Jared Leadbetter was an undergraduate biology student at Goucher College when he attended a summer course on microbial diversity at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. It was here that he first became fascinated with the amazing environment of the termite gut. Leadbetter went on to study termite gut microbes for his PhD at Michigan State University and as a post-doc at the University of Iowa.
Currently, Leadbetter is a professor of Environmental Microbiology and Environmental Science and Engineering at the California Institute of Technology. He is also co-director, with Dianne Newman, of the Marine Biological Lab’s summer course on Microbial Diversity. Using physiological, chemical and molecular genetics techniques, Leadbetter’s lab strives to understand the symbiotic relationship between termites and their diverse gut microbes. A better understanding of how termite gut microbes limit methane production and how they break down material such as lignin and cellulose may help reduce methane production by cows and improve the production of biofuels.