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McFall-Ngai leads the way to environmental sciences and lead life at Carnegie

McFall-Ngai leads the way to environmental sciences and lead life at Carnegie

man holding bird, woman looking at bird

The University of HawaiʻiMnoas pioneering microbiome research Margaret McFall – NgaiNamed the inaugural director for a newly formed research division of Carnegie Institution for Sciences. This will focus on life- and environmental sciences.

man holding bird, woman looking at bird
Margaret McFalls-Ngai and Matthew Medeiros, Waimea Valley.

McFall-Ngai is a Guggenheim Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He joined Carnegie in January 2022.

“Margaret McFall-Ngai helped develop pioneering cross-disciplinary research here at the University of HawaiʻiThe interaction between humans, the environment and the microbiome. Her research on Hawaiian bobtailsquid at Kewalo Marine Lab has been groundbreaking and has influenced many scientists and students. UH and beyond,” said UHPresident David Lassner. “But more importantly, in her years here with us, Margaret has helped us all think differently about life sciences and she has led the cultivation of our next generation of creative and collaborative researchers and students, who are helping us understand and care for our ʻāina and therefore our people.”

Margaret McFall-Ngai, Trailblazing Researcher

“This is an inflection point in the field of biology,” McFall-Ngai said. “We found the microbial world is foundational to the field of biology. It’s the biggest change in our view of the biosphere since Darwin.”

McFallNgai has applied to an emeritus faculty position as well as a noncompensated appointment. This would allow her to continue writing grants for researchers. UHMnoa is now considered a major center for microbiome research, she said.

Microbiome mecca

baby squid
Baby Hawaiian bobtailsquid. (Photo credit: Margaret McFallNgai

McFall-Ngai was the Kewalo Marine Laboratory’s first tenured woman in 1996. After leaving for Wisconsin in 2004, McFall-Ngai returned to Kewalo Marine Laboratory. She held several high-profile positions before returning. UHIn 2015, to serve as director Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC). She focuses much of her research on the relationship between Hawaiian bobtail squids and the luminescent bacteriaium. Vibrio fischeri. This model allows her and other researchers to study how the microbiome influences various aspects of animal life, including longevity and development.

McFall-Ngai was one of the 2017 winners of the prestigious Cross-Disciplinary Research Award. UHMnoa provosts inaugural Strategic Investment Competition. This initial $700,000.000 investment helped to create the Center for Microbiome Analysis via Island Knowledge and Investigation (C-MIKI). Since that initial investment C-MIKIMore than $14 Million in extramural funding has been raised to support curriculum development and research. McFall–Ngai served as a key advisor throughout all of this.

McFall-Ngai in a lab

“They are people who study the microbial worldwhat we call the Earths microbiomes. And those microbiomes are at the basis of health of absolutely everything,” she said. “From the oceans to the soils to the forestsevery animal is impacted by interacting with the microbial world and every plant.”

2018 was the W.M. Keck FoundationMcFallNgai and a cross-disciplinary team of researchers were awarded $1,000,000 for a groundbreaking research project UHThe Waimea watershed was established on the north shore by the Waimea project Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi as a model microbiome mesocosm⏼that is, a study site small enough to thoroughly investigate but large enough to reveal the complexities of natural systems. It was the first time that a watershed was studied from ridge to reef in order to map its microbial communities as well as their ecosystem processes.

McFall–Ngai was also awarded a MERIT award of more $5 million by the National Institutes of Health in that same year.NIH). MERIT or Method to Extend Research In Time awards have been offered since 1986 to “distinctly superior” investigators who have demonstrated high levels of competence and productivity in previous research efforts and “who are highly likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner.”

See Also

Edward “Ned” Ruby

McFall – Ngai and Researcher Ned RubyPrincipal investigators of a $10.4 million grant that was awarded in 2019 to a multi-disciplinary group comprising junior researchers from the University of Michigan NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) to support the first center focusing on the interface between environmental microbiomes and human health.

Many of the researchers who participate in the COBREGrant are housed inside UHMnoas is building a new Life Sciences Building. The aim of the three “cores”—microscopy, insectary and molecular biology/biochemistry—are to develop the tools to understand the interface between human and environmental health, and the microbial forces at work.

“The COBREThis is a great gift! UH. It is the opportunity to create an active center for the study of the dynamic relationship between Earths microbiomes and human health,” McFall-Ngai said. “This gift will not only benefit researchers at UH, but the center has every opportunity for being a mecca for researchers from across the nation and around the world.”

UHFuture microbiome

Joanne Yew holding a field-collected vial Drosophila sp. or vinegar flies at the Waimea site

Other factors include McFall-Ngais’ and Rubys’ departures UHScientists will assume the role of principal investigator for the COBRE grant.

“What I was hoping for with the COBRE core is that we might become something like a Smithsonian tropical research institute, but in the central Pacific for people who want to study the interface between the microbial world and other aspects of the environment,” she said.

Lassner concluded, “We will forever be grateful to Margaret for leading Hawaiʻi to the vanguard of environmental microbiome research and we look forward to our future collaborations as she assumes her new post at the Carnegie Institute for Science.”

  • Similar UH News stories:
    • Through this research, we are able to study the effects of human and environmental health on humans and the environment. HawaiʻiLandscape, December 11, 2020
    • $10.4MGrant to UHResearchers link microbiomes from the environment to human health, January 21, 2019.
    • Prestigious $5MAward for UHJuly 31, 2018, microbial researcher
    • $1 awarded to pioneering microbiome researchM W.M. Keck Foundation grant, September 17, 2018
    • February 5, 2017, Native squid, and its bacterium could help with human and environmental health
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