2023 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

Home Department: undeclared
Mentor: Kabir Peay (Biology and Earth System Science)

“Childhood Friends: Understanding the Impact of Serpentine Soils on Young and Mature Oak Mycorrhizal Communities”

Mycorrhizal fungi form important symbiotic relationships with plants under stressful conditions, providing them with water and nutrients in exchange for sugars. Their fungal-plant relationships can change over age, as the needs of the fungi and plant change. Stressful environments often select specific mycorrhizal fungal communities to provide plants with the best benefits. Serpentine soil is a stressful environment present at Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve: the soils are nutrient poor, have a high concentration of heavy metals, and a low calcium to magnesium ratio. In this project, Esther will collect soil samples from oak communities on serpentine and non-serpentine soils at Jasper Ridge. Then, she will identify and compare mycorrhizal fungal communities using PCR, DNA sequencing and BLAST. This study will contribute to our understanding on the influence of mycorrhizal fungal communities on plant growth in stressful and nutrient depleted environments.