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Building Babies: Interview with Julienne Rutherford

As I mentioned Wednesday, Building Babies, the volume edited by me, Katie Hinde and Julienne Rutherford will be out in only a few months in one of the fastest turnarounds I know of for a book of this nature. It also happens to be awesome.

I shared an interview with Lady Editor Katie on Wednesday, and today I share one with Lady Editor Julienne to describe how we developed this book, and why books like this are still important in academia (even if we could and should discuss issues in cost structures and accessibility). I also have printed the second half of the Building Babies table of contents, so that you can see the breadth of topics covered and our excellent chapter authors.

Building Babies Table of Contents (Part 2)

IV. MOTHERS AND INFANTS: THE FIRST SOCIAL RELATIONSHIP

12. Maternal influences on social and neural development in rhesus monkeys: Christopher J. Machado

13. Maternal Condition: Infant Compensation, Resilience, and Adaptive Response: Lynn A. Fairbanks and Katie Hinde

14. Tentative title: The role of mothers in the development of complex skills in chimpanzees: Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf

V. THE EXPANDING SOCIAL NETWORK

15. Reproductive Strategies and Infant Care in the Malagasy Primates: Stacey R. Tecot, Andrea L. Baden, Natalie Romine, Jason M. Kamilar

16. When dads help: infant development of owl monkeys and other primates with allo-maternal care: Maren Huck & Eduardo Fernandez Duque

17. Ontogeny of Social Behavior in the Genus Cebus and the Application of an Integrative Framework for Examining Plasticity and Complexity in Evolution: Katherine C. MacKinnon

VI. TRANSITIONS TO JUVENILITY AND REPRODUCTIVE MATURITY

18. Identifying proximate and ultimate causation in the development of primate sex-typed social behavior: Stephanie Meredith

19. Future adults or old children? Integrating life-history frameworks for understanding primate locomotor patterns: Michelle Bezanson and Mary Ellen Morbeck

20. Quantitative genetic perspectives female macaque life histories: heritability, plasticity, and trade-offs: Gregory Blomquist

21. Cultural evolution and human reproductive behavior: Lesley Newson

CONCLUSION (Robert Martin)

 

Interview with Julienne Rutherford, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Oral Biology, College of Dentistry, University of Illinois, Chicago

Julienne Rutherford hard at work, doing awesome science.

Julienne Rutherford hard at work, doing awesome science.

What was the experience like editing this book?
I had never done anything like this. I’ve done some co-writing and I’ve reviewed papers before, but the teamwork and choreography that go into an edited volume took those skills to a new level. I think it’s hilarious that Katie thought maybe I’d be smart enough to say no to editing a book as an as-yet untenured assistant professor. HAHAHAhahahaha. Um, no. But I have to say that even though I was warned and even strongly advised against doing this, it has turned out to be a real joy and so far one of my proudest professional achievements. I learned so much about editing (cutting extraneous prose, cleaning up narratives, tightening arguments, retaining an author’s voice through it all) and this in turn has already had a really positive impact on my own writing. And ultimately, it was just so fun to work with you and Katie and our incredibly talented cast of contributors.

What were some of the reasons you chose these chapter authors?
Their science is good, you know? We were just super jazzed about what is happening right now in the complex world of primate development. That said, I don’t want to shy away from the fact that it was very important to me personally to highlight new avenues of research into primate development being defined and pursued by junior scholars in our field, and especially women. We certainly did not include or exclude anyone just because of their gender – it really just turned out that the work we were most drawn to as exciting, interdisciplinary, innovative, and visionary was being done predominantly female scholars early in their careers. And I think that’s great.  If we can inspire each other, support each other’s scholarship, and really stand up for an inclusive intellectual culture, I hope our book makes a contribution to keeping women in the pipeline.

What is the value of an edited volume in this era of academic publishing?
The value to me is that it allowed us to craft a specific kind of narrative in a specific time in the history of the field of primate development. The chapters bring to the forefront complementary themes like epigenetics and evo-devo, inflammation and stress, developmental transitions.  Certainly some of the avenues outlined in the book are in their infancy – hee, I made a Building Babies pun! – and we will see how they bear out over time. But an edited volume is sort of like staking a flag, a grand gesture because we are saying that this is for posterity, in a way that a special journal issue or meeting proceedings doesn’t achieve, in my view. I also want to point out that our review process was unusually rigorous for an edited volume (I’m sure many of our contributors would agree with that!) but that meant that everyone really had to make a concerted effort to be intelligible to each other. So the book in many ways forms a conversation, a really nerdtastic conversation.

