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Katherine Amato

Associate Professor

Ph.D. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2013

Research and Teaching Interests

Gut microbiota, nutrition and energetics, primate ecology, human evolution


Dr. Amato is a biological anthropologist studying the influence of gut microbes on host ecology and evolution. Her research examines how changes in the gut microbiota impact host nutrition, energetics, and health. She uses non-human primates as models for studying host-gut microbe interactions in selective environments and for providing comparative insight into the evolution of the human gut microbiota. Her main foci are understanding how the gut microbiome may buffer hosts during periods of nutritional stress and how the gut microbiome programs normal inter-specific differences in host metabolism. In this realm, she is also interested in global variation in the human gut microbiome and its implications for local human adaptation. Dr. Amato obtained her A.B. in Biology from Dartmouth College and her Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed a postdoc at the University of Colorado Boulder. She joined the Department of Anthropology in 2015. She is also affiliated with the Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences Graduate Program and sits on the Executive Committee of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems. Dr. Amato is the President of the Midwest Primate Interest Group, an Associate Editor at Microbiome, an Editorial Board member at Folia Primatologica, and a Fellow for the Canadian Institute of Advanced Research’s ‘Humans and the Microbiome’ Program. 

Recent Courses:

ANTH 101: Perspectives on Primates

ANTH 358: Primate Behavior and Ecology

ANTH 359: The Human Microbiome and Health

ANTH 490: Microbiome Analysis

ANTH 490: Primate Diversity


Select publications:

Mallott, E.K., L.H. Skovmand, P.A. Garber, and K.R. Amato*. (2022). The fecal metabolome of black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) varies in response to seasonal dietary changes. Molecular Ecology. 31(15): 4146-4161.

 Mallott, E.K. and K.R. Amato*. (2022). Butyrate production pathways in primate gut microbiomes. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 39(1): msab279.

 Amato, K.R.*, E.K. Mallott, P.D. Maia, M.L. Savo Sardaro. (2021). Pre-digestion as an evolutionary impetus for human fermented food use. Current Anthropology. 62(S24): S2017-S219.

Cortes-Ortiz, L. and K.R. Amato. (2021). Host genetics influence the gut microbiome. Science. 373(6551): 159-160.

 Mallot, E.K. and K.R. Amato* (2021). Host specificity of the gut microbiome. Nature Reviews Microbiology.

 Amato, K.R.*, M.C. Arrieta, M. B. Azad, M.T. Bailey, J.L. Broussard, C.E. Bruggeling, E.C. Claud, E.K. Costello, E.R. Davenport, B.E. Dutilh, H.A. Swain Ewald, P. Ewald, E.C. Hanlon, W. Julion, A. Keshavarzian, C.F. Maurice, G.E. Miller, G.A. Preidis, L. Segurel, B. Singer, S. Subramanian, L. Zhao, C.W. Kuzawa. (2021). The human gut microbiome and health inequities. Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. 18(25): e2017947118

 Amato, K.R.*, O.M. Chaves, E.K. Mallott, T.M. Eppley, F. Abreu, A.L. Baden, A.A. Barnett, J.C. Bicca-Marques, S.A. Boyle, C.J. Campbell, C.A. Chapman, M.F. De la Fuente, P. Fan, P.J. Fashing, A. Felton, B. Fruth, V.B. Fortes, C.C. Grueter, G. Hohmann, M. Irwin, J.K. Matthews, A. Mekonnen, A.D. Melin, D.B. Morgan, J. Ostner, N. Nguyen, A.K. Piel, B. Pinacho-Guendulain, E.P. Quintino-Arêdes, P.T. Razanaparany, N. Schiel, C.M. Sanz, O. Schülke, S. Shanee, A. Souto, J.P. Souza-Alves, F. Stewart, K.M. Stewart, A. Stone, B. Sun, S. Tecot, K. Valenta. E.R. Vogel, S. Wich, Y. Zeng. (2021). Fermented food consumption in wild nonhuman primates and its ecological drivers. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 175(3): 513-530.

