Jane M. Carlton, PhD
Professor, Director, Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, New York University, USA
Dr. Jane Carlton is a Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at New York University. She received her PhD in Genetics at the University of Edinburgh, and has worked at several genomics institutions in the U.S., Her research involves comparative genomics of different species of malaria parasites, and the sexually transmitted protozoanTrichomonas vaginalis. Professor Carlton’s ultimate goal is to cultivate and expand the science and use of genomics to improve global health.
Microbes live in every part of the biosphere, and are crucial to ecosystems and to human life. However, the distribution of microbes and the drivers of microbial community assemblages are not well understood, especially in densely populated urban environments. We have used advances in environmental metagenomics to identify, characterize, and map the ‘urban microbiome’ of New York City (NYC), with a focus on protists. We have swabbed bicycle seats, ATM buttons, circulating paper currency, and analyzed samples of raw sewage collected from all 14 NYC waste-water treatment plants. Our current project analyzes samples from pets (cats and dogs) and pests (rats, cockroaches, and pigeons) in all five boroughs. These data are revealing intricate patterns and seasonal differences of the microbes in the city. For example, ATM keypads amalgamate microbial assemblages from different sources, including the human microbiome, eukaryotic food species, and potentially novel extremophilic taxa adapted to air or surfaces in the built environment. Microbes found on circulating paper currency have similar sources, and may also be recovered as viable organisms. DNA obtained from ATM keypads and paper bills thus provide a record of both human behavior, human health, and environmental sources of microbes.