Elliott Welker

Position: Research Assistant
Lab: Van Es 114
Office: Van Es 193
Program: Bioinformatics and Genomics, PhD
Advisor: Dr. Fisher

Graduate Student Profile

Education:
BS in Biotechnology and Microbiology from North Dakota State University
MS in Microbiology from North Dakota State University

Research Focus:
I am interesting in researching the pathogenomics of Paenibacillus larvae, the causative agent of American Foulbrood Disease in honeybees. Honeybees are responsible for more than just the production of honey; they play a huge ecological and economical role, as they are solely responsible for pollinating billions of dollars worth of crops each year. Unfortunately, honeybees have been dying off at an alarming rate in the past decade due to a number of factors, one of which being American Foulbrood Disease. In fact, the USDA recently declared that the current rate of decline in honeybee populations is below what is needed to sustain the long-term survival of the species. Something needs to be done to stem this tide of destruction!

P. larvae is a Gram positive spore forming bacterium found throughout the natural environment that is closely related to many Bacillus spp.. Honeybee larvae ingest the bacterial spores that had become incorporated into their food, which ultimately leads to their death. Removal of the dead larvae by worker bees further spreads the disease in the hive. Due to the hardiness and pervasiveness of the spores, the only sure cure for an infected hive is to burn it completely to the ground, bees and all. Currently, very little is known about how this pathogen is able to spread and cause disease. Working with the USDA, I have developed a honeybee infection model to further investigate the genes that play a role in P. larvae virulence. This model will be used to unravel the mysteries of this pathogen and develop a more practical cure for this devastating honeybee disease.

Departmental Involvement:
Grad Student Association, NDSU General Grad Student Association, Biotechnology & Microbiology Club