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Investigating the relationships between microbes and their role in plant survival.

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Josh Leon

The climate of the American Southwest is rapidly changing relative to other areas in the United States. Temperatures are predicted to increase by roughly 10° F (5.5° C) by the year 2100. Drought events are expected to increase in intensity and length as well. Understanding how plant communities in this region will react to these changes is an important area of research in Capitol Reef National Park (CARE). Research has provided insight into how some native species will react, for example, junipers killing off their branches under drought conditions. However, few research studies have examined how climate change will affect invasive species. This research examines an invasive plant in CARE under a variety of climate projections. We are also interested in the microbiome of the invasive plant to see if it influences the plant's response to climate disturbances. The goal of this research is to provide new insights into how invasive plants are successful under disturbed conditions. The species of interest for our research is the African mustard, Strigosella africana. Of the 126 listed invasive species in CARE, the African mustard is one of 12 species that is actively controlled because of the threat it poses to native communities. First, we examined whether increased heat, drought conditions and/or fertilizer affected plant survivability. We found significant differences in plant survivability under differing heat and/or whether a drought was applied. Next, to find a base 'natural' microbiome, we collected full plant samples in CARE using sterile techniques and separated them by shoots/roots, and sequenced their DNA. Plants grown from seeds collected in CARE were examined under the same climate models, excluding fertilizer, as described above. DNA sequenced from plants that survived these trials will then be compared to the natural microbiome to spot any differences in community and/or composition.
University / Institution: Utah Valley University
Type: Oral
Format: In Person
SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)
Area of Research: Science & Technology
Faculty Mentor: Michael Rotter
Location: Union Building, SALTAIR ROOM (2:05pm)