Twenty important research questions in microbial exposure and social equity”

The Microbes and Social Equity working group has published its second collaborative paper together, led by Dr. Jake Robinson and featuring 25 other MSE group researchers in various fields related to microbiomes, social equity, and ecosystems. In developing this paper, we had many conversations about what had been accomplished in research related to microbial exposure, as well as what had yet to be done. We provide some background information as context, and spend the majority of the paper outlining twenty of the most poignant research directions. There are so many questions yet to be answered about the way the microbial communities interact with human lives, and how our lives impact them back. In our enthusiasm for the topics, we could have endlessly chatted about research, such that we decided to limit ourselves to twenty questions. We hope that this piece becomes a source for inspiration for others who continue this conversation and future research in these areas.

You can find a link below to read the full article, and links to the authors’ twitter feeds if you’d like to check them out on social media. You’ll be able to hear more about this publication in an upcoming seminar from Jake, as part of the 2022 MSE speaker series, which is open to all and free to attend over zoom.


Robinson, J.M., Redvers, N., Camargo, A., Bosch, C.A., Breed, M.F., Brenner, L.A., Carney, M.A., Chauhan, A., Dasari, M., Dietz, L.G., Friedman, M., Grieneisen, L., Hoisington, A.J., Horve, P.F., Hunter, A., Jech, S., Jorgensen, A., Lowry, C.A., Man, I., Mhuireach, G., Navarro-Pérez, E., Ritchie, E.G., Stewart, J.D., Watkins, H., Weinstein, P., and Ishaq, S.L. 2022. Twenty important research questions in microbial exposure and social equity. mSystems 7(1): e01240-21. Special Series: Social Equity as a Means of Resolving Disparities in Microbial Exposure

ABSTRACT

Social and political policy, human activities, and environmental change affect the ways in which microbial communities assemble and interact with people. These factors determine how different social groups are exposed to beneficial and/or harmful microorganisms, meaning microbial exposure has an important socioecological justice context. Therefore, greater consideration of microbial exposure and social equity in research, planning, and policy is imperative. Here, we identify 20 research questions considered fundamentally important to promoting equitable exposure to beneficial microorganisms, along with safeguarding resilient societies and ecosystems. The 20 research questions we identified span seven broad themes, including the following: (i) sociocultural interactions; (ii) Indigenous community health and well-being; (iii) humans, urban ecosystems, and environmental processes; (iv) human psychology and mental health; (v) microbiomes and infectious diseases; (vi) human health and food security; and (vii) microbiome-related planning, policy, and outreach. Our goal was to summarize this growing field and to stimulate impactful research avenues while providing focus for funders and policymakers.

Introducing the Microbes and Social Equity Working Group: Considering the Microbial Components of Social, Environmental, and Health Justice

The Microbes and Social Equity Working Group is delighted to make its published debut, with this collaboratively-written perspective piece introducing ourselves and our goals. You can read about us here.

This piece also debuts the special series we are curating in partnership with the scientific journal mSystems; “Special Series: Social Equity as a Means of Resolving Disparities in Microbial Exposure“. Over the next few months to a year, we will be adding additional peer-reviewed, cutting edge research, review, concept, and perspective pieces from researchers around the globe on a myriad of topics which center around social inequity and microbial exposures.

Ishaq, S.L., Parada, F.J., Wolf, P.G., Bonilla, C.Y., Carney, M.A., Benezra, A., Wissel, E., Friedman, M., DeAngelis, K.M., Robinson, J.M., Fahimipour, A.K., Manus, M.B., Grieneisen, L., Dietz, L.G., Pathak, A., Chauhan, A., Kuthyar, S., Stewart, J.D., Dasari, M.R., Nonnamaker, E., Choudoir, M., Horve, P.F., Zimmerman, N.B., Kozik, A.J., Darling, K.W., Romero-Olivares, A.L., Hariharan, J., Farmer, N., Maki, K.A., Collier, J.L., O’Doherty, K., Letourneau, J., Kline, J., Moses, P.L., Morar, N. 2021. Introducing the Microbes and Social Equity Working Group: Considering the Microbial Components of Social, Environmental, and Health Justice. mSystems 6:4.

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We are in the processing of finalizing our speaker list and program, as well as creating registration links. Stay tuned for more information.

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A close-up picture of petri dishes containing a light yellow film of microbes.

Rebecca received an undergraduate research award!

Rebecca French, an undergraduate researcher in Animal and Veterinary Science, is beginning her time in the Ishaq Lab with an auspicious start: she has been awarded a 2021 research award from the J. Franklin Witter Undergraduate Research Endowment Fund! The fund supports AVS undergraduate student involvement in faculty supervised research which involves the J. Franklin Witter Teaching & Research Center.

Rebecca’s project will involve zoonotic disease tracking in rodent populations that live near farms/human development versus those which live in more natural areas, and will take place at the Witter farm and a paired natural ecosystem. Her project is part of a larger collaboration between myself and a team of researchers, which was recently funded by the University of Maine, but which has not yet been announced (details soon).

Rebecca formally joined my research lab in February of this year, but I have had the pleasure of teaching her in my data analysis class since January, which will be a handy skillset later in the project. She also learn and perform microbial culturing, qPCR, Sanger sequencing, and even some animal trapping, handling, and identification; mammal physiology data collection and analysis.

Rebecca French

Undergraduate Researcher, Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Rebecca is an animal and veterinary science student with a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine. She joined the Ishaq lab team in 2021 as a part of her capstone project, which is focused on flying squirrels and mice that are carrying zoonotic pathogens into Maine.