Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Sydney Abelson Rose Hills

Disease Ecology Within the Pear Tree Phyllosphere

Microbial communities are essential for plant development, growth, productivity, and health. Aerial parts of the plant, referred to as the phyllosphere, consist of multiple habitats for microorganisms to thrive, including beneficial and pathogenic bacteria. The vast and dynamic interactions among bacteria in the phyllosphere microbiome have the potential to significantly affect the fitness of plant populations; therefore, studying these relationships serves as a strong indicator of plant health. This project seeks to identify culturable bacteria within the pear tree phyllosphere and assemble a map of interactions between different members of the community in order to gain insight into their dynamics and how these plant-microbe interactions shape plant health. In this project, I will analyze the relationship between the phyllosphere microbiome and notable phytopathogens, such as Erwinia amylovora and Pseudomonas syringae, using direct microbe-microbe interactions through culturable methods and a bioassay in pear slices. E. amylovora and P. syringae are pathogens capable of causing devastating blights within a variety of plants, including pear trees, thus posing considerable agricultural concerns due to their impact on plant health. Previous research from the Koskella Lab has revealed that E. amylovora and P. syringae coinfect pear trees, so I aim to elucidate the interactions between these phytopathogens within the pear tree microbiome to determine their disease progression within the pear tree.

Message To Sponsor

Thank you to the Rose Hills Foundation for giving me the opportunity to conduct my own independent research project and further my explorations into disease ecology. I am very grateful for the support this fellowship has provided me as it has allowed me to acquire essential lab skills and gain confidence in my research abilities. This experience gave me the space to take on new challenges, learn more about microbial interactions, and further spark my passion for research. I will carry forward the perseverance and knowledge I have gained into my future work as a researcher beginning my honors thesis next semester.
Major: Microbial Biology
Mentor: Britt Koskella
Sponsor: Rose Hills Foundation
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