Project Report

Intellectual Merit All animals are associated with diverse, free-living microbial communities. Termed the animal microbiome, these bacteria, archaea, fungi and unicellular eukaryotes play important and often unrecognized roles in animal health, development, behavior and evolution. Despite this, technical difficulties associated with identifying and manipulating these micro-organisms have until recently caused the microbiome to be ignored. Fortunately, we finally have the tools needed to understand its role in host physiology, ecology and evolution, but a necessary first step is to figure out how stable these communities are over space and time. Only then can inferences regarding their ultimate importance be determined. Taiwanese Drosophila are remarkably diverse and inhabit a very wide range of habitats. Relatives of the common fruit fly, several species have evolved to feed upon the fruiting bodies of mushrooms. Because this food source is relatively stable over the time scale of several weeks (as opposed to rotting fruits which change in physical and chemical composition as they decay), it is possible to collect Taiwanese mushroom feeding Drosophila from the exact same location numerous times. Additionally, across northern Taiwan, the same species can be collected at numerous locations. The microbiome of the flies at each collection can then be determined with high-throughput next-generation sequencing techniques. By collecting these flies at various locations and many times at each location, we have the ability to separate out the effect of space and time on the structuring of their microbiomes. Broader Impacts -Learning to work in a new cultural background The Taiwanese academic experience and working environment differs from what I am accustomed to. After some early social faux-pas, I learned how the social hierarchy works and how graduate students fit into this structure. -Information and skills transfer I presented my previous work to a joint lab meeting of 2 laboratories at NTU and a 3rd from Academia Sinica. I also met several times with members of the of Alex Yu’s lab and discussed their work on the mammalian microbiome. I worked very closely with Jia-Syuan Chen (a graduate student in the Ting Lab who is beginning a project investigating the microbiome of Colocasiomyia) and had daily discussions regarding data analysis and bioinformatic techniques. -Outreach Activities My scientific outreach experiences extended beyond those of my host laboratories and institutions as I routinely interacted with the Taiwanese general public while doing field collections. I had daily interactions with morning walkers and hikers and long discussions regarding my work and background were not uncommon. --- Although the main purpose of this fellowship was to investigate the microbial communities associated with Drosophila, my experience in Taiwan goes far beyond what will eventually be submitted for publication. I have learned that the Taiwanese people are inquisitive, intelligent and highly in tune with nature. It would be my honor to continue my collaborations with the laboratories at National Taiwan University and National Yang Ming University.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Carter Kimsey
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Chandler James
United States
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