Marnie E. Rout NSF-IGERT Intern Ph.D. Candidate, University of Montana Organismal Biology & Ecology / Integrated Microbiology & Biochemistry Marnie is a Plant-Microbial Ecologist who is interested in interdisciplinary research combining mathematical modeling, field ecology, and molecular-microbial ecology to address community-level microbial structure and function analyses linked to altered soil biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial ecosystems. Her research focuses on plant-soil- microbial interactions, with emphasis on pathogenic and mutualistic relationships between plants and microbial endosymbionts. Marnie is in the last semester of her dual Ph.D. at the University of Montana, and is working as a National Science Foundation- IGERT Intern at UIUC. The Internship project Marnie is currently conducting involves developing field-based methods for quantifying biological N2-fixation in biofuel crops. Her doctoral work discovered a consortium of N2-fixing bacteria within tissues of the invasive grass Sorghum halepense. This work describes a novel invasion strategy, Microbial Enhanced Competitive Ability (MECA) in which bacteria contribute to altered soil biogeochemical cycling through direct and indirect ways linked to bacterial physiology, and the role of these bacteria on the expression of various invasive-plant traits. The plant traits enhanced in S. halepense include increased chemical defense, greater growth rate and biomass, enhanced competitive effects against native plants, and augmented resistance to herbivory. Marnie is also collaborating with researchers at the U.S. Army, CERL in Champaign, IL to study the impacts to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) communities in S. halepense invasions. Having been trained in both Microbial Ecology and Plant Ecology, Marnie strives to incorporate the best of both scientific fields. Thus, the underlying framework in her research incorporates microbiological perspectives into ecological experimental theory and design.
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