MSE seminar today: Dr. Liat Shenhav, “It’s about time: ecological and eco-evolutionary dynamics across the scales”

Today is final installment in the spring 2022 Microbes and Social Equity speaker series! Each week, we have been hearing from a researcher who shared their work and perspective on how microbes are involved in all aspects of our lives, and how those microbes can affect individuals, communities, and ecosystems.

This series ran from Jan 19 – May 4, Wednesdays at 12:00 – 13:00 EST. These are presented over Zoom, and open to researchers, practitioners, students, and the public. Registration is free, and required for each individual seminar you would like to attend. You can find the full speaker list, details, and recordings from previous talks here.


“It’s about time: ecological and eco-evolutionary dynamics across the scales”

Dr. Liat Shenhav, PhD

May 4, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

Dr. Liat Shenhav. Photo borrowed from LinkedIN.

About the speaker: Dr. Liat Shenhav is an independent research fellow at the Center for Studies in Physics and Biology at the Rockefeller University. Prior to that, Liat received a B.Sc. and. M.Sc. in Mathematics and Statistics from Tel-Aviv University, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of California, Los Angeles. Liat’s research focuses on developing computational methods for studying spatiotemporal dynamics of complex ecosystems and their contribution to human health and disease.

About the talk: Complex microbial communities play an important role across many domains of life, from the female reproductive tract, through the oceans, to the plant rhizosphere. The study of these communities offers great opportunities for biological discovery, due to the ease of their measurement, the ability to perturb them, and their rapidly evolving nature. Yet, their complex composition, dynamic nature, and intricate interactions with multiple other systems, make it difficult to extract robust and reproducible patterns from these ecosystems. To uncover their latent properties, I develop models that combine longitudinal data analysis and statistical learning, and which draw from principles of community ecology, complexity theory and evolution. 

I will briefly present methods for decomposition of microbial dynamics at an ecological scale (Shenhav et al., Nature Methods 2019; Martino & Shenhav et al., Nature Biotechnology). Using these methods we found significant differences in the trajectories of the infant microbiome in the first years of life as a function of early life exposures, namely mode of delivery and breastfeeding. I will then show how incorporating eco-evolutionary considerations allowed us to detect signals of purifying selection across ecosystems. I will demonstrate how interactions between evolution and ecology played a vital role in shaping microbial communities and the standard genetics code (Shenhav & Zeevi, Science 2020).

Inspired by these discoveries, I am currently expanding the scope beyond the microbiome, modeling multi-layered data on human milk composition. I will present results from an ongoing study in which I am building integrative models of nasal, gut and milk microbiota, combined with human milk components, to predict infant respiratory health. I found that the temporal dynamics of microbiota in the first year of life, mediated by milk composition, predict the development of chronic respiratory disease later in childhood. These models, designed to identify robust spatiotemporal patterns, would help us better understand the nature and impact of complex ecosystems like the microbiome and human milk from the time of formation and throughout life.

Institutional profile page.


MSE seminar this Wednesday: Dr. Liat Shenhav, “It’s about time: ecological and eco-evolutionary dynamics across the scales”

This Wednesday there is final installment in the spring 2022 Microbes and Social Equity speaker series! Each week, we have been hearing from a researcher who shared their work and perspective on how microbes are involved in all aspects of our lives, and how those microbes can affect individuals, communities, and ecosystems.

This series runs from Jan 19 – May 4, Wednesdays at 12:00 – 13:00 EST. These are presented over Zoom, and open to researchers, practitioners, students, and the public. Registration is free, and required for each individual seminar you would like to attend. You can find the full speaker list, details, and recordings from previous talks here.

“It’s about time: ecological and eco-evolutionary dynamics across the scales”

Dr. Liat Shenhav, PhD

May 4, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

Dr. Liat Shenhav. Photo borrowed from LinkedIN.

About the speaker: Dr. Liat Shenhav is an independent research fellow at the Center for Studies in Physics and Biology at the Rockefeller University. Prior to that, Liat received a B.Sc. and. M.Sc. in Mathematics and Statistics from Tel-Aviv University, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of California, Los Angeles. Liat’s research focuses on developing computational methods for studying spatiotemporal dynamics of complex ecosystems and their contribution to human health and disease.

