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Larry J. Forney

Larry J. Forney

Distinguished Professor Emeritus


Life Sciences South 344



Mailing Address

Dept. of Biological Sciences
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter MS 3051
Moscow, Idaho 83844-3051

Research: Biomedical Science, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

  • Ph.D. Microbiology and Public Health, Michigan State University, 1982
  • M.S. Microbiology and Public Health, Michigan State University, 1978
  • B.S. Microbiology and Public Health, Michigan State University, 1975

The research done in Dr. Larry Forney’s laboratory centers on the diversity and distribution of prokaryotes. Both field and laboratory studies are done to explore the temporal and spatial patterns of community diversity, as well as factors that influence the dynamics of inter- and intra-species competition. In addition research is done to understand how spatial structure and the resulting environmental gradients influence the tempo and trajectory of adaptive radiations in bacterial species and the maintenance of diversity. Most of these studies are highly interdisciplinary in nature, and done in collaboration with mathematicians, statisticians, computer scientists, geologists, environmental engineers, physicians, and clinical scientists.

Recently Published Papers

  • Mendes-Soares H, Krishnan V, Settles ML, Ravel J, Brown CJ, Forney LJ. (2015) Fine-scale analysis of 16S rRNA sequences reveals a high level of taxonomic diversity among vaginal Atopobium spp. Pathog. Dis. PMID: 25778779
  • Hickey RJ, Zhou X, Settles ML, Erb J, Malone K, Hansmann MA, Shew ML, Van Der Pol B, Fortenberry J, Forney LJ. (2015) Vaginal microbiota of adolescent girls prior to the onset of menarche resemble those of reproductive-age women. mBio. 6(2):e00097-15. doi:10.1128/mBio.00097-15
  • Neuendorf E, Gajer P, Bowlin AK, Marques PX, Ma B, Yan H, Fu L, Humphreys MS, Forney LJ, Myers GSA, Bavoil PM, Rank RG, Ravel J. (2015) Chlamydia caviae infection alters abundance but not composition of the guinea pig vaginal microbiota. Pathogens and Disease. doi: 10.1093/femspd/ftv019
  • Ma Zhanshan (Sam), Guan Q, Ye C, Zhang C, Foster J, Forney LJ. (2015) Network analysis suggests a potentially ‘evil’ alliance of opportunistic pathogens inhibited by a cooperative network in human milk bacterial communities. Scientific Reports. 5:8275; doi:10.1038/srep08275
  • Hickey RJ, Forney LJ. (2014) Gardnerella vaginalis does not always cause bacterial vaginosis Journal of Infectious Diseases, 210(10): 1682-1683. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiu303
  • Liang S, Gliniewicz K, Mendes-Soares H, Settles M, Forney LJ, Coats E, McDonald A. (2014) Comparative analysis of microbial community of novel lactic acid fermentation inoculated with different undefined mixed cultures. Bioresource Technology, 179:268-274. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2014.12.032
  • Huttenhower C, Knight R, Brown CT, Caporaso JG, Clemente JC, Gevers D, et al. (2014). Advancing the microbiome research community. Cell, 159(2), 227–230. PMC4221798. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.09.022
  • Jayaram A, Witkin SS, Zhou X, Brown CJ, Rey GE, Linhares IM, Ledger WJ, Forney LJ. (2014) The bacterial microbiome in paired vaginal and vestibular samples from women with vulvar vestibulitis syndrome. Pathog Dis, 72(3):161-6. PMC4262620. doi:10.1111/2049-632X12197.
  • Mendes-Soares H, Suzuki H, Hickey R, Forney J. (2014) Comparative functional genomics of Lactobacillus spp. reveals possible mechanisms for specialization of vaginal lactobacilli to their environment. J. Bacteriol, 196(7):1458-70. PMC3993339. doi:10.1128/JB.01439-13.
  • Orfanelli T, Jayaram A, Doulaveris G, Forney LJ, Ledger WJ, Witkin SS. (2014) Human epididymis protein 4 and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor in vaginal fluid, relation to vaginal components and bacterial composition. Reproductive Sciences, 21(4):538-42. doi:10.1177/1933719113503416
  • Ravel J, Brotman RM, Gajer P, Ma B, Nandy M, Fadrosh DW, et al. (2013) Daily temporal dynamics of vaginal microbiota before, during and after episodes of bacterial vaginosis. Microbiome, 1(1), 29. PMC3968321. doi:10.1186/2049-2618-1-29
  • Witkin SS, Mendes-Soares H, Linhares IM, Jayaram A, Ledger WJ, Forney LJ. (2013) Influence of vaginal bacteria and D- and L-lactic acid isomers on vaginal extracellular matrix metalloproteinase inducer: implications for protection against upper genital tract infections. mBio, 4(4), e00460–13–e00460–13. PMC3735189. doi:10.1128/mBio.00460-13
  • Tyerman JG, Ponciano JM, Joyce P, Forney LJ, Harmon LJ. (2013) The evolution of antibiotic susceptibility and resistance during the formation of Escherichia coli biofilms in the absence of antibiotics. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 13, 22. PMC3568021. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-22
