Aeriel Belk, Ph.D.
Portrait of Dr. Aeriel Belk
Postdoctoral Associate, Joint Institute for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN)
2134 Patapsco Building
College Park, MD 20742
United States


August 2021–Present Postdoctoral Researcher, Joint Institute for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN), University of Maryland. Supervisor: Dr. Jianghong Meng
July 2017–Present Graduate Research Assistant, Metcalf Lab, Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. Supervisor: Dr. Jessica Metcalf
August 2015–June 2017 Graduate Research/Teaching Assistant, Food Microbiology Laboratory, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX Meat Science Quality Laboratory, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX. Supervisor: Dr. Jeff Savell
Summer, 2015 Quality Assurance Intern, Breeders and Packers Uruguay, Durazno, Uruguay
Summer, 2014 Quality Assurance Intern, Colorado Premium Beef, Greeley, CO
January 2013–August 2015 Undergraduate Research Assistant, CSU Center for Meat Safety and Quality, Fort Collins, CO
June 2011–May 2015 CSU Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory, Fort Collins, CO


August 2021 Ph.D.: Animal Science (Certificate: Data Analysis), Colorado State University. Dissertation: The microbiome surrounding death and decay: microbial ecology of food processing, meat spoilage, and human decomposition environments
May 2017 Master of Science: Animal Science (Certificates: Food Safety, Meat Science), Texas A&M University. Thesis: Comparison of Salmonella presence in bovine lymph nodes across feeding stages
May 2015 Bachelor of Science: Animal Science, Colorado State University

Awards and Honors

2020–2021 CSU Vice President of Research Fellow
2020 CSU Graduate Student Showcase – Outstanding Animal Science Presentation
2020 CSU Three-Minute Thesis Competition – Award winner
2020 International Congress of Meat Science and Technology Research Competition – 1st place, PhD Division
2019 Reciprocal Meat Conference Graduate Research Competition – 1st place, PhD Division
2019 JBS-CSU Graduate Research Competition – 1st place, PhD Division
2016–2017 American Society for Microbiology Science Teaching Fellow
2016 Texas A&M Zerle Carpenter Outstanding Graduate Student in Meat Science
2015–2016 Texas A&M Excellence Fellow
2015 Bob Ondrusek Memorial Scholarship
2014 North American Meat Institute Scholarship Recipient
2014 CSU Outstanding Animal Science Senior
2012 CSU Outstanding Animal Science Sophomore


    First Author:
  1. Belk, A.D., A.N. Frazier, I. Geornaras, R. Delmore, J.N. Martin, J.L. Metcalf. 2021. The microbiome of a newly constructed meat processing facility establishes over time by room function and microbial source. In prep.
  2. Belk, A.D., T. Duarte, C. Quinn, D.A. Coil, K.E. Belk, J.A. Eisen, J.C. Quinn, J.N. Martin, X. Yang, J.L. Metcalf. 2021. Air versus water chilling of chicken: a pilot study of quality, shelf-life, microbial ecology, and economics. mSystems. 6(2) e00912-20. DOI: 10.1128/mSystems.00912-20.
  3. Belk, A.D., H.L. Deel, Z.M. Burcham, R. Knight, D.O. Carter, J.L. Metcalf. 2019. Animal models for understanding microbial decomposition of human remains. Drug Discovery Today: Disease Models 28. DOI:
  4. Belk, A.D., Xu, Z.Z., Carter, D.O., Lynne, A., Bucheli, S., Knight, R., Metcalf, J.L. 2018. Microbiome data accurately predicts the postmortem interval using Random Forest regression models. Genes 9 (104). DOI: 10.3390/genes9020104.
  5. Belk, A.D., Arnold, A.N., Sawyer, J.D., Griffin, D.B., Taylor, T.M., Savell, J.W., Gehring, K.B. 2018. Comparison of Salmonella prevalence rates in bovine lymph nodes across feeding stages. J. Food Prot. 81(4):549-553. DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-17-254.
  6. Contributing Author:
  7. Dillon MR, Bolyen E, Adamov A, A.D. Belk, Borsom E, Burcham Z, Debelius JW, Deel H, Emmons A, Estaki M, Herman C, Keefe CR, Morton JT, Oliveira RM, Sanchez A, Simard A, Vázquez-Baeza Y, Ziemski M, Miwa, HE, Kerere TA, Coote C, Bonneau R, Knight R, Oliveira G, Gopalasingam P, Kaehler PD, Cope EK, Metcalf JL, Robeson MS, Bokulich NA, Caporaso JG. 2021. Experience and lessons learned from two virtual, hands-on microbiome bioinformatics workshops. PLOS Comp Bio. In Review.
  8. Arnold, A. N., A. D. Belk, K. J. Nickelson, J. E. Sawyer, D. B. Griffin, T. M. Taylor, J. W. Savell, and K. B. Gehring. 2018. Impact of feeding stage, cattle source, and season on Salmonella prevalence in bovine lymph nodes. In, Proc. 64th International Congress of Meat Science and Technology, Melbourne, Australia.
  9. Weinroth, M. D., A. D. Belk, & K. E. Belk. History, Development, and Current Status of Food Safety Systems Worldwide. Animal Frontiers. 2018. 8(4) 9-15. DOI: 10.1093/af/vfy016.
  10. Twenter, H., A.D. Belk, K.M. Klohonatz, L. Bass, G.J. Bouma, J.E. Bruemmer. 2017. An investigation into miRNAs in the equine epididymis as potential regulators of spermatozoal maturation. J. Equine Vet Sci. 48:61-68. DOI: 10.1016/j.jevs.2016.07.023.
  11. Hergenreder, J., A. Cameron, K.M. Klohonatz, J. da Silveira, A.D. Belk, R. Veeramachaneni, G.J. Bouma, J.E. Bruemmer. 2016. Circulating miRNAs as potential alternative cell signaling associated with maternal recognition of pregnancy in the mare. Biol. Reprod. 95(6):124, 1-12. DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.116142935.
  12. Book Chapters:
  13. Deel, H., Bucheli, S., Belk, A., Ogden, S., Lynne, A., Carter, D. O., Knight, R., Metcalf, J. L. Using microbiome tools for estimating the postmortem interval. In B. Budowle (Eds.) Microbial Forensics. Submitted.

Her primary research interest is applying metagenomics and whole genome sequencing methods to better understand microbial communities associated with foods and surface water. Currently, she’s investigating the microbial communities in waters used in produce production and their associations with the presence of Salmonella enterica and other pathogens to improve food safety traceability.