Blessing joined the lab in Jan 2018. She is interested in understanding the role of below-ground mutualisms in driving or limiting the establishment of rare or endemic plants in novel habitats as well as the use of genomic tools to link ecological processes to their molecular basis. She is fascinated with the complexity of mycorrhizae and rhizobium and describes it as the study of “logistics of below ground highways of nutrients.” Her interests in this subject were inspired by her post graduate research where she worked on an endemic plant system found in one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots: South Africa’s Core Cape Subregion. In this study, she tested the effects of cultivation on the assemblage and abundance of mutualistic rhizobia associated with an endemic tea plant called rooibos (see her research here ). She is currently working on a project sequencing the soil microbiome in the imperiled Florida scrub habitat.
Damian is a PhD student interested in understanding the crosstalk between plants and their microbiome at a molecular/systems level. He became interested in molecular plant biology while completing his Master’s thesis on transcriptional complexes in hormone-mediated immune responses. He has continued researching molecular plant biology, but with a focus on plant-microbe interactions and the regulation of their underlying molecular network.
Brianna joined the lab in August 2017. She is fascinated by the mechanism that shape different levels of biodiversity. This stems from her previous work in a seed bank germination study from different possible restoration areas in the Dinner Island Ranch wildlife
management area. She is interested in how plants interactions with mycorrhizae may influence distributions and diversity of different
Kasey is a PhD student broadly interested in understanding the effects of the climate change on communities. She became interested in community ecology during her undergraduate study where she wrote her honors thesis on phenological mismatch in ant mediated seed dispersal. She would like to continue researching community interactions but focusing on how plant-microbe interactions influence communities and their effects for conservation and restoration. Currently, Kasey is investigating the impact of fragmentation on herbivore-microbe interactions in the imperiled Pine Rocklands of Southern Florida (2% remaining of habitat).
Sathvik is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Biology and Mathematics (Applied). He is interested in emerging systems biology approaches to complex problems. His first project in the lab uses coexpression network analyses of RNAseq data to ask about the molecular basis of Multiple Mutualist Effects and was recently accepted for publication in Molecular Ecology. He is currently working on a modeling project (in collaboration with Dr. Don DeAngelis) and has been selected as a CCS (Center for Computation Science) Fellow (in collaboration with Dr. Neil Johnson).
Epichloë (aka Chloe)
Chloe, named after the fungal endophyte Epichloë, is a “fluffy” corgi. She has been with Michelle since grad school and is excited for any and all attention!