Collaboration with researcher Annie West on the kākāpō gut microbiota
Annie kindly volunteered to write a blog post about our collaboration on the kākāpō gut microbiota and related quantitative genomic analyses. It was a blast having this brilliant and kind scientist visit me in Ōtepoti Dunedin and I look forward to future collaborations with her and her PhD supervisor, Prof Mike Taylor, at the University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand.
In early 2020, Lara and I collaborated on a project for my PhD on the gut microbiota of the critically endangered kākāpō. I flew down to Ōtepoti/Dunedin from Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland for some first-hand learning and collaboration. I had initially conducted a 16S rRNA gene amplicon-based survey of the gut microbiota for 84% of the extant kākāpō population, which we then leveraged as phenotypes for a genome-wide association study. Lara’s knowledge regarding statistical genomics was indispensable to this project and she proved to be a fantastic mentor. Having little knowledge of genomics myself beyond standard tertiary modules, I am now more confident in my knowledge regarding the analysis of complex genomic data. Lara and I were able to identify significant associations between several measures of kākāpō gut microbial diversity with gene pathways related to host intestinal homeostasis, inflammation, immune function and metabolism.
“Lara’s knowledge regarding statistical genomics was indispensable to this project and she proved to be a fantastic mentor.”
Lara in addition provided me with other opportunities to network and present my research at early-career meetings and functions. We also had a fabulous day at the beach together with some local sea lions. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and work with Lara, who was equally passionate and excited about how our research can benefit conservation of threatened species. I consider Lara to be an inspiring role model for women in STEM; her work ethic and kindness is unparalleled and I hope to emulate her work in my own career.