June 2022

Page 82

• insider •

she can uncover pathways forward that are more aligned with our long-term interest as humans. One of her favorite areas of study is the intersection of microbes and social equity. “Even though most of us who work with microbes are biologists, we’re starting to see that it’s a social issue. The way we build cities, we’re not having adequate exposure to healthy microbes. There are biases, there are unintended consequences here that matter.” Scientists of yesterday studied microbes in natural environments, but younger ones such as Dr. Díaz-Almeyda are much more interested in studying microbes in indoor places, such as hospitals, schools, and homes. They also examine how different people have different microbes in their body depending on their level of stress or the level of access to food. “This is a new way of looking at these problems,” Díaz-Almeyda says. “For me, it’s pointing at some of the human consequences our actions as a species have on microbes, which is what we need to figure out solutions for.” Since 2019, Dr. Díaz-Almeyda has led the Florida Microbiome Project, which explores how unseen microbial communities support livelihoods and habitat health throughout Sarasota and the state of Florida. This project has the support of people like conservationist Elizabeth Moore—a Florida House Institute board member and president of TREE Foundation—who’s financially backing the Project’s efforts because she knows that we’re all connected at the macro and micro level. In Moore’s mind, more research should be done to create better awareness of its impact on our land and our lives. That’s something even non-scientists like me can appreciate.


about the microbiome project, please visit erikadiaz.org or contact Dr. Erika Díaz-Almeyda at 941.487.4385 or ediazalmeyda@ncf.edu.



New College Student Cara Ruhnke, and Alumni Marcela Prado Zapata and Elliott Schenker, work on the Florida Microbiome Project

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