About Our Lab

Leech Digestive Tract Symbiosis

RNA sequencingWhile the digestive tract of most animals is colonized by a very complex microbial community, the digestive tract of the medicinal leech is colonized by an unusually simple microbioal community. Two bacteria dominate the microbiome of the leech: Aeromonas veronii biovar sobria and a bacterium that is related to Rikenella, a member of the Bacteroidetes. This simplicity helps us to investigate the interaction between the symbionts and the host and between the two symbionts.

Aeromonas Evolution

Aeromonas veronii is an interesting bacterium on its own right, because it is also a causative agent of disease in humans and fish, while being a sybiont in leeches and zebrafish. Using whole genome information, we are addressing the following areas: regions of the genome that are specific for particular hosts, spread of antibiotic resistance genes, and Aeromonas taxonomy.

Termite Project

As part of a larger collaboration we are characterizing the termite microbiome. Lower termites harbor a complex commuity of protists, bacteria and archaea that are important in generating energy from wood. We are characterizing the termite microbiome using Illumina 16S rRNA gene sequencing.


The microbiome of animals is now recognized as being very important to the overall health of animals. The first step is trying to figure out who is there. This is often done by sequencing the 16S rRNA genes from DNA obtained from the microbial community. We are using an Illumina MiSeq to characterize microbial communities associated with diverse animals to improve our understanding of animal associated microbes. The projects are often collaborative projects.