What contribution do you think this book makes to anthropology? To evolutionary biology?
We take an explicitly comparative approach to primate development. By that I mean that we don’t divide this book along taxonomic lines. Since our organizing frame is the developmental trajectory, we are talking about humans, baboons, lemurs, chimpanzees, et cetera, all in the same breath. I think it’s enormously important that the study of human biology and human biomedicine is integrated into a comparative primatology. I can’t help find it odd that we train human biologists in some anthropology programs with nothing but the barest bones of a primatology background. Many human biologists are really well-versed in the rodent literature that pertains to their particular phenomena of interest, and are really well-versed in human physiology, but are not aware of the amazing work their primatological colleagues are doing. I anticipate this book helping to foster a cross-pollination that I think will be tremendously beneficial to the future of biological anthropology. See, I have a dream of a world in which a biological anthropologist who works on both human and nonhuman primate projects makes sense to hiring committees and funding agencies, and if that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.

 

Building Babies: Interview with Katie Hinde

After almost two years of work, Building Babies is off to the presses, due to be out late August/early September! Building Babies: Primate Development in Proximate and Ultimate Perspective is a volume co-edited by me, Katie Hinde, and Julienne Rutherford about the many mechanisms and broader adaptations involved in – you guessed it – building a (primate) baby. To celebrate the completion of this volume, the hard work of the Lady Editors (as we came to call ourselves), and our accomplished, intelligent chapter authors, I have interviewed Katie and Julienne about the book editing process. With Katie’s interview I’m including the table of contents for the first half of the book; with Julienne’s the second half.

I also think it’s worth noting that this book was edited by three anthropologists at the assistant professor level, all three of whom write science blogs.

Building Babies Table of Contents (Part 1)

PREFACE (Hinde, Clancy, & Rutherford)

I. CONCEPTION & PREGNANCY

  1. Inflammation, reproduction, and the Goldilocks Principle: Kathryn B. H. Clancy
  2. The primate placenta as an agent of developmental and health trajectories across the lifecourse: Julienne N. Rutherford
  3. Placental development, evolution, and epigenetics of primate pregnancies: Kirstin N Sterner, Natalie M. Jameson, and Derek E Wildman
  4. Nutritional ecology and reproductive output in female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): variation among and within populations: Kevin B. Potts

 

II. FROM PRE- TO POST-NATAL LIFE

  1. Prenatal steroids affect development and behavior in primates: Adam Smith, Andrew Birnie, Jeff French
  2. Navigating transitions in HPA function from pregnancy through lactation: implications for maternal health and infant brain development: Colleen Nyberg
  3. Genome-environment coordination in neurobehavioral development: Erin Kinnally
  4. Building Marmoset Babies: Trade-offs and Cutting Bait: Suzette Tardif, Corinna Ross, Darlene Smucny

 

III. MILK: COMPLETE NUTRITION FOR THE INFANT

  1. Lactational programming: mother’s milk predicts infant behavior and temperament: Katie Hinde
  2. Do bigger brains mean better milk? Lauren A. Milligan
  3. Infant gut microbiota: developmental influences and health outcomes: Melanie Martin & David Sela

Interview with Katie Hinde, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

 

Katie Hinde, giving her exit seminar at UC Davis

Katie Hinde, giving her exit seminar at UC Davis

What was the inspiration for this volume?

I had been interested in doing an edited volume that showcased the state of the art in terms of understanding primate development. Maternal effects and infant development was a target of substantial research effort in the 80’s and 90’s and was now experiencing a major interdisciplinary resurgence. It also dovetailed nicely with my “Russian nesting doll” academic strategy; little doll- write empirical papers; medium doll- write the review paper that puts those empirical papers in context within that domain of research; large doll- edit the book volume that puts that domain of research into a broad intellectual context. Of course there is the X-large doll- write a text book, but no effing way am I tackling that jazz. Of course, I was well aware of the conventional wisdom to “never edit a book before tenure” so I set the idea on the back burner and focused on little and medium-sized nesting dolls.

