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Ms Danica-Lea Larcombe

Overview of thesis

The effect of environmental biodiversity on human skin microbial health

Diversity of ancient human microbiota was vast in comparison to humans living in urban environmental surroundings today.   The links between high density living, the natural environment and microbial health have not been established, though chronic disease is rapidly increasing and our natural environment is decreasing due to development.  The skin microbiome, as one expression of this relationship, has only just begun to be explored.  Studies have shown that there is a good evidence base for a relationship between the natural environment and skin microbiota, however only indirect links have been found.

Using a mixed method approach the proposed study will investigate the relationships between a) high rise apartment residents, the natural environment and stress; b) the natural environment and the biodiversity of the human skin microbiota; and c) the human skin microbiota in relation to stress and immunological levels.  Couples living in high rise apartment buildings (without indoor plants) will equally be given real,fake and no plants, and tested for stress and communities of skin bacteria over the 12mth study. Individual questionnaires will investigate any possible confounding factors and lifestyle information.

This study presents the opportunity to focus on exploring direct links between the environment and skin microbiota.  It has been shown that longitudinal or cross sectional studies using pre and post testing and specific health outcomes would be beneficial and strengthen the evidence base. With a causal link, health benefits and cost savings may be found, and new environmental policies can be encouraged to benefit high-rise apartment residents.


  • B.Sc (Env Hlth), Curtin University (2008)
  • Graduate Diploma of Education (Early Childhood), University of Waikato (2010)

Awards and Recognition

  • Finalist 3MT 2018
  • 2017 – Aud 1,000 – Grant:  ECU School of Science, Postgraduate Student Support Award
  • 2018 – Aud 1,000 – Grant:  ECU School of Science, Postgraduate Student Support Award
  • 2018 – Aud 2,000 – Grant:  ECU School of Science, Postgraduate Student Conference Award


Research Interests

  • Biodiversity
  • Greening strategies for buildings
  • Skin Microbiota

Past Research employment history

Other work
  • 2016: Contract Environmental Health Officer
Past Teaching
  • Semester 1 2017/18 – Introduction to the Environment – Lab Demonstrator
  • Semester 2, 2018 – Physical Sciences – Lab Demonstrator
  • Semester 2, 2018 – Case Studies – Tutorial Teaching

Recent Publications (within the last five years)

Conference Publications/ Presentations

  • 2016 State Environmental Health Conference
  • 2017 InFlame Working Group Conference
  • 2018 inVIVO Planetary Health Network Conference
  • Prescott, S., Larcombe, D., Logan, A., West, C., Burks, W., Caraballo, L., Levin, M., Van Etten, E., Horwitz, P., Kozyrskyj, A., Campbell, DE., (2017), The skin microbiome: impact of modern environments on skin ecology, barrier integrity, and systemic immune programming. The World Allergy Organization Journal, 10(29), 16p., BioMed Central, DOI: 10.1186/s40413-017-0160-5.
  • Larcombe, D., Van Etten, E., Logan, A. C., Prescott, S. L., & Horwitz, P. (2018). Disconnect from nature is apparent in high-rise apartment dwellers – how can we bring nature to apartment buildings? Proceedings of the IFLA World Congress, Singapore.


Professor Susan Prescott (UWA)
Dr Alan Logan (Harvard University)


Danica-Lea Larcombe
PhD Candidate
Centre for Ecosystem Management
School of Science
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