Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Luyang Zhang SURF SMART

Biocontrol Evolution in Tomato Seedlings

The phyllosphere, the microbiome of the leaf surface, is a highly tractable model system, and is particularly adept for empirical studies on microbial ecological and evolutionary dynamics. One open question is how prior local adaptation on a plant host influences the efficacy of microbial biological control agents. Using an experimental evolution approach, in which changes in populations are measured over multiple passaging events, a naturally occurring, defensive phyllosphere bacteria, Pantoea dispersa, was evolved on tomato seedlings. Preliminary assays found that this bacterium has evolved increasingly negative effects on seedling health, suggesting a potential degradation of protective traits. Over the summer, I will help conduct dose-response assays on tomato seedlings to examine how the defensive ability of P. dispersa against the common plant pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae, has evolved over time. Understanding these ecological-evolutionary dynamics in the plant phyllosphere is critical for the implementation of effective biocontrols.

Message To Sponsor

Thank you so much for your support! Plant-microbe interactions have always interested me, so I'm looking forward to this opportunity to explore the topic further. I'm also very excited to hone my skills as a researcher this summer.
Major: Integrative Biology
Mentor: Emily Dewald-Wang
Sponsor: Johnson Fund
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