Laura Glendinning

Chancellor's Fellow

Background

Understanding the impact of the microbiota in animals

The microorganisms that live in animals (the microbiota) play vital roles in disease resistance, and in helping animals extract nutrients from their feed. My group explores the composition and function of these microbial communities in various species. I am particularly interested in the caecal microbiota of avian species, and how these microorganisms enable the bird to extract energy from their diet and to resist pathogens. 

I graduated from the University of Leeds in 2011 with a BSc hons in medical microbiology. After briefly working in industry I went on to do a masters by research at the University of Edinburgh, followed by a PhD at The Roslin Institute. My PhD focussed on the composition and dynamics of the sheep lung microbiota. I joined Mick Watson’s group as a research fellow (core scientist) in 2018. In 2022 I joined Andy Law's group as a research fellow. In 2023 I became a Chancellor's Fellow, with my research focussed on understanding the mechanisms of fibre fermentation in avian species. 

Qualifications

PhD: University of Edinburgh (Oct 2013 – Sep 2017).

Thesis: The sheep lung microbiota.

 

Master of Science by Research: University of Edinburgh (Oct 2012 – Sep 2013).

Project: The association of schistosomiasis with the gut microbiota during treatment.

 

BSc (Hons) Medical Microbiology– University of Leeds (Sep 2008 – Jul 2011)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Member of University of Edinburgh Senate (2024-current)

Member of the academic advisory board for CEAM (Centre of Excellence for Agrifood Microbiomics) at Queen's University Belfast (2024-current)

Member of UKRI Interdisciplinary Assessment College panel (2023-2024)

Member of UKRI pool of experts (2024-current)

Member of Agence Nationale de la Recherche: CE20 - Biology of animals, photosynthetic organisms and micro-organisms panel. (2024)

Easter Bush Equality and Diversity Committee: (2021-current) Chair of the Socioeconomic Diversity and Inclusion sub-committee.

Easter Bush Mental Health Committee: (2021-current): Member

Easter Bush Staff Peer support Scheme organizer: (2020-current)

Associate fellow of the Higher Education Academy

BBSRC People and Talent Strategy Advisory Panel Researcher Subgroup member (2022-2023)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?

Yes

Research summary

My group researches the functional relationships between the microbiota, host and environment in various animal species, with a particular focus on avians. 

Current research interests

1) Creating and characterising metagenome assembled genomes from livestock species: While increasing progress has been made in culturing members of the microbiota there are still many members which have not been characterised. Metagenomics is a powerful tool which allows us to examine the entire genetic repertoire of the microbiota without the need for culturing. Using this approach, I have constructed and characterised metagenome assembled genomes from chicken, red deer, reindeer and cow samples, identifying hundreds of new species. 2) Fibre fermentation in the avian caecum: In many areas of the world chickens are fed high-quality grains which are high in starch and low in fibre. However, when they are fed low-quality, high-fibre grains they perform substantially less well, gaining less weight for the same amount of food. This is important, because as the human population continues to grow we will need to reserve high-quality grains for human consumption. Importantly, while chickens themselves are not capable of digesting fibre, several of their gut bacteria are capable, and in doing so provide molecules which the chicken can use to produce energy. Manipulating the microbiota to be more efficient at digesting fibre could therefore make chickens more efficient at extracting energy from feeds which are high in fibre. 3) The impact of the avian microbiota on immunity: Differences in the microbiota can impact chicken health, and can lead to changes in the adaptive and innate immune responses. Changes in microbiota composition can help shape immune development in the gastrointestinal tract in both chickens and humans. The immune responses within the respiratory system can be affected by either the respiratory microbiota itself or through the gut-lung axis. I am interested in the effect of microbial transplantation on the immune response to vaccination of chickens.

Past research interests

- The sheep lung microbiota - The impact of anti-helminthic treatment on the gut microbiota

Knowledge exchange

  • Pondering Pond Life toolkit (2020-2021): I developed a microbiology toolkit in collaboration with the Easter Bush Outreach Centre that can be sent out to schools to allow them to conduct their own microbiology studies.
  • Nuffield research placements (2016, 2018, 2020 and 2021): I have been the primary supervisor (2018 and 2020) and secondary supervisor (2016 and 2021) for four Nuffield research placements. These studentships provide high school students with the opportunity to perform a one to two month project in a research lab.
  • Mullany Trust e-mentor (2019-2020): I was an e-mentor to secondary school pupils who are interested in pursuing a life sciences career. 
  • Easter Bush open day (2018): I designed and ran a workshop on the microbiota in livestock.
  • STEM ambassador (2014 – Current).
  • Eastgate Theatre Science Workshop Volunteer (2014 – 2017): I helped run workshops for primary school children on “Lovely Lungs” and “Colourful Chromosomes”.
  • Royal Highland Show and Midlothian Science Festival volunteer (2015 – 2018): I designed an activity on the lung microbiota for the Royal Highland Show 2016 and volunteered at several Roslin Institute stalls.
  • “Widening participation” workshop (2015): I designed and ran a microscopy workshop for students from high schools with low university admittance rates.

Current project grants

Chancellor's Fellowship

Past project grants

SULSA ECR Prize (2022)

SULSA Forging Futures – Professional Development Training Award (2022)

Roslin ISP ECR Grant (2022): Awarded for the project “Metagenomic characterisation of the caecal microbiota of XCR1 knockout chickens”.

FEMS-ASM Mäkelä-Cassell Travel Award 2022 for Early Career Scientists (2022): To attend ASM Microbe 2022, presenting the project “Metagenome Assembled Genomes From Indigenous Ethiopian Chickens”.

Microbiology Society Microbiology in Society Award (2020): Awarded to design and deliver the public engagement “Pondering Pond Life” microbiology toolkits to UK schools

BBSRC Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA) (2020): Awarded for characterization of novel enzymes derived from gastrointestinal microbiota for livestock feed additive commercialization [Reference: PIII074]

Public Engagement Small Grants Fund (2020): Awarded to develop the “Pondering Pond Life” toolkit.

ISP Early Career Grant (2020): Awarded for the project “Towards a functional understanding of the chicken caecal microbiota via culturing of novel strains and species of bacteria”.

Houghton Trust Small Project Grant (2019): Awarded to study the impact of a natural microbiota treatment on the chicken respiratory microbiota and the response to live-attenuated viral vaccines.

Microbiology Society Education and Outreach Grant (2018): Awarded to develop a microbiology workshop for high school students in conjunction with the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre.

Birrell-Gray Travelling Scholarship (2015): Awarded to attend the Microbiome in Health and Disease Symposium: Montreal, Canada.

View all 16 publications on Research Explorer

  • Easter Bush Campus: Staff and students - Wellbeing and community award (2022). 
  • CMVM Staff Recognition Award: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Award (2022).
  • SULSA Early Career Researcher Prize (2022).
  • Postdoc Appreciation Week: CMVM Public Engagement Award Winner (2022).
  • Easter Bush Equality and Diversity Committee member (2021-current). 
  • Easter Bush Mental Health and Wellbeing Committee member (2021-current).
  • Easter Bush Staff Peer Support Scheme organizer: (2020-current).