General research themes:
1. How do microbes influence host phenotype? Study system: nectar ecology and microbiology
Yeasts and bacteria are common inhabitants of flowers, and attain high densities in floral nectar. I am interested how (and when) these microbes influence plants and pollinators, the mechanisms involved, and evolutionary ecology of these interactions. I am also interested in how nectar constituents influence pollinator foraging and health.
With John Beck at USDA-ARS, we are examining the influence of nectar-inhabiting microorganisms on pollinator preference through volatile organic compounds.
With the ABI 50A lab, we are also examining plant-pollinator-microbe interactions in Epilobium canum, the California fuschia.
2. Community ecology of plant-associated microbial communities:
What mechanisms shape the structure and function of microbial communities associated with plants? How do can we use assembly mechanisms to better understand function, including effects on insect herbivores and pollinators?
How does dispersal affect the structure and function of bacterial and yeast communities in floral nectar of Mimulus aurantiacus? Collaboration with Tad Fukami
Ongoing project: How do ants influence microbial community structure and nectar characteristics in coffee agroecosystems? Collaboration with Stacy Philpott
Previous work: Above-belowground interactions and feedbacks between herbivores and plant-associated microbes (mycorrhizal fungi). Previous collaboration with Mark Hunter
3. Influence of anthropogenic changes on plant-microbe (insect) interactions
Ongoing project: Influence of agricultural management strategies on rhizosphere microbial community structure and influence on plant defense, with Amelie Gaudin, Clare Casteel and Christian Nansen. In this project, we examine if organic, conventional or mixed management influences soil health, plant performance, and insect preference and performance in processing tomato systems.
Past work:Fragmentation affects fungal community composition in the rhizosphere of Meterosideros polymorpha
Elevated CO2 changes plant-microbe-insect interactions