But in May of 2010 Janet Slobodien from Springer sent me an email inquiring if I would be interested in editing a book for the Developments in Primatology series on maternal nutrition. I was kicking it around when two weeks later Julienne invites me to participate in your symposium at the AAPA meeting in MPLS “Eating for two: maternal ecology and nutrition in human and non-human primates.” Hmmmm… The conventional wisdom wasn’t “never CO-EDIT…” So I pitched the idea of editing a book to Julienne. I can still remember how nervous I felt on the phone because I was really hoping she would say “Yes” but expected that she would be smarter than me and say “No.” But she was in, and proposed inviting you to join us since at that time I still didn’t know you. And then, well, the actual work started.

What was the experience like editing this book?

Without question it was a major learning experience. I am very pleased that I did this so early in my career because I think I learned some skills that will serve me very well moving forward. I learned a lot about writing; from evaluating earlier drafts of contributed chapters, to assessing the comments of the many external reviewers, and by always reading through the eyes of the intended audience. While writing my dissertation, the goal of my writing was very much about representing my thoughts on paper. But as an editor, I shifted my perspective to “how can the thoughts be communicated most effectively to the reader.” I loved your earlier post about terrible first drafts and how revising is “killing your darlings” because we are so attached to our words. Cutting them up and throwing some away can be devastating. As an editor, they aren’t my darlings, so I could be more objective about the reader’s perspective, instead of predominantly my own. And now I am working to translate that perspective to my own writing efforts.

And although it may seem minor, I learned how to ask for help when I needed it, offer help when I suspected it was needed, and accept help when it was offered to me. I am so proud to have been part of such an excellent team that we were able to escort a 600 page volume from concept to publication in two years.

What is the main contribution this book makes to anthropology? To evolutionary biology?

This book’s contribution is in showcasing the multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches to studying primate development. Everyone will learn something new reading this book, no matter if you are studying the development of capuchin play behavior in Costa Rica or glucocorticoid receptor density in the hippocampus in infant rhesus. By integrating information from complementary approaches we can build a more comprehensive understanding of primate development. Unfortunately there is sometimes a dearth of cross-talk among anthropologists, psychobiologists, neuroscientists, ethologists, immunologists, microbiologists, and biologists. Here we bring those perspectives together.

How does this book intersect with your own research and pedagogical interests?

Um. I am totes interested in primate development, duh. I am also hoping that this book motivates others to become interested in integrating developmental investigations into their own research programs. I hope that with more minds trying to understand how infants are shaped by the placenta, mother’s milk, and behavioral care, we will have exponential progress in untangling the processes of ontogeny. Beyond informing us about the elegance of the natural world, such research can have major translational potential for human health, longevity, and social relationships.

Why should someone buy this book?

Because they are studying for their qualifying exams. I know I used that excuse to justify the purchase of several ludicrously expensive books.

Seriously though, the hardback copy version of this book is expensive. Part of that is the length of the book- if it was less informative it would be less expensive. However, if you study primate infant development you will unquestionably find it a valuable and up to date resource. Moreover the chapters here present novel and unique syntheses not found elsewhere in the literature. Best of all, if your institution subscribes to the Springer Book Series, you can order a free e-book version or a paperback version in the US for $25. Details can be found here. As we approach the publication date we will compile a list of institutions that have access to the “MyCopy” mechanism.

Retrograde Reactions: “Lady in the Field” on the Aftermath of Sexual Misconduct

The comments on the guest post by “Hazed” demonstrate that she is not the only person to experience sexual harassment in the field. And so I must share with you the next post in this series on harassment while doing fieldwork by “Lady in the Field.” Like “Hazed,” “Lady” is brave to share her story with us. My hope is that some of what happened in this field experience, particularly the aftermath among the various faculty involved, will teach those of us in positions of power what not to do.

It is unambiguous to me that supporting junior scientists and protecting them from mental, physical and emotional harm, not to mention providing them the resources to flourish, should be the main goal of every academic department. There is never, ever an instance in which our science, or a collaboration, should be privileged over this. And yet, that is what happened here.

Let us think together on what administrative, bureaucratic and cultural practices need to shift to put attention and effort towards the most valuable, yet often most vulnerable, resources in science: junior scientists, which includes undergrads, grad students, postdocs and junior faculty.

* * *

It was happening again.

