Rick Lankau

Credentials: Plant Pathology and Botany Departments

Position title: Plant-associated microbial community ecology

Email: lankau@wisc.edu

No organism is an island; rather, every multicellular organism harbors a distinct community of associated microbes. Scientists are increasingly discovering that many aspects of plant health and performance long thought to be due to the traits of the plants themselves are rather the result of complex interactions between plant hosts, associated microbial communities, and environments. Our lab seeks to understand how plant-associated microbial communities mediate individual plant health, abiotic stress tolerance, and susceptibility to disease in both natural and agricultural settings. In particular, we have investigated how alterations of microbial communities by exotic plant species allow the integration of new species into communities, how root-associated fungi change across the geographic range of forest trees and may mediate distributional responses to climate change, and how microbial communities in agricultural soils respond to farm management and in turn contribute to yield, quality, and disease suppression. Our hope is that understanding these interactions at the smallest scale will help solve challenges at the global scale, including adaptation to changing climates, conservation of biodiversity, and maintaining food security for a growing population.