Sarah Knowles

Research Interests

It is now clear that most animals carry a dense and diverse community of symbiotic microbes – their microbiome - which can critically affect many aspects of host biology, from nutrition, through immunology, to behaviour. Work in our lab seeks to understand the ecological and evolutionary significance of these symbiotic communities, typically using wild animal model systems. We ask how the microbiome is formed, what drives community dynamics, and how these within-host communities affect host physiology, fitness and adaptation. The details of a DPhil project would be decided in discussion with the student, but often include some fieldwork to collect microbiome samples from a wild animal system, laboratory work, and bioinformatics/statistical analyses to analyse them with respect to a research question. Potential wild field systems include our current long-term studies of wild mice in Wytham Woods and the island of Skokholm in Wales, or other vertebrate systems depending on the research project. We also conduct microbiome experiments using laboratory mice.

Qualifications and Experience

DPhil; 4 years experience teaching as associate professor/tutorial fellow. Supervised 3 DPhil students to completion, and currently supervising a further 2.

Personal Research Keywords

microbiome, adaptation, behaviour, ecology, infection