Microbiologist Amanda Gunn takes on something unusual for a microbiologist; she started a fish research and community lab. When Amanda came to Grays Harbor College as a faculty member, she wanted a way to fit her work into the needs and culture of the community. “Everybody here hunts or fishes, and it seemed like a good way to get the community interested in science,” Amanda says. Thus, Fish Lab began.
Fish Lab is a volunteer-based program intended to both restore and monitor the waterways in the area and to get the community involved. Amanda holds volunteer Fish Lab hours twice a week where students and community members can participate in water quality analysis, trail work, dissections, and more.
Name: Dr. Amanda Gunn
Job title: Biology Professor
Institution: Grays Harbor College; Aberdeen, WA, USA
Website: Fish Lab
Her research focuses on freshwater microbiome and fish pathogens. “While I have grown attached to my fish, I have to admit I am more attached to their microbes,” Amanda says. She is currently working on a long-term microbiome analysis of a stream leading up to the Fish Lab. “We are working to restore it through invasive species removal, debris clean-ups, native species planting, etc., and we are also reintroducing the salmon that stopped running. I want to watch the microbiome as it changes through the restoration process,” says Amanda.
Amanda’s journey to microbiology was a long winding path. She was a forensic science major with minors in criminal justice and chemistry. Her first job after graduation was in a cancer diagnostics lab which spurred her into beginning a doctoral program focused on molecular biology and genetics.
There, she realized her full intellectual potential and wanted ensure others could do the same. “In a way, I wanted to make sure nobody else wasted so many years of their life limiting themselves to other peoples’ expectations. That’s why I went into education. Research is my true love, but education is what drives me,” Amanda says. And that is how she ended up as the only microbiologist at a rural community college.
In our society where social conditioning pervades and certain expectations are placed upon you starting at a young age, Amanda has found education very rewarding because she can open up possibilities for students that they did not think was an option.
In addition to teaching several classes a semester, Amanda advises over 70 students and holds 2-3 open lab hours a day. Like the Fish Lab, these open lab hours allow students to practice their lab skills, study, and get extra help.
Though her time is filled with teaching and research, Amanda tries to do a “bucket list” type of thing each year. She recently climbed a glacier in Alaska and looks forward to cage diving with sharks.
Amanda’s microbial doppelgänger: Chromobacterium violaceum
Chromobacterium violaceum frequently inhabits the water and soil of tropical and sub-tropical regions. Yet, it also is found in cold-water streams in the Pacific Northwest. “I was definitely meant to live on a tropical island with good surf, yet here I am,” says Amanda about her current locale.
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