Dr Aura Raulo
Fellow, Junior Research Fellow
Department of Biology
DPhil (Oxon), MSc, BSc (Helsinki)
I am a biologist studying how social networks of wild animals affect their health and survival through transmission of symbiotic, healthy, bacteria. This is an example of frontline contemporary microbiology and part of the paradigm shift of starting to view bacteria as important allies instead of just pathogens. These bacteria, also known as “the microbiome”, function as crucial parts of human health as well. Unlike our own cells and genes however, they are readily exchanged between us thorough touch. This means that it is not just disease that can spread through social contact, important aspects of our health can also spread like epidemics. Consequently, practices to avoid microbial spread, such as social isolation, eating sterile foods or overuse of antibiotics can compromise health by depleting the microbiome.
The prospect of studying health and resilience as something that can spread through contact is the core of my scientific agenda. Building on this, my post-doctoral research is investigating how symbiotic gut microbial communities change over time and what kind of positions in a social network lead to most diverse or stable microbiome for the host. While these questions might sound highly specialized, the forces that shape diversity and stability in networks are in fact vastly universal across all so called “complex systems”, such as the neuron networks of human brain, information networks of the internet, or even economies, languages or human cultures. They all change, persist, rise and fall according to similar set of mathematical principles. This is why my post- doctoral project, while pure experimental biology, is funded by the Kone Foundation as a “bold initiative” under a larger multidisciplinary research collaboration called “The Hat-project”, aiming to build common understanding of complex system dynamics across domains including microbiology, linguistics, economy, palaeontology and music.
In addition to biological research I am involved with developing better methods for art-science collaborations to enable artists and scientists to research complex phenomena of the reality together and to develop novel language to talk about abstract patterns in an intuitive way.