Research Project | 2022

Effects of Urbanization on Gut Microbial Communities in Dark-Eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis)

FreimuthAwardee: Sara Freimuth

Bio: Sara is an M.S. student in the Yeh lab in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA. She received her bachelor’s degree from Claremont McKenna College, where she majored in Organismal Biology and Spanish. Before attending UCLA, she conducted research on animal behavior and physiology in a variety of taxa as a research technician, and she developed bilingual science curricula as a naturalist interpretive guide and classroom teacher. Broadly, she is interested in scientific research, science education, and science communication and hopes to intertwine them in her work with urban birds.

Project Description: Urbanization is rapidly changing habitats around the world. Recent studies have shown that microbial communities are changing alongside their urban hosts, but the drivers of these changes are poorly understood. Using dark-eyed juncos as a model species, we will assess how landscape changes driven by urbanization shape gut microbial communities and consequently impact host health. By uncovering the urban-associated drivers of avian gut microbial diversity, we also hope to further our understanding of how birds acquire and disperse zoonotic pathogens and antibiotic resistant bacteria. Through these aims, we can expand our knowledge of how urbanization impacts both wildlife and human health.