UNCW’s Ann Stapleton Attends White House Announcement of the National Microbiome Initiative

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ann Stapleton, associate professor of plant genetics at UNCW, was on hand as the White House launched the National Microbiome Initiative (NMI) to encourage increased study of microscopic organisms crucial to human and environmental health. Stapleton was among a number of academic professionals personally invited by the White House to participate, as well as students and representatives of the private sector, nonprofit foundations and organizations involved with the initiative.

The public-private collaboration includes $121 million in funding from various federal agencies and another $400 million from universities, private companies, nonprofits and charitable foundations.

“We were very pleased for Dr. Stapleton and UNCW to be included in the White House launch of the National Microbiome Initiative,” said Christopher Finelli, chair of the Department of Biology and Marine Biology. “UNCW is well-positioned to capitalize on NMI funding opportunities and to help train the next generation of biologists who will certainly contribute to, and build on, advances in microbiome research.”

Logo for Microbiome

Stapleton received a National Science Foundation grant several years ago to study microbiomes in relation to plants. She said she hopes to take advantage of NMI funding for her own research and to encourage research by other UNCW faculty.

“I am honored to have been invited to the kickoff event, and I appreciate the support from the department and the university for my microbiome research,” she said.

Microbiomes are communities of microorganisms that live in or on humans, animals, plants, soil and water. These organisms help maintain a healthy environment as long as they are functioning properly, but there is much scientists still don’t know about them. Research will enhance understanding that could lead to new developments in medicine, agriculture, industry and environmental sciences.

The NMI has three main goals: to encourage interdisciplinary research, to develop new tools allowing scientists to share information and increase access to data about microorganisms in diverse ecosystems, and to expand the microbiome workforce by encouraging students to enter the field and through “citizen science” and public education.

The May 13 event was organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

-- Tricia Vance