Obed Hernandez-Gomez

Obed Hernandez-Gomez

PhD Candidate
Purdue University
Dept. of Forestry and Natural Resources
715 W. State St.
West Lafayette, IN 47907
email: herna102@purdue.edu

Current Projects

Hellbender Cutaneous Microbiota Identification. Through the use of next generation sequencing techniques, I plan to characterize the bacterial communities on the skin of hellbenders throughout their range. Using this technology allows for a more sensitive and precise method of identification of microbes than the conventional use of culturing. Microbiome characterization within hellbenders will allow us to better understand genetic/health differences between populations throughout the range.

Immunogenetics of hellbenders. Following the characterization of the MHC and other immune system genes, I plan to investigate the relationship between the immunogenetics and the skin microbiome of hellbenders. Comparing these two components across the species range will allow me to better understand the co-evolution between the hellbender host and its micro-symbiotic inhabitants. Understanding the evolutionary relationship between the two is important for the current management of disease within this species.


  • Hernandez-Gomez, O. Kimble, S. J. A. Briggler, J. T. and R. N. Williams. 2016. Characterization of the cutaneous microbiome of two giant salamander subspecies. Microbial Ecology DOI: 10.1007/s00248-016-0859-9
  • Extension and Outreach Involvement

    • Local Elementary and Middle Schools. Lafayette, IN. "Excelling in science as an ESL student" Presentation to 1st, 4th, and 7th grade students on my experiences as a non-native English student in higher education.
    • Wednesdays in the Wild-Lily Nature Center. West Lafayette, IN. "The microbiome: are bacteria the key to save amphibians?" Presented a synopsis of how analyses of amphibian skin microbiome is being used to aid amphibians threatened by pathogens, including Indiana's endagered amphibian, the hellbender.
    • HerpinTime Radio. Invited guest for an episode related to hellbender biology and conservation. (2014) (invited)
    • Columbia Park Zoo. Lafayette, IN. Summer camp presentation on hellbender biology and conservation status in the state of Indiana. (2014) (invited)
    • Tippecanoe Partnership for Water Quality. 2014 Conservation Field Day. Delivered a small field exercise on snakes to 4th grade students from Tippecanoe area schools. (2014)
    • Lafayette area middle schools. Delivered presentations regarding DNA structure and DNA extraction from strawberries.(2014)
    • Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. Hellbenders in Indiana. Co-authored article about the status of hellbender outreach and research in Indiana as part of the February edition of Salamander news.
    • Southmont Junior High School. Crawfordsville, IN. Delivered a program on herpetology and immunogenetics to a 8th grade life sciences class. (2014)
    • Ivy Tech Community College. Lafayette, IN. The Bridge Program. Planned and delivered a 2 day workshop on the transition from community colleges to universities through the Purdue University Office of Student Engagement and the Latino Graduate Student Organization. (2013)
    • WHEP (Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program) Indiana State Committee members at the National Contest in Trafalgar, IN. WHEP is a national 4-H program facilitating high school-level natural resource education. (2013)
    • Lafayette area elementary schools. Assisted in teaching kids regarding wildlife, wildlife management, and water management (2013)
    • WHEP Oral Presentation Judge for the Indiana state competition in West Lafayette, IN. (2012)
    • 1st Annual Feast Like a Hellbender Event, April 20th 2013, Harrison County Extension Office, Corydon, IN
    • Purdue Junior Naturalist Club, April 25th 2013, John S. Wright Conference Center, West Lafayette, IN 47907.