(Ph.D., University of Connecticut) Research Scientist of Marine Sciences
Dr. Susan Smith joined Mystic Aquarium as a research scientist in September 2022, where she studies the diversity and function of marine mammal microbiomes. Before joining the research team at Mystic, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Dr. George B. McManus lab at UConn Marine Sciences, where she also received her M.Sc. and Ph.D. studying marine microbes. Her prior work includes publication of the first tintinnid ciliate genome, the molecular elucidation of ciliate genome architecture, and the taxonomic description of a new ciliate genus and species discovered in Long Island Sound, Dartintinnus alderae. Her more recent work involved the use of single-cell genomics and transcriptomics to study the structure of marine protist genomes and an adaptation of these methods to characterize cryptic taxa at a species level. Dr. Smith has a passion for teaching and enjoyed her time instructing the UConn graduate course Biological Oceanography, as well as mentoring students in the Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) program, where she designed a project with Mystic Aquarium’s Dr. Tracy Romano isolating ciliates from beluga blowholes. Her current interests involve the use of contemporary molecular methods to characterize the prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbiomes of marine mammals. Smith believes that a fine-tuned genetic characterization of host-associated microbiota can inform animal husbandry specialists on the transmission of parasites, serve as early warning health indices, and elucidate population genetics and community structure in wild populations.