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Marine Microbial Ecologist Joins Shedd Aquarium

Lee Pinnell Joins Research Group at Shedd Examining Impact of Microbes on Animals and the Environment

August 29, 2019

Staff member Lee Pinnell stands before Shedd's historic bronze doors.

Shedd Aquarium welcomes a new scientist to its Aquarium Microbiome Research program– the world’s first comprehensive look at microbiomes in aquarium ecosystems and how they influence animal health. Lee Pinnell, a postdoctoral scientist, will decipher complex microbial data from Shedd’s onsite DNA laboratory – the only aquarium-based laboratory of its kind in the country. Pinnell brings with him years of research experience both in marine biology and microbial ecology, including investigations into the impacts of plastic debris on marine microbial environments.

“This position at Shedd Aquarium was a natural fit for someone with my research history – specifically the intersection of microbial ecology and marine health,” said Lee Pinnell, postdoctoral scientist at Shedd Aquarium. “I’m most excited for the unique platform provided by Shedd, not only to conduct meaningful research, but also to communicate that research to others and advocate for change based on scientific results.”

At Shedd, Pinnell will support ongoing investigations driven by the aquarium and collaborative studies with external partners, peers and conservation organizations to answer questions like:

  • Does an enriched microbiome in aquatic habitats contribute to the immune health of resident animals?
  • Can a diverse microbiome in the environment keep unwanted organisms at bay?
  • How can the management of microbial communities support critical conservation and reintroduction programs?

“Lee’s expertise in both computational and marine biology will help us turn our data sets into changes we can make that benefit animals,” said Chrissy Cabay, Director of Scientific Advancement at Shedd Aquarium. “We are thrilled to have him on board and look forward to his many contributions.”

Before joining Shedd, Pinnell was a research assistant with the marine biology program at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. He was also previously a research technician with SickKids Hospital in Toronto, where he investigated the roles of microbes in gut health. He has coauthored several peer-reviewed articles in various microbiology and medical journals and publications.

Pinnell completed his Ph.D. research in marine biology at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. He also received an M.S. in microbial ecology and a B.S. in biology from the University of Waterloo, Ontario.

VISUALS:High resolution photos of the aquarium is available for download:

Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez