ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION OF INSECT-MICROBE SYMBIOSIS
Welcome! I am an ecologist, entomologist, microbiologist, and naturalist fascinated by the evolution of macrobe-microbe interactions, especially symbiosis. Although much of the rapidly growing field of microbiome research is focused on humans and other mammals, nowhere are the forms and functions of microbial symbiosis so diverse as among the insects. My work focuses on bees and Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths, and their larvae), two ecologically and economically important groups that have intricate, but also quite variable relationships with microbes.
The study of insect-microbe interactions has led to exciting and unexpected discoveries about the natural world, has provided information and tools useful for managing agricultural pests, supporting pollinators, and controlling disease vectors. Furthermore, in our current era of rapid global change, knowledge of microbiomes will be increasingly important to conserve animal biodiversity. Insect declines in particular are a pressing concern, yet we don't have a good handle on how microbes might mediate insect responses to anthropogenic stressors. The microbes themselves are also worthy of conservation efforts. Many have unique metabolisms that could be useful for medicine, agriculture, and industry, and all have fascinating biological stories to tell. Microbial symbionts restricted to rare or threatened hosts are particularly important to study and preserve.
My dissertation research in Noah Fierer's lab and Deane Bowers' lab at CU Boulder integrated field collections, microbial community profiling and metagenomics, insect rearing and experiments, and natural history. I am currently a postdoc in Nancy Moran's lab at UT Austin, where I am using bacterial culture-based assays, comparative genomics, genetic engineering, and in vivo experiments to study the evolution and function of gut microbiomes of social bees.
Please feel free to get in touch by email (tobin dot hammer at utexas dot edu) if you have any questions or would just like to discuss bugs and microbes!