  • Hou D, Zhou X, Zhong X, Settles ML, Herring J, Wang L, et al. (2013) Microbiota of the seminal fluid from healthy and infertile men. Fertility and Sterility, 100(5):1261-9. PMC3888793 doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.07.1991
  • Hickey RJ, Abdo Z, Zhou X, Nemeth K, Hansmann M, Osborn III TW, Wang F, Forney LJ. (2012) Effects of tampons and menses on the temporal dynamics of vaginal microbiota. Brit. J. Obstet. Gynecol. 120: 695–706. doe:10.1111/1471-0528.12151.
  • Brotman RM, Bradford LL, Conrad M, Gajer P, Ault K, Peralta L, Forney LJ, Carlton JM, Abdo Z, Ravel J. (2012) Association between Trichomonas vaginalis and vaginal bacterial community composition among reproductive-age women. Sex. Trans. Dis. 39 (10), 807-812. PMC3458234.
  • Human Microbiome Project Consortium. (2012) Structure, function and diversity of the healthy human microbiome. Nature, 486(7402):207–214. PMC3564958. doi:10.1038/nature11234.
  • Human Microbiome Project Consortium. (2012) A framework for human microbiome research. Nature, 486(7402):215–221. PMC3377744. doi:10.1038/nature11209.
  • Gajer P, Brotman RM, Bail G, Sakamoto J, Shutte UME, Zhong X, Koenig SS, Fu L, Ma Z, Zhou X, Abdo Z, Forney LJ, Ravel J. (2012) Temporal dynamics of the human vaginal microbiota. Sci. Transl. Med. 4(132):132ra52. PMC3722878. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3003605.
  • Hickey RJ, Zhou X, Pierson JD, Ravel J, Forney LJ. (2012) Understanding vaginal microbiome complexity from an ecological perspective. Transl. Res. 160(4):267-82. PMC3444549. doi:10.1016/j.trsl.2012.02.008.
  • Yuan S, Cohen DB, Ravel J, Abdo Z, Forney LJ. (2012). Evaluation of methods for the extraction and purification of DNA from the human microbiome. PLoS One, 7(3):e33865. PMC3311548. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033865.
  • Hunt KM, JA Foster, LJ Forney, UME Schütte, DL Beck, Z Abdo, LK Fox, et al. (2011). Characterization of the diversity and temporal stability of bacterial communities in human milk. PLoS ONE, 6(6):e21313. PMID: 21695057.
  • Copeland WK, V Krishnan, D Beck, M Settles, JA Foster, KC Cho, M Day, R Hickey, UME Schutte, X Zhou, CJ Williams, LJ Forney and Z Abdo. (2011) mcaGUI: a graphical user interface (GUI) to facilitate analysis of microbial community data. Bioinformatics, 28(16):2198-9. PMID: 22692220.
  • Eastman JM, LJ Harmon, HJ La, P Joyce, and LJ Forney. (2011). The onion model, a simple neutral model for the evolution of diversity in bacterial biofilms. J. Evol. Biol. 24: 2496–2504. PMID: 21929684.
  • Ma Z, Z Abdo and LJ Forney. (2011). Caring about trees in the forest: incorporating frailty in risk analysis for personalized medicine. Future Medicine, 8: 681-688. PMID: 22754581.
  • Ravel J, P Gajer, Z Abdo, GM Schneider, SS Koenig, SL McCulle, S Karlebach, et al. (2011). Vaginal microbiome of reproductive-age women. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 108 Suppl 1, 4680–4687. PMID: 20534435.
  • Brotman, RM, LL Jones, J Sakamoto, P Gajer, K Ault, L Peralta, LJ Forney, Z Abdo, and J Ravel. (2011). Association between Trichomonas vaginalis and the vaginal microbiota among asymptomatic reproductive-age women in the United States. Sex. Trans. Dis. 39(10), 807-812.
  • Zhou X, RM Brotman, P Gajer, Z Abdo, UME Schüette, S Ma, J Ravel, et al. (2010). Recent advances in understanding the microbiology of the female reproductive tract and the causes of premature birth. Infect. Diseases in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2010:737425. PMID: 21197076.
  • Forney LJ, P Gajer, CJ Williams, GM Schneider, S McCulle, S Karlebach, RM Brotman, CC Davis, K Ault and J Ravel. (2010). Comparison of self-collected and physician-collected vaginal swabs for microbiome analysis. J. Clin. Microbiol, 48(5):1741-8. PMID: 20200290.
  • Schütte UME, Z Abdo, J Foster, J Ravel, J Bunge, B Solheim, and LJ Forney. (2010). Bacterial diversity in a glacier foreland of the High Arctic. Mol. Ecol. 19:54–66. PMID: 20331770.
  • Ravel J, LJ Forney. (2010). The Microbial Ecology of Bacterial Vaginosis: A Fine Scale Resolution Metagenomic Analysis. Nature Preceedings. 5062.1
  • Sota M, H Yano, J Hughes, GW Daughdrill, Z Abdo, LJ Forney, and EM Top. (2010). Shifts in the host range of a promiscuous plasmid through parallel evolution of its replication initiation protein. ISME J. 4(12):1568-1580. PMID: 20510653.
  • Lim JY, HJ La, H Sheng, LJ Forney, and CJ Hovde. (2010). Influence of Plasmid p0157 Escherichia coli O157:H7 Sakai biofilm formation. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 76(3):963-6. PMID: 19966025.
  • Zhou X, MA Hansmann, H Suzuki, CC Davis, CJ Brown, UME Schütte, JD Pierson and LJ Forney. (2010). The vaginal bacterial communities of Japanese women resemble those of women in other racial groups. FEMS Immunol and Med. Microbiol. 58(2):169-181. PMID: 19912342.

