Nandita Garud has received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to develop statistical methods for discovery of the adaptations arising in parallel in multiple host microbiomes. Garud is an assistant professor and Paul Allen Distinguished Investigator in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology. Her research seeks to understand the pace and mode of adaptation in natural populations, with an emphasis on the human microbiome.

“Human gut microbiota play an essential role in our health and recent empirical work has shown that the genetic variants contained within microbial species can confer important phenotypes to hosts. How do these genetic variants arise?” said Garud. “Adaptation may be one such process, whereby important variants that are beneficial to microbiota rise to high frequency in response to changing environments.”

Scientists currently have methods that can measure only a small number of adaptations in the human microbiome. Garud expects the new statistical tools will advance understanding of the full landscape of adaptations in the microbiome.