When we think of zoos, the first things that come to mind are animals. Pandas, elephants, lions, oh my! But did you know that all animals have trillions of microscopic bacteria living inside them? Even you! These communities of microbes, known as microbiomes, play an important role in keeping animals healthy. They help animals digest their food, fight off disease and take care of their babies, and they play an important part in the environment.
Right next door to the animals, scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Center for Conservation Genomics study microbiome samples from animals and environments all over the world. They work with ecologists, nutritionists, veterinarians, animal care professionals and other experts to incorporate microbiome research into strategies for wildlife conservation.