 Mallott, E.K., C. Borries, A. Koenig, K.R. Amato**, A. Lu**. (2020) Reproductive hormones mediate changes in the gut microbiome during pregnancy and lactation in Phayre’s leaf monkeys. Scientific Reports, 10: 9961.

Kuthyar, S., M. Manus, K.R. Amato. (2019) Leveraging non-human primates for exploring the social transmission of microbes. Current Opinion in Microbiology. 50: 8-14.

Amato, K.R., E.K. Mallott, D. McDonald, N.J. Dominy, T. Goldberg, J.E. Lambert, L. Swedell, J.L. Metcalf, A. Gomez, G.A.O. Britton, R.M. Stumpf, S.R. Leigh, R. Knight. (2019). Convergence of human and Old World monkey gut microbiomes demonstrates the importance of human ecology over phylogeny. Genome Biology. 20(1): 201-213.

Amato, K.R., C.F. Maurice, K. Guillemin, T. Giles-Vernick. (2019) Multi-disciplinary in microbiome research: A challenge and opportunity to rethink causation, variability, and scale. BioEssays. 41(10): 1900007.

Amato, K.R. (2019). Missing links: The role of primates in understanding the human microbiome. mSystems Special Issue on Early Career Scientists. 4: ee00165-19.

Amato, K.R., T. Jeyakumar, H. Poinar, P. Gros. (2019) Shifting climates, shifting foods, shifting diseases: Microbial perspectives on human evolution. Bioessays.41(10): 1900034.

Amato, K.R.*, J. Sanders, S.J. Song, M. Nute, J. Metcalf, L.R. Thompson, J.T. Morton, A. Amir, V. McKenzie, G. Humphrey, G. Gogul, J. Gaffney, A. Baden, G. Britton, F. Cuozzo, A. Di Fiore, N. Dominy, T. Goldberg, A. Gomez, M.M. Kowalewski, R. Lewis, A. Link, M. Sauther, S. Tecot, B. White, K. Nelson, R. Stumpf, R. Knight, S. Leigh. (2019) Evolutionary trends in host physiology outweigh diet in structuring primate gut microbiomes. ISME Journal. 13(3): 576-587.

Amato, K.R.*, R. Martinez-Mota, N. Righini, M. Raguet-Schofield, F.P. Corcione, E. Marini, G. Humphrey, G. Gogul, J. Gaffney7, E. Lovelace, L. Williams, A. Luong, M.G. Dominguez-Bello, R.M. Stumpf, B. White, K. Nelson, R. Knight, S.R. Leigh. (2016). Phylogenetic and ecological factors impact the gut microbiota of two Neotropical primate species. Oecologia. 180(3): 717-733. doi: 10.​1007/​s00442-015-3507-z

Amato, K.R., S.R. Leigh, A.D. Kent, R. Mackie, C.J. Yeoman, R.M. Stumpf, B. A. Wilson, K.E. Nelson, B.A. White, P.A. Garber. (2015). The gut microbiota appears to compensate for seasonal diet variation in the wild black howler monkey. (Alouatta pigra). Microbial Ecology. 69(2): 434-443.

Amato, K.R., S.R. Leigh, A.D. Kent, R. Mackie, C.J. Yeoman, R.M. Stumpf, B.A. Wilson, K.E. Nelson, B.A. White, P.A. Garber. (2014). The role of gut microbes in satisfying the demands of adult and juvenile wild, black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra). American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 155(4): 652-664. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22621

Amato, K.R., C.J. Yeoman, A. Kent, N. Righini, F. Carbonero, A. Estrada, H.R. Gaskins, R. Stumpf, S. Yildirim, M. Torralba, M. Gillis, B. Wilson, K. Nelson, B. White, S.R. Leigh. (2013). Habitat degradation impacts black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) gastrointestinal microbes. The ISME Journal. 7: 1344-1353. doi:10.1038/ismej.2013.16.