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.