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Anna Zelaya

Anna Zelaya

Assistant Professor


Assistant Professor
Office Phone(909) 537-5276
Office LocationBI-309

Office Hours

Tuesday: 10:30-11:30
Friday: 10:30-11:30


I am a Microbial Ecologist and STEM Educator. My current research focuses on understanding the diversity and functional roles of microbes in the environment. I am also interested in teaching and learning approaches that improve outcomes and increase representation of historically marginalized groups in STEM.

Through my teaching and mentorship approaches, I aim to encourage and support all of my students as they evolve into young scientists and science-literate members of society, and to build a sense of belonging within the scientific community.



2019-2022 Postdoctoral Research, Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching (FIRST) Program, Department of Biology, Emory University

2019 - Doctor of Philosophy, Microbiology, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Montana State University

2016 - College Teaching Certificate, Department of Adult and Higher Education, Montana State University

2010 - Bachelor of Science, Environmental Biology, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.



BIOL2010 - Principles of Biology I

BIOL2010L - Principles of Biology I Lab

BIOL2020 - Principles of Biology II

BIOL2020L - Principles of Biology II Lab

BIOL5000 - Biology Seminar



Microbial Ecology, STEM Education

Research and Teaching Interests

Microbial Ecology Research

I am interested in understanding the diversity and functional roles of microorganisms in their environments. I am especially interested in how environmental factors, such as contamination, toxicity, and stress affect microbial community diversity and function. 

Currently, I study the relationship between microorganisms residing within the gut of an insect pest, Callosobruchus maculatus (the bean beetle) in order to understand how these microbes might be affecting the ecology of the beetle. While research has shown that microbes are responsible for many critical functions that help insects thrive, not much is currently known about the relationship between microorganisms and bean beetles.  My current work centers around three main questions:

1) What is the bacterial and fungal diversity of the gut-microbiome of bean beetles?
2) How does gut-microbiome diversity change over time and due to changes in diet?
3) Does the presence of plant secondary metabolites found in insect diets contribute to changes in bean beetle gut-microbiome composition?

STEM Education Research
My STEM Education Research has centered around the use of Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences to understand their impacts on student outcomes. I am particularly interested in continuing to develop CUREs to better understand the aspects of CUREs that promote or inhibit learning in historically excluded and marginalized students in STEM. While the benefits of CUREs are well-document in the education literature, it is still not fully understood what specific aspects of CUREs benefit which student populations. My research will focus on disentangling the factors that promote student success in STEM, particularly as they relate to CURE experiences for Hispanic and Latino/a/e/x students. I am especially interested in designing CUREs that are culturally responsive to examine how they affect students in comparison to non-culturally responsive CUREs. 



Zelaya AJ, Blumer LS, Gerardo NM, Beck CW. Analysis of microbiomes using free web-based tools in undergraduate science courses. Coursesource. (Accepted August 2022)

Zelaya AJ, Blumer LS, Beck CW. Comparison of published assessments of biological experimentation as mapped to the ACE-Bio Competence Areas. In NJ Pelaez, SM Garnder & TR Anderson. (Eds.) Trends in Teaching Experimentation in the Life Sciences: Putting research intopractice to drive institutional change. Springer. (2022). pgs. 283-301.
Blumer LS, Zelaya AJ, Beck, CW, Gerardo NM, Younge, SN. Teaching the Bean Beetle Microbiome CURE in an online format. Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE). Volume 42. Publication of the 42nd Conference of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE) (available 2022).

Huang C, Zelaya, AJ, Blumer LS, Gerardo NM, Beck CW. BeanBeetleMicrobiome app: an online app for community analysis of microbiome data. Association for Biology Laboratory Education
(ABLE) Volume 42. Publication of the 42nd Conference of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE) (available 2022).

Zelaya AJ, Gerardo NM, Blumer LS, Beck CW. The Bean Beetle Microbiome Project: A Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience in Microbiology Laboratories. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2020
Zelaya AJ, Parker AE, Bailey KL, Zhang P, Van Nostrand J, Ning D.; Elias DA, Zhou J, Hazen TC, Arkin AP, Fields MW (2019). High spatiotemporal variability of bacterial diversity over short time scales with unique hydrochemical associations within a shallow aquifer. Water Research, 164, p.114917.

Smith HJ, Zelaya AJ, De León KB, Chakraborty R, Elias DA, Hazen TC, Arkin AP, Cunningham AB,  and Fields MW (2018). Impact of hydrologic boundaries on microbial planktonic and biofilm communities in shallow terrestrial subsurface environments. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 94(12), December 2018.