Collin M. Timm
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Biological and Nanoscale Systems
- Ph.D. Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Wisconsin, 2013
- B.S. Chemical Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, 2008
The presence of plant roots in soil attracts a diverse community of microorganisms. The plant microbiome has been shown to increase nutrient acquisition, buffer from abiotic stresses such as drought, and protect against infection by pathogens. These effects ultimately impact plant productivity and survival. I am interested in understanding how the microbial community associated with the plant alleviates host stress. The goal of my research is to use genomic data to design functional microbial communities that have predictable effects on the host. By designing and controlling the microbiome we can optimize plant growth and survival, with applications in production of biofuel and agricultural feedstocks.
At ORNL, I use synthetic ecology approaches to study interactions between bacteria and host plants. Using greenhouse experiments and community sequencing (16S rDNA), I identified a “core stress microbiome” in Populus, indicating a conserved set of bacterial genera that increase (or decrease) in abundance in response to host stress. I am continuing to study these communities by using genomic and functional data to design constructed communities of bacteria strains isolated from wild Populus plants. I use these communities in microbiome replacement studies on germ-free plants to identify molecular changes in the host. This research will help us understand how to control the microbiome and tune the behavior to have beneficial effects on the host plant.