MANHATTAN — Sonny Lee, assistant professor in the Division of Biology in Kansas State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has received a $900,703 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program award, known as a CAREER award, to study the interaction between plants and their soil microbiomes in the face of environmental change, especially drought.
According to Lee, plant, soil and ecosystem functions are linked to the composition of the rhizosphere, or soil, microorganisms. Understanding how plant-rhizobiome interaction influences ecosystem sustainability is critical for anticipating ecosystem responses to environmental change.
The project, “CAREER: How do rhizosphere associated microorganisms and plant host interact to regulate soil microbial processes,” aims to link plant gene diversity to rhizosphere, or soil, microbial composition and determine how the rhizobiome affects plant function and resistance to drought stress.
“This project will advance the knowledge base to help students, decision-makers and managers learn fundamental concepts and gain context to manage ecosystems under the pressure of global climate change and drought,” said Lee.
The award also supports outreach efforts as the project integrates education with research. Lee’s team will work with students and citizen scientists to determine the mechanistic interaction between plant host ecotype and rhizobiome and how it affects fitness and drought resistance.
“I am very excited about Dr. Lee’s CAREER award,” said Chris Culbertson, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “His research not only drives forward fundamental ecological science but will also help Kansas farmers and ranchers better respond to changing climatic conditions, especially drought.”