Shedd Aquarium Partners in Groundbreaking Research on Marine Virology

Alfred P. Sloan MoBE Postdoctoral Fellow, Jean Pierre Nshimyimana, of Michigan State University, Begins Research in Partnership with Shedd’s Microbiome Project 

Shedd Aquarium’s Microbiome Project is pleased to welcome Jean Pierre Nshimyimana, a postdoctoral researcher from Michigan State University (MSU), as a collaborator over the next two years. Nshimyimana is one of three recipients of the 2017 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Microbiology of the Built Environment (MoBE) Postdoctoral Fellowship. The Sloan fellowship provides $120,000 in support of outstanding postdoctoral research on some aspect of indoor microbial ecology. Nshimyimana holds a Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and is completing his doctoral degree in CEE in a program of Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) under Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and MIT.

The primary goal of Nshimyimana’s research is to explore the vital role viral and microbial community composition play in maintaining sustainable and optimal water systems in the built environment. In addition, he will work to identify factors that influence aquatic viromes and microbiomes, while enhancing understanding of host-virus interactions.

During his 2-year tenure with Shedd, Nshimyimana will study the MoBE alongside Shedd experts, including Dr. William Van Bonn, vice president of animal health, in addition to project partner MSU Professor Dr. Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Nshimyimana’s research will utilize samples collected through Shedd Aquarium’s Microbiome Project and the results will further inform the engineering of aquatic systems. Samples will be taken from Shedd’s Wild Reef exhibit, Sturgeon Touch in At Home on the Great Lakes gallery and the Abbott Oceanarium.

“The acquired knowledge and skills from this project will contribute to my aspiration of becoming an independent environmental microbiologist,” said Nshimyimana. “By advancing my knowledge of bacteria and viruses in the built environment at Shedd Aquarium, I will be able to enhance my engineering skills and experience as a microbiologist.”

Shedd Aquarium’s Microbiome Project is ideal for this research since it’s the world’s first comprehensive look at microbiomes in a controlled aquarium ecosystem. It is led by Dr. Van Bonn who explores the unique relationships between the countless unseen living organisms and the animals at Shedd Aquarium.

“Nshimyimana sheds new light on our project by sampling the viromes alongside the microbiome, which is the first study to bring engineers, environmental virologists, aquatic animal veterinarians and microbiome specialists together,” said Dr. Van Bonn. “His research should provide more innovative solutions to designing, building and sustaining healthy aquatic environments.”

Shedd Aquarium’s Microbiome Project is made possible in part by the generosity of The Grainger Foundation.

VISUALS: High resolution headshots are available for download: https://personal.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8d6f648a5f6371a6736a

Photo Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez 

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