Vera Tai

Vera Tai
The University of Western Ontario | UWO · Department of Biology

PhD

About

88
Publications
16,553
Reads
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4,045
Citations
Introduction
I am a microbiologist working at the intersection between diversity, ecology, genomics, and bioinformatics. In most environments, microbes thrive and billions live together. I investigate who lives in these communities and why, how microbes interact with each other, and how microbial activity shapes their environment. Most recently, my focus has been the fascinating symbiotic microbial communities in the hindguts of termites....how else would termites be able to digest wood?

Publications

Publications (88)
Article
Biosolids, produced from the treatment of sewage sludge, are rich in plant nutrients and are a valuable alternative to inorganic fertilizer when applied to agricultural soil. However, the use of biosolids in agriculture, which are frequently contaminated with pharmaceuticals, such as macrolide antibiotics, may pose a risk to human health by selecti...
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The microbial communities of sandy beaches are poorly described despite the biogeochemical importance and ubiquity of these ecosystems. Using metabarcoding of the 16S and 18S rRNA genes, we investigated the diversity, microhabitats (with or between sand grains), and intertidal distributions of microorganisms (including meiofauna) from pristine sand...
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Increasing inputs of dissolved organic matter (DOM) to northern lakes is resulting in ‘lake browning.’ Lake browning profoundly affects phytoplankton community composition by modifying two important environmental drivers—light and nutrients. The impact of increased DOM on native isolates of red and green-pigmented cyanobacteria identified as Pseuda...
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Meromictic lakes provide a physically stable environment in which proxies for potentially harmful cyanobacteria are exceptionally well-preserved in the sediments. In Sunfish Lake, a meromictic lake that has recently become the focus of citizen concern due to the apparent rise in cyanobacteria blooms, we used a multi-proxy paleolimnological approach...
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The small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) gene is a widely used molecular marker to study the diversity of life. Sequencing of SSU rRNA gene amplicons has become a standard approach for the investigation of the ecology and diversity of microbes. However, a well-curated database is necessary for correct classification of these data. While available...
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Several challenges (e.g., sexism, parental leave, the glass ceiling, etc.) disproportionately affect women in academia (and beyond), and thus perpetuate the leaky pipeline metaphor for women who opt-out of an academic career. Although this pattern can be seen at all levels of the academic hierarchy, a critical time for women facing such challenges...
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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) mixed genotype infections can affect treatment outcomes and may have implications for vaccine design and disease progression. Previous studies demonstrate 0-39% of high-risk, HCV-infected individuals harbor mixed genotypes however standardized, sensitive methods of detection are lacking. This study compared PCR amplicon, ran...
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Our growing awareness of the microbial world’s importance and diversity contrasts starkly with our limited understanding of its fundamental structure. Despite recent advances in DNA sequencing, a lack of standardized protocols and common analytical frameworks impedes comparisons among studies, hindering the development of global inferences about mi...
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Spirotrichonymphea is a class of hypermastigote parabasalids defined by their spiral rows of many flagella. They are obligate hindgut symbionts of lower termites. Despite more than 100 years of morphological and ultrastructural study, the group remains poorly characterised by molecular data and the phylogenetic positions and taxonomic validity of m...
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Importance: The ecological and evolutionary importance of symbioses is increasingly clear, but the overall diversity of symbiotic interactions remains poorly explored. Here we investigate the evolution and nitrogen fixation capabilities of ectosymbionts attached to the protist Barbulanympha from the hindgut of the wood-eating cockroach Cryptocercu...
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A new jakobid genus has been isolated from Moroccan desert soil. The cyst-forming protist Moramonas marocensis gen. nov., sp. nov. has two anteriorly inserted flagella of which one points to the posterior cell pole accompanying the ventral feeding groove and is equipped with a dorsal vane-a feature typical for the Jakobida. It further shows a flage...
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The hindguts of lower termites and Cryptocercus cockroaches are home to a distinct community of archaea, bacteria, and protists (primarily parabasalids and some oxymonads). Within a host species, the composition of these hindgut communities appears relatively stable, but the evolutionary and ecological factors structuring community composition and...
Article
