Brittany Leigh




Most organisms ranging from corals to humans have associated microbes that play important roles in health and disease. In particular, bacteria associated with the gut epithelium have been shown to supply orders of magnitude more gene products than the host itself.
 While some animals appear to lack a definable “core” community, it is evident that microbial associations are usually physiologically relevant. For most marine organisms, symbiotic relationships are poorly understood, while microbial fluctuations in response to host age and nutritional status, as well as environmental conditions and geographic distribution of bacteria, are severely understudied. 

This project aims to use a well-characterized marine filter-feeder to study colonization of the invertebrate gut immediately after development and determine the roles of exogenous influences on the development of a stable symbiotic ecosystem within the gut. This research has direct implications for determining the role of microbes in host development and maintenance in a changing marine environment with possible applications to human health.

This project is in conjunction with Dr. Larry Dishaw at the USF College of Medicine and All Children's Hospital.