Multidisciplinarity in Microbiome Research: A Challenge and Opportunity to Rethink Causation, Variability, and Scale

Katherine R. Amato, Corinne F. Maurice, Karen Guillemin, Tamara Giles-Vernick*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This essay, written by a biologist, a microbial ecologist, a biological anthropologist, and an anthropologist-historian, examines tensions and translations in microbiome research on animals in the laboratory and field. The authors trace how research questions and findings in the laboratory are extrapolated into the field and vice versa, and the shifting evidentiary standards that these research settings require. Showing how complexities of microbiomes challenge traditional standards of causation, the authors contend that these challenges require new approaches to inferences used in ecology, anthropology, and history. As social scientists incorporate investigations of microbial life into their human studies, microbiome researchers venture into field settings to develop mechanistic understandings about the functions of complex microbial communities. These efforts generate new possibilities for cross-fertilizations and inference frameworks to interpret microbiome findings. Microbiome research should integrate multiple scales, levels of variability, and other disciplinary approaches to tackle questions spanning conditions from the laboratory to the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1900007
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • animal models
  • causation
  • ecology
  • field investigation
  • laboratory investigation
  • microbiome
  • social sciences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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