Currie Lab

Current Lab Members

Picture of

Caitlin Carlson

Research Specialist

Area of Study

The ecology and evolution of insects and their associated microbial symbionts.

Research Description

Caitlin received her BS in Biological Sciences and Conservation and Environmental Science at University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee.  During her undergrad she worked as a freshwater microbiologist isolating and culturing actinobacteria, as well as studying point source pollution affecting Lake Michigan. After college she went to work in private industry as a food microbiologist, where she discovered she missed nature, and fieldwork. She was offered a position with the Department of Natural Resources in Madison, where her knowledge of freshwater ecology allowed her to run the EPA regulated National Lakes Assessment for the State of Wisconsin. For two field seasons she assessed over 250 lake’s shoreline habitat and water quality. Caitlin joined the Currie Lab in 2014 after realizing the lab combined two of her favorite things field and lab work. When she isn’t working Caitlin enjoys hiking with her dog Fen, climbing, and nature photography.

Research Interests
The evolution of antibiotic resistance in pathogens and other emerging infectious diseases represents a major health issue both within the United States and around the world. As a result, the discovery of novel therapeutics to treat infectious diseases has taken on an unprecedented urgency. Our recent work has identified a rich, diverse, and largely untapped source of novel small molecules with therapeutic potential: Actinobacteria associated with terrestrial symbiotic systems. Our goal for this project is to collect a variety of insects from a diversity of locations within the United States and isolate their associated microbes. Once isolated, we can further analyze these strains to look for production of antimicrobial compounds.

Caitlin’s research revolves around the isolated microorganisms. Using bioassay methodology each isolate is tested against a variety of environmental and human associated bacterial and fungal pathogens. From here the isolates are graded on a quantitative scale for pathogenic inhibition. Isolates with greater inhibition bioassay activity are prioritized to move on to further testing.


  1. Arango, R. A., Carlson, C. M., Currie, C. R., McDonald, B. R., Book, A. J., Green, F., ... & Raffa, K. F. (2016). Antimicrobial Activity of Actinobacteria Isolated From the Guts of Subterranean Termites. Environmental Entomology, nvw126.
  2. Garrison, P.J., Carlson C.M., Bednarz R., Heiskary S. 2012. NLA Results for the Upper Midwest Area. Lakeline. Winter 2012. 
  3. Carlson, C.M., Mueller-Spitz S.R., and McLellan S.L. 2008. Cultivation and Characterization of Freshwater Actinobacteria from nearshore waters of Lake Michigan. 108th General Meeting American Society of Microbiology, Boston, MA. (Poster)

© 2015, All Rights Reserved.
Currie Labotatory

6145 Microbial Science Building
1550 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706
(view map)

Contact Info
Lab phone: (608) 890-0237
Fax: (608) 262-9865