UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Morgan Pyles

UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Morgan Pyles

Morgan Pyles

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Name: Morgan Pyles
From: Central Florida and Wyoming
Degrees and institutes where received: Central Wyoming College, associate’s degree in applied science in horse management, along with credentials in teaching riding and equine training technologies
University of Kentucky, BS in Equine Science and Management

Morgan Pyles decided to pursue further education after discovering her passion for education during her time as a teaching assistant at Central Wyoming College. Through family connections, Pyles was introduced to Bob Coleman, PhD, associate professor in equine extension, and quickly determined that the University of Kentucky (UK) was the school for her.

“After talking with Dr. Coleman, I knew that UK would be the best choice,” Pyles said. “Not only is Central Kentucky a great place to study equine nutrition, but the quality of the research and teaching in the equine program was exactly what I was looking for.”

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Pyles spent a summer working with Ed Squires, PhD, and Barry Ball, DVM, PhD, on a stallion study through the UK Gluck Equine Research Center. Through that study, Pyles met Laurie Lawrence, PhD, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, who is now advising Pyles as she pursues her master’s degree in equine nutrition.

“My current research, funded by a Specific Cooperative Agreement (SCA) in collaboration with Michael Flythe, PhD, (Microbiologist for USDA’s Forage-Animal Production Research Unit) will hopefully further the current knowledge about colonization of intestinal bacteria in foals and some factors that may influence the process of colonization,” Pyles said.

Pyles’ master’s research project looks at the effects of maternal diet on the colonization of intestinal bacteria (which plays a vital role in breaking down roughage in the hindgut) in the foal. During the study, mares were fed two different diets, one corn-based and the other oat-based. The colonization of intestinal bacteria was evaluated by culturing fecal samples.

“Foals are born with a sterile gastrointestinal (GI) tract, meaning they are born with no microbial community in the GI tract; however, we know that their GI tract is rapidly colonized after birth,” Pyles said. “We know that different starch sources (oats or corn) can affect the microbial community in adult horses, and we wanted to see if there would be an effect on the colonization in the foal.”

In addition to her main research project, Pyles also led a study that looked at the effects of two probiotics on fecal bacteria during antibiotic use in adult horses. Pyles also assisted Ashley Fowler, MS, in her research focused on phosphorus excretion in horses.

“Throughout my time in graduate school I have learned the value of lab technicians and my lab mates, or maybe I should say how priceless they are,” Pyles said. “I honestly would not have been able to complete these projects without their help and support.”

After completing her master’s, Pyles plans to continue her education and pursue a doctorate degree with the ultimate goal of finding a faculty position and teaching.

Hannah Forte is a communication intern with the UK Ag Equine Programs and Gluck Equine Research Center and undergraduate student majoring in community and leadership development at UK.

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