About the talk: Complex microbial communities play an important role across many domains of life, from the female reproductive tract, through the oceans, to the plant rhizosphere. The study of these communities offers great opportunities for biological discovery, due to the ease of their measurement, the ability to perturb them, and their rapidly evolving nature. Yet, their complex composition, dynamic nature, and intricate interactions with multiple other systems, make it difficult to extract robust and reproducible patterns from these ecosystems. To uncover their latent properties, I develop models that combine longitudinal data analysis and statistical learning, and which draw from principles of community ecology, complexity theory and evolution. 

I will briefly present methods for decomposition of microbial dynamics at an ecological scale (Shenhav et al., Nature Methods 2019; Martino & Shenhav et al., Nature Biotechnology). Using these methods we found significant differences in the trajectories of the infant microbiome in the first years of life as a function of early life exposures, namely mode of delivery and breastfeeding. I will then show how incorporating eco-evolutionary considerations allowed us to detect signals of purifying selection across ecosystems. I will demonstrate how interactions between evolution and ecology played a vital role in shaping microbial communities and the standard genetics code (Shenhav & Zeevi, Science 2020).

Inspired by these discoveries, I am currently expanding the scope beyond the microbiome, modeling multi-layered data on human milk composition. I will present results from an ongoing study in which I am building integrative models of nasal, gut and milk microbiota, combined with human milk components, to predict infant respiratory health. I found that the temporal dynamics of microbiota in the first year of life, mediated by milk composition, predict the development of chronic respiratory disease later in childhood. These models, designed to identify robust spatiotemporal patterns, would help us better understand the nature and impact of complex ecosystems like the microbiome and human milk from the time of formation and throughout life.

Institutional profile page.


MSE seminar today: Dr. Maya Hey, “What Connects Us: stories of working across difference with humans and microbes”

Today is the last installment in the spring 2022 Microbes and Social Equity speaker series! Each week, we’ll hear from a researcher who will share their work and perspective on how microbes are involved in all aspects of our lives, and how those microbes can affect individuals, communities, and ecosystems.

This series will run from Jan 19 – May 4, Wednesdays at 12:00 – 13:00 EST. These are presented over Zoom, and open to researchers, practitioners, students, and the public. Registration is free, and required for each individual seminar you would like to attend. You can find the full speaker list, details, and registration links for each seminar in the series here.

“What Connects Us: stories of working across difference with humans and microbes”

Dr. Maya Hey, PhD

April 27, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

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.

Talk summary: What connects us across different scales of life? This talk examines three case studies—on fermentation, conversation, and innovation—to better understand how micro-organisms affect macro-cultures and vice-versa, with emphasis on working with difference instead of resolving them. 

MSE seminar this Wednesday: Dr. Maya Hey, “What Connects Us: stories of working across difference with humans and microbes”

This Wednesday is the last installment in the spring 2022 Microbes and Social Equity speaker series! Each week, we’ll hear from a researcher who will share their work and perspective on how microbes are involved in all aspects of our lives, and how those microbes can affect individuals, communities, and ecosystems.

This series will run from Jan 19 – May 4, Wednesdays at 12:00 – 13:00 EST. These are presented over Zoom, and open to researchers, practitioners, students, and the public. Registration is free, and required for each individual seminar you would like to attend. You can find the full speaker list, details, and registration links for each seminar in the series here.

“What Connects Us: stories of working across difference with humans and microbes”

Dr. Maya Hey, PhD

April 27, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

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.

Talk summary: What connects us across different scales of life? This talk examines three case studies—on fermentation, conversation, and innovation—to better understand how micro-organisms affect macro-cultures and vice-versa, with emphasis on working with difference instead of resolving them. 

MSE seminar today: Dr. Catherine Girard, “Microbiomes and climate change at the intersection of human and ecosystem health in the North”

Today there is another installment in the spring 2022 Microbes and Social Equity speaker series! Each week, we’ll hear from a researcher who will share their work and perspective on how microbes are involved in all aspects of our lives, and how those microbes can affect individuals, communities, and ecosystems.

This series will run from Jan 19 – May 4, Wednesdays at 12:00 – 13:00 EST. These are presented over Zoom, and open to researchers, practitioners, students, and the public. Registration is free, and required for each individual seminar you would like to attend. You can find the full speaker list, details, and registration links for each seminar in the series here.

