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Join my lab?

I am mainly interested in the evolution of microbial cooperation, particularly by the symbiotic rhizobia that provide some crops and wild legumes with nitrogen. I have money in a current grant that could be used to support a new student working on legume symbiosis with "eusocial" rhizobia. Other student research and collaborations (especially with Mike Travisano) have extended from microbial bet-hedging and the evolution of aging and multicellularity (submitted) to applying ecology and evolution to improving agricultural productivity and sustainability.


I'm lucky to be able to spend many early mornings walking through the tallgrass prairie of western mn. It is the rare legume I find in those areas- many restored. I think about the loss of rhizobia from those soils. I may do my own little test to see if there are any nodulating bacteria still surviving in the middle of my adjoining USFWS prairie preserve.

We've converted 6 of our 320 acres to organic the past 3 growing seasons. Last year we had the Peter Graham memorial bean field. We planted w/o innoculant and I checked throughout the season for nodulation. At the very end of the season I found a couple very small nodules. As an aside, we also saw our first earth worms (a casualty of anhydrous).

My concern -- from my farmhouse window-- is we've decimated our soil microbes in a mass extinction that was completely silent. Maybe I'll find some hope in the roots of those stealth native legumes I introduce to the "prairie."

When I looked through my own blog, I see some entried related to my experience of species richness http://blog.lib.umn.edu/draeg001/regionalpartnerships/2010/07/kings_play_chess_on_our_fine_g.html

my own thoughts on social agricultural evolution http://blog.lib.umn.edu/draeg001/regionalpartnerships/2010/07/the_stillness_of_motherhood.html

and the loss of species from my landscape within one human generation http://blog.lib.umn.edu/draeg001/regionalpartnerships/2010/08/whats_missing.html

Checking for nodules in a bean field -- a great way to remember Peter Graham, who worked on rhizobia of beans and of prairie legumes. Rhizobia can survive for quite a while in soil without their hosts, so I'm more worried about the hosts going extinct. But organized collections are still very useful and I've heard the USDA collection may be at risk.

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