I looked around the seminar table to see if anyone else had noticed. The other graduate students and the professor remained engrossed in debate over an article—no one, it seemed, had registered the panic mounting in my corner of the room. Quietly, I slipped notebook and papers into my backpack and made for the door, offering the apologetic “I have an embarrassing doctor’s appointment—trust me, you don’t want to know” smile.

I walked home, head cloudy, eyes fixed to the ground. When the crossing-guard teased me for returning early—he usually saw me in the morning, as students arrived at the local school, but never in the middle of the afternoon—I nearly burst into tears. Why could I not shake the feeling that everything I did—in fact, everything I thought—was fundamentally bad, that it invited the wrong sort of attention, that I shouldn’t, by all rights, be taking up space in the universe at all? And why did this terrifying train of thought become more persistent with each passing day?

Several miles of pavement under running shoes, a hot shower, dinner, and a frantic journal entry later, the demons receded. I looked at my watch: eight hours had passed since the onset of the episode, and this had been a short one. In its grip, I could not focus; now, released, I was wrung out and hollowed, the way you feel when a fever breaks. No more work would get done tonight.

***

This sort of episode—beginning with the feeling of being “triggered” by some one’s unknowing remark or gesture, progressing into full-blown anxiety and self-loathing, and resolving, finally, in a feeling of mysterious reprieve and exhaustion—had begun to occur after a senior colleague at the remote field site where I did dissertation research spoke to and touched me in an inappropriate and nonconsensual way.

For several weeks following The Incident—like a 1950s TV police detective, I soon began calling it The Incident—I scrutinized my behavior in the days leading up to it, sifting furiously for the thing I had done wrong. Had I been too open with information about myself, made too many off-color jokes? I was wearing a pink shirt at the time of The Incident—did that mean that I was unconsciously soliciting sexual attention? The colleague, Z., had a history of crossing boundaries with graduate students, a history that the administration ignored because of his professional importance. Knowing this, I had tried to be careful around him, but would anyone believe me? The best thing to do, I resolved, would be to deal with The Incident when I returned to the safety of my home community. Several weeks later, though, I learned that I would be required to interact with Z. again at the field site. The prospect of seeing him left me shaking with nerves. I realized that I needed to let the authorities know what had happened.

My graduate advisor, the field station manager, and Z.’s ultimate supervisor, F., all took my concern seriously. I appreciated their acknowledgment that the issue could not be ignored, and I was grateful that F. asked my permission to speak to Z. When F. did speak to Z., however, the process broke down: Z. denied that anything had happened, claiming that any untoward interaction had to be the product of my fantasy or of my instigation. F. and the other supervisors withdrew, refusing to adjudicate. I was left with the fear that my personal and professional credibility had been damaged, without allies at the field station, and, to my distress, in the company of Z., while the other supervisors attended to obligations outside the country.

The Incident was not repeated—with me, at any rate—either then or in subsequent field seasons. The role of Z. on our joint project, however, had to be settled, and F. was determined to reconcile us to one another. The way to do this, F. decided, was to impel me to back down from my position: namely, that something inappropriate had happened, an apology was in order, and ombud-style mechanisms of arbitration needed to be created to handle future concerns. F. explained to me why these requests were wrong-headed: Z. had suffered enough without apologizing, he said. I had willfully and unjustifiably damaged his reputation. My American feminist radicalism (by the way, was I a lesbian? or had I already been sleeping with Z.?) disqualified me from making rational statements about protections for students, and saucy male behavior was the norm at the field station—no other young woman needed help rebuffing unwanted attention, so why should I? The sort of disturbed emotional state I was manifesting, not to mention my insistence on being overly analytical, were sure to cause me intimacy problems of the kind that plagued his relationship with his wife. Finally, while my professional persona was too subservient—this was obvious from the way I acknowledged the contributions of peers to my work—my recalcitrance radiated “threat,” and that was not to be tolerated.

My graduate advisor agreed with me that F.’s reactions were retrograde. He valued the collaboration with F., however, and pointed out that my taking formal action would effectively terminate that collaboration. As a student dependent on my advisor for research funds, supervision, and credentialing, I chose not to pursue formal action.

The internal contradictions in testimony from Z. and from F. suggest that they were guarding not so much a perception of the facts—what did or did not happen—but a set of limitations on their responsibility in the world. I believe that reluctance or refusal on the part of supervisors to take recuperative or preventive action came from a place of fear: What would it mean for their careers if they were to upset the system? They did not know how to operate differently, and they did not and do not understand why making academic science safe for people with limited power is important. I believe, too, that they are ignorant of the costs imposed by the current system on students and on others with limited leverage.

