Sneak peak: Microbiomes dead or alive!

Resurrecting microbiomes past

Rothfels Lab graduate student Mick Song has caught the microbiome bug! After finishing a project studying the variation in the microbiota of Daphnia magna across genotypes, populations, and temperatures with longtime collaborator Dr. Sarah Schaack at Reed College, he gave a guest lecture and tutorial on microbiomes in Dr. Jeremy Coate‘s Bioinformatics course last November.

Now he is teaming up with Dr. Jordan Metzgar curator of the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech (who taught Carl how to do PCR many years ago!) and undergraduate student Amber Reaney to explore the possibility of capturing microbial diversity in herbarium specimens of Azolla, building off of the recent work of Daru and colleagues [1]. While they break new ground in the herbarium, Mick will be in the lab with live Azolla trying out some exciting protocols for extracting and characterizing the microbial diversity in the leaf pockets of Azolla across the genus. Although the Azolla-Nostoc symbiosis has been well-described [2], the community composition of the bactobionts as a whole remains poorly understood. Who knows what they will find!

[1] Daru et al. (2018), “A novel proof of concept for capturing the diversity of endophytic fungi preserved in herbarium specimens.”

[2] Li et al. (2018), “Fern genomes elucidate land plant evolution and cyanobacterial symbioses.”



Rothfels lab poet laureate

Ode to a Fern Foray

While botanists sit at home and reckon,
Far-flung Fijian forests beckon.
From far-afield a Fern man came,
Despite some age he still was Game.

With Sarah’s help rare ferns he sought,
About their Latin names he taught.
Up muddy paths, down streams they walked,
Of family and genus talked.

On highest peak, by every creek,
New species did they ever seek.
Ferns, lycophytes, more did abound,
With rarest ones still yet unfound.

Bright dragonflies did also gleam
in forest glades, by every stream.
Good natured Milen these did chase,
He cast his net with every pace.

Deep focus on the task at hand,
And bonding with the happy band,
Pushed cares away and made for play
On every happy ferny day.

If distant age brings feelings sad,
Fern memories may yet be glad,
And now far islands call us back,
To seek those ferns that yet we lack.

When long from now our time has been,
Ferns shall remain forever green –
And if one day the world should warm,
Bright ferns will weather every storm.


  —John Game, December 2018.