Recent breakthroughs have recalibrated our understanding of the biodiversity of microbial communities (i.e., microbiomes), revealed their ubiquitous distribution in nature, and demonstrated their ability to respond to and influence their environment. Microbiome research is poised to transform society: it has captured public imagination, ushered in new industrial opportunities, and potentiated changes in how we manage health and natural resources. However, actualizing this transformation requires greater understanding of how microbiomes and their environments interact. For microbiome research to realize its promise of delivering meaningful social applications, microbiome science must progress beyond determining who is there to understanding what they are doing, the mechanisms underlying how they do it, and the integrative processes that dictate why they do it.

The Oregon State University Microbiome Initiative (OMBI) is a microbiome research and education program that centers on answering these questions. OMBI is composed of researchers from diverse disciplines who integrate their expertise to solve several shared goals: 

  • Understand how microbiomes operate and interact with their environment
  • Develop interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships with other research institutions and industry
  • Provide training in microbiome research methods
  • Incentivize participation by researchers that are underrepresented in microbiome science

Our investigators consider a diverse array of environments, including aquatic, terrestrial, and animal and plant-associated microbiomes. Much of our effort includes developing the research tools to needed to understand how microbiomes interact with these environments. Ultimately, we hope that our interdisciplinary perspective will contribute to a unified theory of how microbiomes operate and change, as well as the development of socially impactful research products.

Microbiome Research Conferences and Symposia

OMBI serves to enhance awareness of cutting edge research and accelerate interactions amongst microbiome scientists, especially those spanning diverse areas of research. To this end, OMBI hosts research discussions, lectures, and conferences. A few prior and upcoming events are included below.

  • The inaugural OMBI research conference was held at Oregon State University in May 2017. Over 120 scientists from across the country participated in this day-long event that included scientific presentations as well as panel discussions. OMBI hopes to hold a similar event in spring 2019.
  • The International Symbiosis Society will hold their biannual conference at Oregon State University in July 2018. OMBI faculty are organizing microbiome sessions in this conference, which historically has not included a focus on microbiome research as part of the conference. For more information on attending this conference, please see the ISS website.


Microbiome Research Training

A central goal of OMBI is to train scientists in the myriad methods relevant to microbiome research. There are several opportunities to obtain this training.

  • OMBI-hosted workshops

OMBI periodically hosts training workshops, which are short crash-courses that teach specific concepts or techniques. For example, in May 2017, OMBI led a workshop in bioinformatic methods relevant to 16S sequence data at Oregon State University. Over 40 scientists from across the Pacific Northwest region participated, including students, postdocs, and faculty. OMBI expects to host a related workshop in spring of 2019.

  • Summer Internships

OMBI faculty periodically host interns during the summer session at OSU. For example, four undergraduate students from joined OMBI investigators in the Department of Statistics during the Summer of 2017 as part of a 1-year Research Experience for Undergraduates funded by the American Statistical Association. These students learned various statistical techniques for analyzing microbiome data alongside the biological concepts needed to interpret these data. Please inquire with the site administrator regarding similar opportunities in the future.

  • Joining or Visiting an OMBI lab

OMBI investigators rely on undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdocs and visiting scientists, to accomplish their research objectives. If you have an interest in joining an OMBI lab to learn more about microbiome research, please contact specific OMBI investigators of interest.

  • Microbiome-relevant classes taught by OMBI faculty

OMBI faculty offer a variety of classes at OSU, both on-campus and online, that are relevant to microbiome research. A full list of such courses is currently in development.