• 3 backers
  • $175 of $2,414

College of Our Lady of the Elms (Elms College)

Verified 501(c)(3) Non-Profit


Project description

What’s the Scoop on Poop? I think if you were to look at it from my perspective a sort of

excitement would captivate you. The things that go on in digestive tract of mammals are truly

amazing. There is a new world of relatively uncharted territory filled with all types of microbial

species just waiting to be revealed and studied. You might ask why should we study this

environment of microbes? First of all, these microorganisms out number the host’s cells (that

would be our own cells) ten to one! Second of all, we believe that these populations of

microbes are carrying out important and vital functions for our health and wellbeing. Then you

might ask—How does one go about studying this internal world and unlocking its special

secrets? This is the focus of my proposal.

Metagenomics is an evolving science that uses molecular biology to uncover the 99% of

uncultivable species in all types of environments. By taking samples from different environments

such as, ocean water, soil, and in my project, horse feces, scientists are able to catalog

expansive communities never seen before. Hidden in these communities are potentially new

species that have unique and important functions. Some of these microorganisms produce

novel proteins unknown in function but, when explored, can lead to great advancements in

biochemical engineering and medicine.

My project begins at Coyote Run Farm in Hatfield, Massachusetts where horses provide

the microbial rich samples to be studied. I am working with my biology professor to develop a

reliable protocol for DNA extraction, library preparation and sequencing to study the microbial

population in the equine gut. Once this is established we will be able to monitor the fluctuations

of microbial populations in relation to time and other factors. One of the first studies that we will

perform is to analyze the effect of the presence and absence of parasitic nematodes such as

small strongyles that infect the gut of horses on the microbial populations.

It has been shown that the human microbiome (the community of microorganisms that

share our body spaces and surfaces) is critical to maintaining our own health. Using the human

analogy, we will study the microbial life in the gut of the horse. We know that horses are

extremely sensitive to changes in diet, exercise, disease and even weather. We hope to

determine how these changes affect the dynamic of life in the gut and might potentially lead to

problems for the horse.

So, what’s the scoop on poop? I am excited and challenged to find out! I am thrilled to

be at the helm to navigate and discover this new and potentially diagnostic world! Please come

aboard with us as we map the equine microbiome. Please stay tuned to my project updates on

Twitter@ElmsBioResearch to see the exciting places this project takes us, learn about the

horses, and get introduced to a whole new world of microbial populations!



Michael Zulch, Undergraduate

DNA is a fascinating molecule, and it is extremely enormous and holds the code that

translates into the beautiful colors of a Parrot’s feathers, or the efficient anatomy of a horse’s

body. My name is Michael Zulch, I am an undergraduate at the Elms College in Chicopee, MA

and I am ambitiously seeking to learn more about this molecule and what it can teach us about


Currently, I am in my second year at Elms and two semesters into my Independent

research project which has brought me all over the state of Massachusetts to meet, discuss

techniques, and work with many brilliant and well respected scientists in the field of Molecular

Biology and Parasitology. It is such a privilege to be able to get my hands dirty in the lab and

face the exciting challenges of research and setting the foundations to a very exciting career.


Janet Williams, Ph.D Biology

In 1980 I received my B.A. from Rider University in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. In

1983, I received a Master’s degree from the Veterinary and Animal Sciences Program at the

University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In 1986, I received a Ph.D. in Zoology for the

identification and DNA sequence determination of a repetitive sequence in Acheta

domesticus. In 1985, I was awarded the university-wide Distinguished Teaching Award. In 1987,

after teaching at the University of Massachusetts in Cell Physiology and Histology, and

Histology at Northeastern University in Boston, and General Biology at Boston College, I began

a post-doctoral fellowship at New England Biolabs. At New England Biolabs, I had researched

restriction-modification systems in bacteria and cloned, over-expressed and sequenced the

genes for these systems. While at NEB, I had contributed to many publications including a

shared authorship on a publication with NEB resident scientist,1993 Nobel Prize laureate

Richard Roberts. I also hold two United States patents in conjunction with NEB.

Since 1994, I have been a professor of biology at Elms College in Chicopee,

Massachusetts. I have taught courses in Anatomy & Physiology, Genetics, Histology,

Biochemistry, Immunology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology and

Biology for non-majors. I have acted as the chair and advisor for the Premedical and Pre-health

professions at the College. I have mentored many students in research More recently I have

mentored research students in the area of molecular parasitology in horses.


Expected project outcomes

Possible Publications

• NCBI GenBank


Conference for Presentation Eastern Colleges Science Conference

Student Reports Available if requested by email ElmsBioResearch@gmail.com



NEBNext® UltraTM DNA Library Prep Kit for Illumina® (E7370S) $535.00

2 DNA LoBind Tubes (022431021) $ 71.20

AMPure® XP Beads (Beckman Coulter, Inc. #A63881) $305

MoBio PowerSoil® DNA Isolation Kit (12888-50) $263.00

NEBNext® Microbiome DNA Enrichment Kit (E2612S) $210.00

NEBNext® Multiplex Oligos for Illumina® (Index Primers Set 1) (E7335S) $105

Illumina MiSeq Reagent Kit v3 (MS-102-3001) $824.00

Travel $100.00- to and from NewEngland Biolabs for Library prep and deep sequencing

TOTAL amount to raise on CREU: $2,413.20


How will any additional funds be used?

Additional funds will support my trip to present at the Eastern Colleges Science

Conference and for further experimentation on my project.


Twitter:  @ElmsBioResearch


CREU recommends this proposal at the Highly Recommended  level

Reviewer Comments:

" Overall a good project that an undergraduate can understand and techincally perform."

" If the kits are as robust as they sound, data should be easily generated. The analysis will be the hard part."

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