“Microbiomes and climate change at the intersection of human and ecosystem health in the North”

Dr. Catherine Girard, PhD

April 20, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

Portrait photo of Dr. Catherine Girard. Photo courtesy of Dr. Girard.

Dr. Catherine Girard is an Associate Professor at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, where she works on the response of microbiomes to climate change in the Arctic. In the past, she has worked on the human microbiome and how it is shaped by tradition, culture and global warming. She now explores how ice-dwelling microbes are responding to change, from a conservation and ecosystem service perspective. She is involved in collaborative research with partners from the Inuit Nunangat, and views microbiomes as part of our heritage.

Professional page.

MSE seminar this Wednesday: Dr. Catherine Girard, “Microbiomes and climate change at the intersection of human and ecosystem health in the North”

This Wednesday there is another installment in the spring 2022 Microbes and Social Equity speaker series! Each week, we’ll hear from a researcher who will share their work and perspective on how microbes are involved in all aspects of our lives, and how those microbes can affect individuals, communities, and ecosystems.

This series will run from Jan 19 – May 4, Wednesdays at 12:00 – 13:00 EST. These are presented over Zoom, and open to researchers, practitioners, students, and the public. Registration is free, and required for each individual seminar you would like to attend. You can find the full speaker list, details, and registration links for each seminar in the series here.

“Microbiomes and climate change at the intersection of human and ecosystem health in the North”

Dr. Catherine Girard, PhD

April 20, 2022, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. Register for this free talk.

Portrait photo of Dr. Catherine Girard. Photo courtesy of Dr. Girard.

Dr. Catherine Girard is an Associate Professor at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, where she works on the response of microbiomes to climate change in the Arctic. In the past, she has worked on the human microbiome and how it is shaped by tradition, culture and global warming. She now explores how ice-dwelling microbes are responding to change, from a conservation and ecosystem service perspective. She is involved in collaborative research with partners from the Inuit Nunangat, and views microbiomes as part of our heritage.

Professional page.

Ishaq Lab students present at the 2022 UMaine Student Research Symposium

This year, the UMaine Student Research Symposium was held in person and virtually, and undergrads and grads from the Ishaq Lab shared their research with the Maine community. You can check out the recorded presentations in the links below.

French*, R., Beale, J., Ishaq, S. Abstract 0402. Climate Change Affects Wild Mammal Ranges and Health; Will That Also Affect Infectious Disease Exposure Risk at Maine Farms? UMaine Student Symposium (virtual presentation). April 15, 2022.

Holcomb*, Coffman, J., Harrison, B., Tucker, K., Ishaq, S. Abstract 1080. An Overview of Three Biomedical Science Projects across Three Research Institutes. UMaine Student Symposium (virtual presentation). April 15, 2022.

Hosler*, S., Grey, E., Dankwa, A., Perry, J., Bowden, T., Beal, B., Ishaq, S. Abstract 0816. Initial descriptions of the microbes of farmed Atlantic sea scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) veligers and rearing tanks. UMaine Student Symposium (virtual presentation). April 15, 2022.

Pelletier*, E., Taylor, T., Ishaq, S. Abstract 830. Assessing the Veterinary Needs of Rural Maine and Implementing an Effective Management Plan. UMaine Student Symposium (poster presentation). April 15, 2022.

MSE seminar today: Dr. Patricia Kaishian, “Deconstructing the individual: how science can materially advance using queer and feminist theory”

Today there is another installment in the spring 2022 Microbes and Social Equity speaker series! Each week, we’ll hear from a researcher who will share their work and perspective on how microbes are involved in all aspects of our lives, and how those microbes can affect individuals, communities, and ecosystems.

This series will run from Jan 19 – May 4, Wednesdays at 12:00 – 13:00 EST. These are presented over Zoom, and open to researchers, practitioners, students, and the public. Registration is free, and required for each individual seminar you would like to attend. You can find the full speaker list, details, and registration links for each seminar in the series here.

Deconstructing the individual: how science can materially advance using queer and feminist theory

Dr. Patricia Kaishian, PhD

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

Dr. Patricia Kaishian. Photo courtesy of Dr. Kaishian.
Dr. Patricia Kaishian. Photo courtesy of Dr. Kaishian.