  • Human Microbiome
    The microbiota normally associated with the human body have an important influence on human development, physiology, immunity, and nutrition. The vast majority of these indigenous microbiota exists in a mutualistic relationship with their human host, while others are opportunistic pathogens that can cause both chronic infections and life-threatening diseases.
  • Biodiversity and Biogeography
    Recent advances in genomics and high throughput sequencing make it possible to characterize the extraordinary microbial diversity found on Earth in ways that were never before possible. The data obtained enables us to test hypotheses regarding patterns and processes in microbia communities, and to gauge responses to changing environmental conditions, perturbations, and treatments.
  • Biofilms
    Mechanisms that lead to the genesis and maintenance of diversity in communities have intrigued both geneticists and ecologists alike for decades. This is particularly challenging in studies of microbial communities in which ecological and evolutionary processes occur on roughly the same timescale and where the outcome of these processes are affected by the spatial structure in which these communities grow.

  • 2013 University Distinguished Professor Award, University of Idaho
  • 2011 Interdisciplinary Collaborative Efforts Excellence Award, University of Idaho
  • 2011 Excellence in Interdisciplinary Research, University of Idaho
  • 2009 Alumni Award for Excellence, Undergraduate Research Mentor, University of Idaho
  • 2009 Research Excellence Award, University of Idaho
  • 2008 Alumni Award for Excellence, Undergraduate Research Mentor, University of Idaho
  • 2008 IDeA Biomedical Research Excellence, Faculty Mentor Award, University of Idaho
  • 2008 Fellow, American Academy for Microbiology
  • 1999 Teaching Excellence, Undergraduate Biology Students, University of Groningen


Department of Biological Sciences

Physical Address:
Life Sciences South 252

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3051
Moscow, ID 83844-3051

Phone: 208-885-6280

Fax: 208-885-7905


Web: Department of Biological Sciences