By Tosha Jupiter
When microbiome minds come together, there’s good conversation. When the newly formed Colorado State University Microbiome Network recently met at the One Health Institute to explore strategies around growing a thriving network, talk turned to poop pills for koala bears, crime scenes and dead bodies, tilapia farms in Honduras, and buttons declaring “put a microbiome on it.” And that’s exactly what Network coordinator Elizabeth Ryan wants.
“We want to bring together peers interested in enhancing CSU’s microbiome research capacity,” says Ryan, who is an associate professor of toxicology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “And, importantly, we hope to build a community of people who want to share their work while learning from each other across the disciplines and applying microbiomes to their respective fields of study.”
Bruno Sobral, One Health Institute director and part of the Network’s steering committee, envisions a thriving network community that will create collective intelligence around microbiome work and create connections among people who share interests and are exploring similar questions in different ways.
“The Microbiome Network gives us the opportunity to share our work and resources. It gives us space and time to explore our individual work with others who are interested in what we are doing through a different lens. The collective knowledge and the sheer energy that comes from people working together is what’s most exciting to me,” he says.
In Fall 2016, a microbiome cluster hire increased CSU’s capacity to do leading microbiome research and enhance knowledge of microbial communities and systems across diverse environments. The hire included Jessica Metcalf, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences; Pankaj Trivedi, assistant professor in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management in the College of Agricultural Sciences; and Ed Hall, assistant professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability in the Warner College of Natural Resources. Each has a particular niche in microbiome study and together their work spans questions related to plants and soil, animal/human gut functions, animal decomposition, and aquatic ecosystems.
“I’m looking at how people interact with their environment,” says Hall. “And I’m looking at applications beyond my own work. I’m excited to explore ways to create synergy around this Microbiome Network. Together, we can look at the system level and make some real strides in microbiome research.”
Colorado State looks to hire three more faculty positions under the Microbiome Cluster Hire initiative and is committed to building on a strong foundation in microbial sciences.
“The activity of hiring new microbiome faculty and the subsequent formation of the Microbiome Network represents CSU’s commitment to advancing impactful solutions in important problems related to microbial communities in air, soil, water, animals, and people,” says Alan Rudolph, Vice President for Research. “CSU has had a longstanding expertise in microbial sciences and technology development including fundamental research and its translation into innovative companies and work in the field. The network will extend this expertise and impact well into the future.”
The Microbiome Network is exploring engagement and operations strategies. If you have ideas or want to be a part of discussions and activities, contact Elizabeth Ryan at E.P.Ryan@colostate.edu