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Rutgers university horticulture program.
Analysis, metagenomics, and mathematical modelling for tree canopies, arboreta, and biosecurity.
Structure, function, and ecology of symbiotic associations in the phyllosphere.
"There has been a shift in paradigm towards the study of the microbial biogeography and function in natural environments, and the role of microbes in health and disease.
Symbioses are everywhere: from plants to animals to people. In order to function, organisms that associate must coordinate and communicate between each other to ensure survival of the partnership. I investigate the role of symbiotic bacteria in the gut of wild birds and the ways these interactions may impact their fitness and ability to colonize different environments.
My research projects are focused on investigating the growth and maintenance of symbionts in the gut of wild birds. Using next generation sequencing technology, I am identifying the functional roles of the microorganisms associated with arthropods, such as sand flies and chironomid midges, in the gut of wild bird hosts. As a PhD student, I have had the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in field collection, the laboratory identification and preparation of various insects, and my experience has allowed me to secure a job with a science museum."
Sarah Banks, MS
"My experience as an undergrad, in both the School of Plant Biology and the MSR Grasslands Lab (she actually credits this lab for her 2nd MS), has broadened my scientific and research interests to include microbial ecology and host-microbe interactions. However, I originally wanted to conduct research on grassland habitats, I had considered researching plant and soil samples. Instead, I decided to investigate arthropod hosts of parasitic insects, as I find them fascinating and interesting. The downside is that arthropods take up a lot of time and resources to handle, manipulate, and extract the eggs and larvae from them. Now, I am focused on arthropods and symbiotic bacteria in the gut, but I also am still interested in other habitats and environments. I have completed a literature review on arthropods and their bacteria for my MA thesis, which will hopefully lead to a job offer at the end of my PhD."
"To answer these questions, I am collecting data to establish the importance of bacterial symbionts in insect hosts. Previously, I've been focusing on collecting insects and extracting their gut symbionts, and the data has allowed me to conclude that these symbionts are beneficial for arthropod hosts. Now I'm planning to combine my work on insects with studies of soils and plants to create a more holistic look at how environmental factors shape the microbial communities of arthropod hosts. I'm also very interested in trying to establish how and why a bacteria is a true symbiont of an arthropod host, not all bacteria form symbiotic relationships with arthropods. Next, I'd like to look at the microbiota of common arthropod hosts (such as ants) and host specialization. It would be very interesting to see how the microbiota of host ant species differ from that of other species in their respective environments."
Sarah Ewan, M.Sc. Candidate
"I worked with Dan for several years as an undergraduate (I actually introduced him to plant science!) and while at Rutgers Dan taught me and other graduate students, how to effectively manage, identify, and sample plants. It was that introduction to science that really got me interested in the amazing world of plant biology. So, after completing my B.Sc. in Agronomy and Biochemistry, I moved on to study plant nutrition, specializing in soils and plant nutrition. But I continued to be intrigued by plant biology and plant physiology and spent most of my spare time reading anything I could get my hands on related to the field. I spent five years pursuing an MS degree in my field of interest, running a lab, and still at the end of my M.Sc. I realized that I wanted to make a career in plant science, so I switched my major to plant science in the spring of 2016. I applied to Dan's lab for a summer position in the fall of 2016 and was hired for the first position in his lab in January 2017. Since then, I've continued to work with Dan as a PhD student. My goals for my PhD are: to be part of Dan's research group, and most importantly, to contribute to the field of plant biology in any way I can."
"My current research focuses on the impact of complex environmental conditions on the metabolism of a freshwater alga.Algae are integral parts of aquatic food webs and are also used as indicators of environmental quality. I am interested in how their cellular metabolism is affected by nutrient availability, as well as by environmental conditions. Understanding this will allow for a greater appreciation of how these organisms can be used in monitoring different stressors, such as climate change, in aquatic ecosystems."
Tom Fisher, PhD
"My research looks at microbe-plant interactions in the phyllosphere. The phyllosphere, or leaf surface, is the plant surface that is in direct contact with its environment. It is the plant’s interface with the atmosphere. As we air condition the air around us, humidity increases. We have an effect on the plant’s water balance by lowering its water potential by taking water out of the air. Plants, then, must have some way of compensating. My work focuses on investigating the response of photosynthetic microorganisms living in the phyllosphere of Arabidopsis to changes in atmospheric humidity. These organisms perform photosynthesis to create sugars from carbon dioxide and water. What drives them to move up and down between the phyllosphere and the atmosphere is still unclear. To answer this question, I am investigating the molecular processes that occur in the bacteria, Archaea, and photosynthetic algae when living in the phyllosphere, and also in their surrounding environment, the atmosphere. These processes include changes in gene expression, the amounts of different protein and carbohydrates, and signal transduction, and how all of this occurs in response to changes