***

Many months later, as I stalked around my house, wracked by intractable irritation and jumpiness, a sardonic voice in my head remarked, “Dude, you’re not in ‘Nam anymore.” Political incorrectness aside—and appropriation of the experience of a veteran, an experience I certainly cannot claim, aside, too—it was then that I realized that my body and the deepest parts of my mind had, in effect, not come home from the field. These parts of me were on the lookout for Z.—and, more to the point, for F.—everywhere: in mentors, colleagues, and friends; in well-meaning compliments and casual generalizations; in the social tics of status-seeking that characterize our sapient primate species. A trusted therapist helped identify that the symptoms, which included fury, nightmares, vigilance, and paralyzing self-doubt, were similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder. With her help and the financial support of the university, I was able to get effective treatment.

For several months, I marveled at every day that dawned and closed trauma-free. That I no longer need to marvel suggests that freedom from trauma has become normal for me, and I’m profoundly grateful. That I needed trauma treatment to complete my PhD is a sign not of a flaw in my character but of a problem in the system that produces scholars. So, to recap:

  • It is in everyone’s interest to maximize safety in working and learning environments. Coping with abuses of power drains time, energy, and other resources from productive activities, like scholarship.
  • It is particularly important for people in positions of power to understand themselves as stakeholders in the welfare of students. We need to be able to distinguish between our intent and the effects of our actions. Intent is insufficient. Listening and collaborative action are required.
  • Students need contracts and institutional protective mechanisms to ensure that their concerns can be safely expressed and addressed without conflicts of interest or unwarranted repercussions. These are necessary, even if challenging to design and implement, when the student is working with multiple institutions and in multiple locations.

Vaginal pH Redux: Primate Vaginal Microbial Communities and Your Health

E. coli image by Nathan Reading via Flickr Creative Commons pool.

E. coli image by Nathan Reading via Flickr Creative Commons pool. E. coli is bacteria often present in the vaginal microbial community of individuals with bacterial vaginosis.

In parts 1 and 2 of the vaginal pH redux, I have of course spent the majority of my time discussing vaginal acidity. You might have noticed a layer of the conversation beginning to assert itself, though, concerning vaginal microbial communities, or vaginal flora. The interplay between the composition of the vaginal microbial community and vaginal pH is a pretty interesting one – which state drives the other? How much variation do you find among healthy women? What are the conditions under which these communities evolved or asserted themselves?

Dr. Angel Rivera is a microbiologist who is the lead author of a study on baboon and human vaginal microbial communities (he’s lead author on this one too, also worth a read). As it turns out, he also works down the street from me, and his collaborators are anthropology colleagues of mine, Profs. Rebecca Stumpf and Steven Leigh. So for the third and final part of this series, I decided to interview him to learn more about research into the vaginal environment to understand what questions need to be answered, and how research in this field helps us improve human health.

 

What is your name and title? What is your research about?

My name is Angel J. Rivera. I am postdoctoral associate for the Energy Biosciences Institute at the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and my doctorate is in microbiology.

Until recently I was part of the Host Microbe System theme at IGB were I’ve done research on bacterial communities structure of the vaginal tract in primates (specifically baboon and mangabeys) the differences and similarities between each primate hosts and the relationships, if any, to that of humans.

We examined different aspects of the bacterial communities present in this niche, (1) Community structure in a troop of baboons where conditions where consider homogeneous. (2) The differences between humans and baboons and (3) the presence of antibiotic resistant genes in host that have never been expose to antibiotics before.

 

Your paper demonstrates very different vaginal microbial communities in baboons and humans. How much of this is due to endogenous variation in pH, and how much to environmental differences?

For some time now changes in the acidity and/or alkalinity of the vaginal tract has been a point of contention when considering “normal” community structures and changes within it as a consequence of pH. You see, this can be considered a classic “chicken or the egg” case. In the case of humans, is the pH low because of the dominant bacteria living there or are the bacteria living there causing the pH to be low? The answer is a little more elusive than we would like to admit. Vaginal tissue cells can produce metabolites (acidic compounds) that can lower pH, however no study has been done where one can see if the tissue produces enough for certain bacteria to colonize and further acidify the environment with their own metabolic byproducts. I believe there are researchers investigating this.

