How do rain microbes affect leaf microbial communities?
Leaves on plants are one of the most abundant landscapes for microbes to colonize and live upon. These microbes that live on the leaf landscape (aka phyllosphere) can alter plants response to droughts, herbivory, pathogens, and even gas exchange with the atmosphere. A big question is where are these microbes coming from.
My work with Sarah Evans is focused on rain as a potential source of this unique microbial community. I have been focusing on the fungal community because of their large spore size which leads to possible dispersal limitations. In addition, fungi tend to be most active during warm wet condition which makes rain both an ideal transport mechanism, because it can transport larger particles than wind, and provides the conditions, because it is wet, for the fungi to colonize and establish in the phyllosphere. Our preliminary results show that putative plant symbionts are in rain and we have found that rain intensity has an effect on the phyllosphere fungal community. Stay tuned for more exciting chapters in this saga.