Researching Microbial Communities

Bacterial Interactions

Understanding how bacteria respond to each other under all types of circumstances

As a researcher in the lab of Dr. Elizabeth Shank, I studied how microbes behave when they are in mixed communities with each other. My thesis focuses on how these interactions between bacteria in the soil and on the roots of plants.

Learn more about my science in just 60 seconds with this video!

Plant microbiomes

Experimenting with plants and bacteria to determine how communities of bacteria attach to roots

I helped create a new system to measure how bacteria maintain their associations with plant roots and affect each others’ behaviors. Learn why and how this happened by watching a short interview with the Journal of Video Education

Read the full JoVE Methods Paper: Harris, S. L., Pelaez, C. A., Shank, E. A. Monitoring Bacterial Colonization and Maintenance on Arabidopsis thaliana Roots in a Floating Hydroponic System. J. Vis. Exp. (147), e59517, doi:10.3791/59517 (2019)

plant growth-promoting bacteria

Using microbes to increase crop production and reduce environmental impact of agriculture

Microbes can help plants grow by protecting them from pathogens, helping them take up water, increasing their productivity of chemicals and hormones… the list is seemingly endless!

Check out this video explaining to a general audience how microbes can help feed the world: ‘The Living Soil: How Unseen Microbes Affect the Food We Eat‘ – Produced with The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

A greenhouse full of plants

my PhD defense

I worked to understand how we could use microbes to increase plant growth and crop production; bacteria that can help plants grow are called Plant Growth-Promoting Bacteria (PGPB). Specifically, I studied how bacteria interact with each other on the roots of plants and asked if having co-colonizer bacteria could help PGPB stay around for longer.