About the speaker: Dr. Patricia Kaishian is a visiting professor of Biology at Bard College in NY. Her scientific research is focused on the taxonomy of Laboulbeniales fungi, fungal biodiversity, and exploration of the use of certain fungi as potential indicators of ecosystem health. Beyond more traditional scientific research, Patricia works in the realms of philosophy of science, feminist bioscience, ecofeminism and queer theory, exploring how mycology and other scientific disciplines are situated in and informed by our sociopolitical landscape. Her publication, The science underground: mycology as a queer discipline, appears in the journal Catalyst: Feminism, Theory & Technoscience. Patricia is also a founding member of the International Congress of Armenian Mycologists (ICAM), a research organization comprised of ethnically Armenian mycologists who seek to simultaneously advance mycological science and Armenian sovereignty and liberation.

Professional site.

This talk will explore the field of mycology and the mycobiome through a theoretical framework rooted in queer and feminist theories, as well as philosophy of science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. The goal is to challenge, push, and explore central tenets of institutional science, and to socially and historically situate current research dilemmas in mycology and microbiome studies. By excavating and laying bare ingrained, systemic biases in scientific institutions, we can attempt to disarm fallacious assertions of “purity” in science and better understand bodies at various scales.

MSE seminar this Wednesday: Dr. Patricia Kaishian, “Deconstructing the individual: how science can materially advance using queer and feminist theory”

This Wednesday there is another installment in the spring 2022 Microbes and Social Equity speaker series! Each week, we’ll hear from a researcher who will share their work and perspective on how microbes are involved in all aspects of our lives, and how those microbes can affect individuals, communities, and ecosystems.

This series will run from Jan 19 – May 4, Wednesdays at 12:00 – 13:00 EST. These are presented over Zoom, and open to researchers, practitioners, students, and the public. Registration is free, and required for each individual seminar you would like to attend. You can find the full speaker list, details, and registration links for each seminar in the series here.

Deconstructing the individual: how science can materially advance using queer and feminist theory

Dr. Patricia Kaishian, PhD

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

Dr. Patricia Kaishian. Photo courtesy of Dr. Kaishian.
Dr. Patricia Kaishian. Photo courtesy of Dr. Kaishian.

About the speaker: Dr. Patricia Kaishian is a visiting professor of Biology at Bard College in NY. Her scientific research is focused on the taxonomy of Laboulbeniales fungi, fungal biodiversity, and exploration of the use of certain fungi as potential indicators of ecosystem health. Beyond more traditional scientific research, Patricia works in the realms of philosophy of science, feminist bioscience, ecofeminism and queer theory, exploring how mycology and other scientific disciplines are situated in and informed by our sociopolitical landscape. Her publication, The science underground: mycology as a queer discipline, appears in the journal Catalyst: Feminism, Theory & Technoscience. Patricia is also a founding member of the International Congress of Armenian Mycologists (ICAM), a research organization comprised of ethnically Armenian mycologists who seek to simultaneously advance mycological science and Armenian sovereignty and liberation.

Professional site.

This talk will explore the field of mycology and the mycobiome through a theoretical framework rooted in queer and feminist theories, as well as philosophy of science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. The goal is to challenge, push, and explore central tenets of institutional science, and to socially and historically situate current research dilemmas in mycology and microbiome studies. By excavating and laying bare ingrained, systemic biases in scientific institutions, we can attempt to disarm fallacious assertions of “purity” in science and better understand bodies at various scales.

MSE seminar today: Dr. Kristina Lyons, “Decomposition as Life Politics”

Today there is another installment in the spring 2022 Microbes and Social Equity speaker series! Each week, we’ll hear from a researcher who will share their work and perspective on how microbes are involved in all aspects of our lives, and how those microbes can affect individuals, communities, and ecosystems.

This series will run from Jan 19 – May 4, Wednesdays at 12:00 – 13:00 EST. These are presented over Zoom, and open to researchers, practitioners, students, and the public. Registration is free, and required for each individual seminar you would like to attend. You can find the full speaker list, details, and registration links for each seminar in the series here.

“Decomposition as Life Politics” 

Dr. Kristina Lyons, PhD

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

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.