Effects of field conditions on fecal microbiota

Vanessa L. Hale*, Chia L. Tan, Kefeng Niu, Yeqin Yang, Duoying Cui, Hongxia Zhao, Rob Knight, Katherine R. Amato

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Gut microbiota can provide great insight into host health, and studies of the gut microbiota in wildlife are becoming more common. However, the effects of field conditions on gut microbial samples are unknown. This study addresses the following questions: 1) How do environmental factors such as sunlight and insect infestations affect fecal microbial DNA? 2) How does fecal microbial DNA change over time after defecation? 3) How does storage method affect microbial DNA? Fresh fecal samples were collected, pooled, and homogenized from a family group of 6 spider monkeys, Ateles geoffroyi. Samples were then aliquoted and subjected to varying light conditions (shade, sun), insect infestations (limited or not limited by netting over the sample), and sample preservation methods (FTA — Fast Technology for Analysis of nucleic acid — cards, or freezing in liquid nitrogen then storing at − 20 °C). Changes in the microbial communities under these conditions were assessed over 24 h. Time and preservation method both effected fecal microbial community diversity and composition. The effect size of these variables was then assessed in relation to fecal microbial samples from 2 other primate species (Rhinopithecus bieti and R. brelichi) housed at different captive institutions. While the microbial community of each primate species was significantly different, the effects of time and preservation method still remained significant indicating that these effects are important considerations for fieldwork.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-188
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Environmental conditions
  • Fecal microbial community
  • Fecal preservation
  • Gut microbiota
  • Primates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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