Aeriel Belk

Assistant Professor

Animal Sciences

(334) 844-1505 


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232 Upchurch Hall
Auburn Univ, AL 36849



  • Ph.D. in Animal Science, Cert. Data Analysis, Colorado State University (2021)
  • M.S. in Animal Science, Cert. Food Safety, Meat Science, Texas A&M University (2017)
  • B.S. in Animal Science, Colorado State University (2015)


Dr. Aeriel Belk is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences focusing on meat science and food safety microbiology. Dr. Belk’s specific research interests include the microbiome of the built environment of food processing facilities and its relationship with pathogen persistence, the meat spoilage microbiome, and how antemortem stress can impact the animal microbiome and pathogen shedding. She teaches courses in meat science and muscle biology for undergraduate and graduate students as well as coordinating the meat science quiz bowl and (future!) meat judging competitive teams. In addition to advising several exemplary graduate students, she is also the faculty advisor for the Block & Bridle and Collegiate Horseman’s clubs. She is also an active member of several professional organizations, including the American Meat Science Association, Women in the Meat Industry Network (WMIN) and the American Society of Microbiology.



  • Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Science, Auburn University, Auburn, AL (August 2022-present)
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Supervisor: Dr. Jianghong Meng
  • Graduate Research Assistant, Metcalf Lab, Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO (July 2017-September 2021)
  • Graduate Research/Teaching Assistant, Food Microbiology Laboratory and Meat Science Quality Laboratory, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX (August 2015-June 2017)


  • Alabama Cattlemen’s Association
  • American Meat Science Association
  • American Society of Animal Science
  • American Society for Microbiology
  • International Association of Food Protection
  • Women in the Meat Industry Network


  • CSU Vice President of Research Fellow (2020-2021)
  • 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, Ph.D. Division (2020)
  • Reciprocal Meat Conference Graduate Research Competition – 1st place, Ph.D. Division (2019)
  • JBS-CSU Graduate Research Competition – 1st place, Ph.D. Division (2019)


Dr. Aeriel Belk’s research program focuses on the relationship between meat and food products, the production environment, and the animal host by investigating the microbial communities associated with them. She is particularly interested in how the native microbiome of a product, animal or environment can impact the ability of pathogens to grow or persist on a food product. She is currently investigating the biofilm microbiome of meat processing facilities and their potential to harbor pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes using advanced metabolomic and metatranscriptomic techniques. Additionally, she is investigating pathogen survival on meat products during the microbial spoilage period, and how the meat microbiome impacts meat shelf life and quality deterioration. She is also conducting research evaluating the impact of transportation stress on animal gut microbiomes, and how a disruption of the normal gut function may increase pathogen shedding, ultimately impacting meat product safety.

Areas of interest:

  • Microbial food safety
  • Built environment microbiomes
  • Microbial survival mechanisms
  • Microbial competition mechanisms
  • Meat spoilage microbiomes
  • Transportation stress
  • ‘Omics research methods and bioinformatics


ANSC 3700 — Muscle Foods