My interest in the plant microbiome has shaped the past few years of my life and I intend to pursue this passion through a career as a research scientist. The captivating questions of how complex communities of microbes come to live in and on plants led me to carry out an MSc project investigating seed microbiomes. From here, wishing to advance both my career and understanding of plant-microbe interactions, I began an interdisciplinary PhD at the James Hutton Institute and Warwick University. Here my focus has shifted from seeds to the dynamic microbiomes of roots. At the heart of my PhD is the collaboration between two world renowned institutes of plant and root research; the University of Warwick and the James Hutton Institute.
The rhizosphere is a region of soil holding incredible biological complexity and diversity. Microbial activity in this region contributes to processes such as plant pathogenesis and nutrient cycling. Previous studies of soil microbial dynamics have viewed the rhizoplane as static, failing to explain large shifts in microbial composition taking place when roots colonise new regions of soil. This project aims to identify and quantify factors contributing to early stage root colonisation when dynamic processes, such as root elongation, are important. Using Lettuce and Pseudomonas fluorescens (Psf) as a model, assays have been optimised for measuring factors of early colonisation such as bacterial motility, chemotaxis and adherence to roots. Data from these assays will be supplemented with live imaging of bacteria on growing roots in transparent soil. Going forward, this data will feed into a model showing how plant and microbial traits explain observed shifts in the rhizosphere community, enabling predictions about root colonisation.