Tropical Plants and Endophyte Communities
Broadly, the Van Bael lab works to understand the interactions among plants and their associated microbial communities in both wetland and tropical plant ecosystems. In Panama, we are focusing on rainforest trees and their associated leaf inhabiting fungal communities, commonly referred to as Endophytes. More specifically, our research group is working to understand how the physical and chemical characteristics of leaves may influence endophyte abundance, diversity, and community structure.
In collaboration with the Arnold lab at the University of Arizona, and Kitajima lab in Kyoto University, and Joseph Wright at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, our research team's goals are to broaden our understanding of plant-endophyte interactions using molecular and phylogenetic techniques, engage undergraduates in interdisciplinary research, and provide mentored research for high school students.