Professor Joins Shedd Aquarium to Advance Understanding of Microbial Communities

Dr. Angela Kent joins Shedd Aquarium Microbiome Project for a five-month sabbatical

Shedd Aquarium’s Microbiome Project welcomes Dr. Angela Kent, a professor in the department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for a five-month sabbatical. Over the several months, the renowned microbial ecologist will be working alongside Shedd scientists and experts to further understand the impact of water-saving measures on microbial communities in the Abbott Oceanarium.

The primary goal of the project is to identify actions to support a beneficial microbiome at Shedd Aquarium. In collaboration with this goal, Dr. Kent will focus her research on the Oceanarium’s microbiome health by comparing its water to samples collected from other aquariums and the ocean. These samples will help educate researchers on the impact of water re-use systems on microbial diversity. Dr. Kent also studies how these microbes contribute to healthy ecosystems and are impacted by human activities.

An expert in aquatic systems, Dr. Kent’s diverse body of published work also includes studies of the impact of the microbiome on the health of endangered primates. Dr. Kent received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was recently named a Faculty Fellow by the National Great Rivers Research & Education Center.

Shedd Aquarium’s Microbiome Project is the world’s first comprehensive look at microbiomes in a controlled aquarium ecosystem and how they influence complex environmental conditions and animal health. Shedd along with Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Illinois, Illinois Institute of Technology and the United States Department of Agriculture started this project to explore the unique relationships between the countless unseen living organisms that share our exhibit environments with the animals that live there. Shedd’s microbiomes encompass naturally occurring microscopic life forms, or microbes, that are in the exhibits and in, on and around the animals living there. The majority of these microbes are not only beneficial; they are also essential to the health and well-being of the animals.

At Shedd Aquarium, this project is overseen by Dr. Bill Van Bonn, vice president for animal health and head of the A. Watson Armour III Center for Animal Health and Welfare, “Dr. Kent provides great expertise and has been working with our team for over ten years helping us better understand the diversity of microbial communities in our waters. It is quite unique for an aquarium to host a professor on sabbatical. This marks a first at Shedd.”

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

VISUAL NOTE: Visit the following link to download a high resolution headshot of Dr. Kent and a video highlighting Shedd’s Microbiome lab:
Photo Credit: © Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Video Credit: © Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin

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