Most animals, including humans, have specific associations with beneficial bacteria that facilitate digestion or provide defense against harmful pathogens and parasites. While some animals pass these bacteria directly from mother to offspring, ensuring acquisition, other animals are born bacteria-free and then must acquire these beneficial partners from the environment. Little is understood about the process by which organisms establish and maintain these specialized associations in the face of encountering millions of diverse environmental microbes. Here, researchers use the relationship between broad-headed bugs and Burkholderia bacteria to study the ecological, immunological and evolutionary forces that shape host-microbe specialization. The project will couple environmental sampling, molecular approaches and experimentation to explore what benefits the bacteria provide to the host, what bacterial genes facilitate establishment within the host, and how the host responds to the introduction of alternative bacteria. This comprehensive approach will provide insight into how both host and microbial properties shape the establishment and maintenance of animal-bacteria associations. The project will train undergraduate and graduate students as well as one postdoctoral fellow. The researchers will also work with visual arts and biology instructors at both the undergraduate and middle-school levels to bring science into the art classroom, facilitating exploration of how art can be used to expose students to science.