 

How does variation in pH impact vaginal microbial communities and bacterial infections? What are other health implications?

Vaginal pH represents the first line of defense against undesired bacterial or yeast species. The acidic nature of the vaginal environment prevents the organism from surviving or simply proliferating. Also, the bacterial species that seems to colonize harmoniously in the female tract (Lactobacillus sp.) prefers and maintains such and environment. The added bonus, if you choose to see it that way, is that these same bacteria can provide other mechanism to defend its environment (competition, antimicrobial compounds, etc.) ultimately protecting the host from an unwanted infection.

Conversely, researchers have found that changes in pH may set the stage for a community shift or imbalance that appear to be a precursor for disease states in the vaginal tract. One of the most common diseases in women is bacterial vaginosis. This condition is said to be the result of an imbalance that displaces lactobacilli form the dominance position and allow others, mainly anaerobic bacteria to take over.

One of the consequences of this happening is the danger it presents to pregnant women exhibiting preterm birth complications. As the undesirable bacteria become dominant some of those species can migrate up through the uterus and colonize the amniotic fluid. The precise reasons why this happens are not yet elucidated but researchers are putting special attention on the mechanisms. Treatment, however, is available.

In short, women would be wise to follow healthy practices and try to avoid unnecessary perturbations (douching, fragrant hygiene products, or other irritating chemicals) that may increase their possibility of developing infection.

 

Tell me one exciting new thing you’re working on right now.

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a manuscript that reports microbial communities comparison between baboons and mangabeys. In our previous studies we found substantial differences in the microbiota of baboons and humans. We reason this could be a result of the evolutionary distance between humans and baboons as they diverged approximately 25 million years ago. If phylogenetic distance explains differences in the vaginal microbiota, then primates with more recent shared ancestry should have bacterial communities that are more similar. We found that although mangabeys and baboons are evolutionarily closely related their vaginal microbiota differ considerably. Even though there are remarkable differences between the vaginal microbial communities in the mangabey and the baboon, these two monkeys still have more similar vaginal flora than either of them do compared to humans.

I consider it fun to do this thought experiment. If we step away and trace the hominid lineage and then try to characterize each or some steps of the lineage perhaps we can see trends that may provide a picture of the microbial-human coevolution.

 

What else do you think people should know about vaginal pH and microbial communities?

As I mentioned before the cell lining in the vaginal tract epithelium does produce compounds that are of acidic nature setting the stage for those bacteria that prefer this setting and that further acidify the environment. It has been suggested that low pH prevents undesirable microorganisms from establishing dominance and causing adverse effect. There are even some reports that claim viral infections (HIV) could be deterred if conditions are maintained at low pH and certain species of bacteria (lactobacilli) dominate vaginal tract communities. We still have very little understanding on specifics about vaginal tract pH and its relation to “normal” or “healthy” states in women.

As for microbial communities, well these have profound effects in human development, function and health. From the moment we are born to the moment we cease to exist microbes accompany us. I think it is important that people understand this and even consider that our microbes can be personal physiology indicators. Another set of fingerprints, if you may. Let me provide some examples:

  • Recent studies tell us that microbial structures can vary within different ethnicities. Women of white ethnic background have communities dominated by lactobacilli species. However, black and in particular Hispanic women can have a completely different structure where lactobacilli are NOT the dominant organisms yet they are considered to have a “healthy” vaginal tract.
  • In our own studies with baboons we have found that even when environments, diet and life style are very similar (captive troop) their vaginal communities exhibit differences. This has been also observed in humans. The truth is, these observations have been reported since the sixties and seventies but it is now that we have the technologies to more accurately confirm the findings. Interestingly, most if not all of these studies are snap shots of the microbial communities at the moment samples were taken leading us to believe that these communities are comparatively invariant. What I’m trying to point out is that bacterial communities in any environment are fairly dynamic. This is especially true in a niche like the vaginal tract where a significant amount of perturbation (menstruation, hormonal patterns, sexual activity, douching, etc.) occurs over any woman lifetime.
  • Longitudinal studies are underway and preliminary results tell us that vaginal communities of nearly all women are dynamic and exhibit marked changes in the relative abundance of species over time.

Thanks to Dr. Rivera for his time!

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