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Meet a Microbiologist: Amanda Gunn

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

Twitter: @amandalyngunn  

Amanda with her niece on Children’s Fish Release Day. Image credit: Jake Gunn.

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.

Amanda climbs a glacier in Alaska.

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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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Meet a Microbiologist: Amanda Gunn by Jennifer Tsang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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