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Shawnee Kasanke’s Three Minute Thesis

Assessing mutualistic interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and free-living nitrogen fixing bacteria (FLNF) in the rhizosphere of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

“My dissertation research focuses on how switchgrass exchanges nutrients with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and free-living nitrogen fixing bacteria in the rhizosphere. Nutrient exchange-based mutualisms have potential to decrease the need for synthetic fertilizer application and increase soil health and function in a variety of systems. A better understanding of these relationships, including the conditions that maximize nutrient exchange and maintain its long-term persistence, will allow for its application in sustainable agricultural practices, biofuel production, and restoration efforts. I will be testing environmental and physiological factors to define the boundaries of this beneficial tripartite relationship and identify groups of mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen fixing bacteria that are most beneficial to each other and to plants.”

About Shawnee

“I am a 2nd year PhD student in Dr. Sarah Roley’s lab at the Tri Cities campus. My current research focuses on plant-fungi-bacterial nutrient interactions. I came to WSU from the University of Alaska Fairbanks where I earned my Master’s of Science in Biological Sciences studying primary succession in the foreland of retreating glaciers in the Arctic Brooks Range. I am an avid home-brewer, outdoor adventurer, and seeker of fungal, lichen and floral natural diversity.”