What Can Microbial Function Tell Us About Host Health?
All living creatures from trees to beetles, host a diverse and complex assortment of microbes, their microbiome. Research has made major developments in understanding which bacteria are present in certain microbiomes, but there are gaps in what we know about how they interact with each other and their host. My research works to understand differences in microbial community function and how those differences impact their host. Pitcher plants are an excellent model system to study the effects of microbial function on host health. The bacterial communities hosted in each pitcher help to digest insects and release nutrients, which are then absorbed by the plant. I can manipulate the bacterial communities in this system and measure the downstream impacts on host health. Looking for patterns in community function within the model pitcher plant system may help us predict how host microbiomes respond to changes in nutrients, temperature, and stress.