Plant-Soil Microbial Ecology

University of Arizona

School of Natural Resources and the Environment


Saguaro National Park, AZ

View from Mount Wrightson, AZ

Plant-microbe interactions and feedbacks are important but cryptic components of how ecosystems function and respond to change. Microbes play a significant role structuring plant communities through positive and negative interactions, and the diversity of soil microbiota controls the processes governing biogeochemical cycling in soils. As we consider the threat of species loss and how plant communities will continue to shift under rapidly altered temperature and precipitation regimes, understanding these feedbacks emerges as a critical focus for plant community ecology, ecosystem science, and conservation ecology.

Working across a range of ecosystems from lowland Neotropical and high elevation conifer forests to semi-arid grasslands, our research group uses a combination of ecological experiments, microbiological techniques, and contemporary  genetic and metagenomic tools to develop hypotheses to test the effects of plant-microbe interactions on plant community richness and species abundance, understand how environmental shifts will alter these interactions, and accurately predict the subsequent impacts on ecosystem function.