Michelle in the Galapagos among the marine iguanas!

Interested in joining us? Please contact me at afkhami@bio.miami.edu.

Mutualisms, positive interactions in which all participants can benefit, are ubiquitous in nature. These interactions often have enormous effects on ecological and evolutionary processes (e.g., speciation, succession, and community assembly) as well as the success of conservation and restoration efforts, the availability of ecosystem services, and the production of food for growing human populations.

My lab studies the ecology, evolution, and genomics of species interactions at scales ranging from genes to communities using a combination of long term field and greenhouse experiments, mathematical modeling, and laboratory-based molecular methods. While our research spans all types of interactions, we are especially interested in positive species associations and often work with plant-microbial mutualisms, such as rhizobia, mycorrhizal fungi, and fungal endophytes. Much of our research is aimed at understanding the mechanisms underlying how mutualisms work and integrating these associations into the broader foundations of ecology and evolution.

For example, we ask questions like “Can mutualism cause range expansions into new habitats?”, “What is the impact of microbial mutualisms on plant and herbivore community diversity?”, “How do complex multispecies mutualisms impact fitness and what is the genomic basis of these effects?”, “Can mutualists also act as reproductive manipulations?”, “Does mutualism drive diversification of plant radiations?”, and “Can we improve sustainable agriculture through use of natural species interactions?”

Some of our current projects investigate:

(1) the role of fungal endophytes in plant population persistence across species ranges and in the resilience of communities to wildfires in California,
(2) how plant-soil feedbacks impact the demography and conservation of rare species in Florida, and
(3) the genomic basis of plant and microbial performance in a tripartite interaction between legumes, rhizobia, and mycorrhizal fungi.

Please see the research page for more details!