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Victoria G. Fox, Jonathan D. Bakker
Microbial ecology is of growing research interest within the field of restoration ecology due to increasing awareness of valuable microbial effects on plant and ecosystem health. Studies have discovered strong plant growth promoting effects that beneficial microbes confer to plants. Land management techniques, such as mowing or fertilizing, affect the microbial community of a landscape; management techniques thus can improve the success of a restoration project by increasing the presence of beneficial bacteria and fungi. Recent developments in metagenomic technology have made it feasible to survey the microbial community existing in an ecosystem of interest, where partnerships between land managers and microbiology researchers can reap benefits for both parties. Simply by taking soil, root and stem samples, land managers can learn what microbes are present in their ecosystems and within plant tissues. My research, funded by the SER-NW, aimed to discover the microbial community comprising a native Puget Prairie ecosystem. In this discussion, I present questions that metagenomics can answer, and demonstrate the process of collecting and processing samples. The knowledge gained through microbial research directly benefits land managers hoping to improve their restoration sites with microbial diversity and community interaction enhancing techniques. These techniques can be expanded for use in fields beyond microbial ecology, where environmental DNA has been used to investigate the presence and interactions of animals. With further research, metagenomics can be used to enhance our understanding of reference ecosystems from micro to macro scales, and applied to improve restoration techniques.
Conference Presentation, SER2021
Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program