Kofoidia loriculata is a parabasalid symbiont inhabiting the hindgut of the lower termite Paraneotermes simplicicornis. It was initially described as a lophomonad due to its apical tuft of multiple flagella that disintegrate during cell division, but its phylogenetic relationships have not been investigated using molecular evidence. From single cel...
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Historically, symbiotic protists in termite hindguts have been considered to be the same species if they are morphologically similar, even if they are found in different host species. For example, the first-described hindgut and hypermastigote parabasalian, Trichonympha agilis (Leidy, 1877) has since been documented in six species of Reticulitermes...
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Advances in high-throughput nucleic acid sequencing have improved our understanding of microbial communities in a number of ways. Deeper sequence coverage provides the means to assess diversity at the resolution necessary to recover ecological and biogeographic patterns, and at the same time single-cell genomics provides detailed information about...
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To aid in their digestion of wood, lower termites are known to harbour a diverse community of prokaryotes as well as parabasalid and oxymonad protist symbionts. One of the best-studied lower termite gut communities is that of Zootermopsis angusticollis which has been known for almost 100 years to possess 3 species of Trichonympha (T. campanula, T....
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P-values from AU tests on all possible tree topologies of the 4 Trichonympha clusters. (DOC)
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Spearman correlation of dN/dS ratios calculated from pair-wise alignments using PAML versus calculation by site. A) clade I population. B) clade IV population. (EPS)
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dN/dS ratios based on metagenomic reads tiled to the CC9311 genome with 80% similarity and 80% coverage. dN, dS, the percentage of the gene covered by at least 5-fold read coverage (%min5Xcov) and 1-fold read coverage (%min1Xcov), the average depth of read coverage (avg read depth), dN/dS calculated relative to the CC9311 genome sequence rather tha...
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dN/dS ratios from 201 bp sliding window of metagenomic reads tiled to the CC9311 genome. The position of the window start and end coordinates based on the CC9311 genome are provided. Inf indicates that only non-synonymous polymorphisms were observed. * genes with dN/dS>1 for the entire gene. (XLS)
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Genes with dN/dS ratios >1 based on polymorphisms from metagenomic sequences tiled to the CC9902 genome. (DOCX)
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dN/dS ratios based on metagenomic sequences tiled to the CC9902 genome for accessory genes with greater than 20-fold average depth of read coverage. 20-fold is approximately 1 standard deviation greater than the mean. The percentage of the gene covered by at least 5-fold read coverage (%min5Xcov) and the average depth of read coverage (avg read dep...
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dN/dS ratios based on metagenomic sequences tiled to the CC9311 genome for accessory genes with greater than 20-fold average depth of read coverage. 20-fold is approximately 1 standard deviation greater than the mean. The percentage of the gene covered by at least 5-fold read coverage (%min5Xcov), the average depth of read coverage (avg read depth)...
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dN/dS ratios based on metagenomic reads tiled to the CC9902 genome with 80% similarity and 80% coverage. dN, dS, the percentage of the gene covered by at least 5-fold read coverage (%min5Xcov) and 1-fold read coverage (%min1Xcov), the average depth of read coverage (avg read depth), dN/dS calculated relative to the CC9902 genome sequence rather tha...
Data
dN/dS ratios from 201 bp sliding window of metagenomic reads tiled to the CC9902 genome. The position of the window start and end coordinates based on the CC9902 genome are provided. Inf indicates that only non-synonymous polymorphisms were observed. * genes with dN/dS>1 for the entire gene. (XLS)
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Complete list of genes with dN/dS ratios >1 based on polymorphisms from metagenomic sequences tiled to the CC9311 genome. (DOCX)
Article
Full-text available
Environmental metagenomics provides snippets of genomic sequences from all organisms in an environmental sample and are an unprecedented resource of information for investigating microbial population genetics. Current analytical methods, however, are poorly equipped to handle metagenomic data, particularly of short, unlinked sequences. A custom ana...
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Marine Synechococcus diversity has been previously described using multi-locus gene sequence phylogenies and the identification of distinct clades. Synechococcus from Clades I, II, III, and IV and from sub-clades within Clades I and IV were enumerated from environmental samples by developing a hybridization assay to liquid bead-arrays (Luminex). Ol...
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Chlorophyll concentration, phytoplankton biomass, and total and nitrate-fueled primary productivity increase toward the coast over the 12-km-wide continental shelf of the southern portion of the Southern California Bight. These gradients are accompanied by changes in phytoplankton community composition: the outer shelf is characterized by offshore...