My research objectives are to test how plant species and drought shape soil microbial diversity. Land plants have interacted with soil microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) since their colonization of terrestrial environments ~ 450 million years ago. Of particular importance to plants are the microbes in close association with their roots: the rhizosphere community. These soil microbes play a central role in nutrient cycling and plant ecology. They can shape the composition of entire plant communities by influencing plant growth and mediating competition. Thus, rhizosphere communities are fundamental to ecological and ecosystem processes, yet the factors shaping their composition are poorly understood. Given the reciprocity between macroscopic organisms and microbial communities, a full understanding of terrestrial life means linking the ecology of macro and microorganisms.
Principal Investigator: Marc Johnson
Researcher: Connor Fitzpatrick