Genomic Insights Through Computation
By Karen Kapheim, Kapheim Lab, Utah State University
The primary focus of research in the Kapheim Lab is understanding how social behavior evolves in bees. We take an integrative approach to finding answers to this question, and in doing so merge ecology, behavior, neuroscience, comparative genomics, and molecular biology. We conduct experiments in the field with live bees, process these in our molecular biology lab, and then analyze the sequence data using the CHPC. Examples of on-going projects include using metabarcoding to characterize the role of the microbiome in social behavior and health of bees. We have sequenced a portion of the bacterial 16s rRNA gene in DNA extracted from the guts of bees during various life stages. We are processing these sequences on the CHPC. As a side project, we are also using similar computational methods to characterize the metabarcodes sequenced from the guts of carrion flies to characterize the mammal community on a tropical island where we work. Other projects involve comparative genomics of bee genomes to look for signatures of evolutionary transitions between solitary and social lifestyles. We are also using the CHPC to analyze microRNA expression differences among bees that vary in social behavior, and in response to hormone treatments. In each of these projects, the CHPC staff and resources have been extremely valuable, as genomic data is particularly large and analyses would not be possible on desktop computers.