Kelly Speer works at the interface of microbial ecology and evolutionary biology at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Genomics and the National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Invertebrate Zoology. Speer’s research focuses on blood-feeding flies that transmit diseases to wildlife. Using genomics to examine the interactions between beneficial and pathogenic microbes in these flies, Speer tests fundamental hypotheses about how complex communities of microbes, arthropods and mammals co-evolve.
Speer’s projects include:
- Determining the microbial enablers of blood-feeding in calyptrate flies using historical specimens
- Estimating population bottlenecks associated with maternal transmission of symbiotic bacteria
- Disease ecology of arthropod-vectored bacteria in neotropical bats
Speer earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from the University of New Mexico in 2012. She received a master’s degree in zoology in 2015 from the University of Florida, where she studied the population genetics of Caribbean bats and their ectoparasites. In 2019, she completed her doctorate at the American Museum of Natural History’s Richard Gilder Graduate School. Speer’s dissertation revealed strong species-specific associations between blood-feeding parasites of bats, called bat flies, and their microbial communities, despite broad geographic sampling across degraded and relatively pristine habitats. For her postdoctoral research, Speer is working with SCBI Secretary Scholar and molecular pathogen scientist Carly Muletz-Wolz, and the National Museum of Natural History’s curator of clitellata and parasitic worms, Anna Phillips.
Becker, D.J., Speer, K.A., Brown, A.M., Fenton, M.B., Washburne, A.D., Altizer, S., Streicker, D.G., Plowright, R.K., Chizhikov, V.E., Simmons, N.B., Volokhov, D.V., 2020. Ecological and evolutionary drivers of haemoplasma infection and bacterial genotype sharing in a Neotropical bat community. Mol. Ecol. 29, 1534–1549.