by Jan Gogarten
The QCBS Excellence Award allowed me to present my work to the American Society for Primatologists and the International Primatological Society’s joint meeting in Chicago from the 21th-27th of August, 2016 (http://www.ipschicago.org/). A diverse group of thousands of primatologists gathered from around the globe to exchange ideas, methods, and results. Many big names attended including Jane Goodall, who gave a rousing plenary while she received the society’s lifetime achievement and Frans de Waal, who discussed his long-term research on the evolution of cooperation and empathy in primates. Major themes of the meeting included efforts to quantify the fitness implications of sociality in primates, linking conservation with research, and the continued development of non-invasive monitoring tools for studying non-human primates. In addition to a whirlwind of interesting talks, I found it a great chance to catch up with colleagues and brainstorm new projects and collaborations. And of course, to listen to great blues in the evenings.
Live blues music in Chigago!
At the meeting I was also able to present the results of the last chapter of my dissertation. The microbiome is estimated to make up to 90% of cells in host organisms and impact a broad array of processes including a host’s ability to access nutrients and health. Yet little is known about how microbiomes of hosts assemble, particularly in the ecological contexts in which they evolved. As part of my dissertation we have been examining what factors influence gut bacterial microbiome assembly within an ecosystem, such as a host’s species, social group, relatedness, and interactions with pathogens. I analyzed 387 fecal samples from nine wild primate species that regularly form mixed-species associations in Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire. I generated amplicons covering the 16S V4 hypervariable region and sequenced them using an Illumina MiSeq. To understand factors influencing within-species variation, we concentrated our sampling on sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). I have found that samples from an individual had consistent bacterial community compositions, though the similarity of samples decreased with time. Differences between individuals were related to the host’s species, social group, and mother-daughter relationships. In contrast to a study by Tung et al., 2015 on baboons, we found behaviors such as grooming and spatial proximity had no relationship to the composition of gut bacterial communities in sooty mangabeys. Collectively we found that despite sharing overlapping home ranges and drawing on a similar bacterial species pool, hosts maintain distinct gut microbiomes. Future research will aim to understand the impact of this variation in the gut microbiome on their hosts.
Chigago and the Navy Pier provided a beautiful venue.
This forum provided an exciting opportunity to get feedback from the community and also has provided some potential leads for post doc opportunities. I am extremely grateful to the QCBS for enabling my attendance at this conference and for funding my research throughout my PhD.