Sally Bornbusch is a Smithsonian George E. Burch Postdoctoral Fellow co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Genomics and Department of Nutrition Science. Bornbusch’s research is centered around animal microbial ecology, with a particular focus on integrating microbiome science into the fields of animal biology, care and conservation. Bornbusch uses metagenomics, nutritional analyses, and an array of other techniques to test for variation in microbial communities and associated changes in host traits and animal health.

Bornbusch’s current projects include:

  • Investigating fecal microbiota transplant as a tool to modulate animal gut microbiomes and augment the care and conservation in endangered species, such as lemurs, cheetahs and black-footed ferrets
  • Correlating variation in gut and reproductive microbiomes with health and reproductive phenotypes in black-footed ferrets: implications for ex situ and in situ husbandry and conservation efforts
  • Characterizing relationships between animal-associated and environmental microbiomes: Does exposure to and acquisition of environmental microbes shape animal microbiomes?
  • Examining variation in primate milk microbiomes across host species, housing institution and lactation phase
  • Antibiotic resistance as a One Health concern: exploring the transmission of antibiotic resistance genes between humans, animals and the environments in Madagascar

During her Ph.D. research, and together with colleagues at Duke University, at the Duke Lemur Center, and in Madagascar, Bornbusch investigated ring-tailed lemur microbiomes across scales and in relation to natural and anthropogenic variation. She demonstrated that fecal microbiota transplant improved the recovery of lemur gut microbial communities after antibiotic treatment. She additionally studied the relationships between lemur and soil microbial communities, with results indicating that wild and captive lemurs acquired microbes and antibiotic resistance genes from environmental communities. Bornbusch’s research is grounded in a One Health approach and, with colleagues at SCBI, she co-leads a virtual One Health Internship and a One Health discussion group with students and scientists from across the U.S.

Bornbusch earned her Bachelor of Science in biology, with honors, from the College of William and Mary in 2013. She then worked as a research assistant at the Kalahari Mole-rat Project before beginning a Ph.D. program in the evolutionary anthropology department at Duke University in 2015. Bornbusch completed her doctoral dissertation in the lab of Dr. Christine Drea, where she was funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship and Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant. In 2020, Bornbusch was awarded an NSF intern grant for a non-academic internship with SCBI’s Center for Conservation Genomics and Department of Nutrition Science.