Maya Wills ’21
Biology major, classical civilizations minor
The data I’m working with was collected at the Como Zoo, which is only a 15-minute drive away in St. Paul!
I’m working this summer in the Shields-Cutler lab, a microbiology and computational biology lab, where I’ve been researching the gut microbiomes of non-human primates. So far, most of my work has been analyzing an extensive dataset collected from the primates housed at the Como Zoo in 2009. I’m primarily using this data to look into the possible long-term impact of antibiotic use on the gut microbiome, as well as investigating how the relationships between host species and their gut microbiomes in the wild are retained in captivity.
The study of the gut microbiome is still fairly new: even though we know they perform vital functions for their hosts, most of the factors that determine their composition (and therefore their ability to perform certain functions) aren’t well understood. From a more primate-specific angle, a better understanding of the primate gut microbiome will help create more healthy captive primate populations, which would help not only zoos, but also other conservation efforts that use captivity to protect, rehabilitate, and breed threatened species.
Macalester’s location in the Twin Cities has been vital to my research. The data I’m working with was collected at the Como Zoo, which is only a 15-minute drive away in St. Paul! Being so close makes it easy not only to go pick up samples, but also to keep in contact with the keepers working there, and to involve them in the research process as well. Having the keepers on board also means we have access to a wealth of other data about the animals (such as records of their diets) that otherwise we wouldn’t have.
Although I don’t know for sure what I want to do after Mac, at this point I’m strongly considering going into veterinary medicine, so this project has been right up my alley!
September 4 2019Back to top