ASUO and GrEBES travel- and research-award recipient Daniel Thomas
It is becoming common knowledge that human beings are covered in microbes, from head to toe, inside and out. We call this group of organisms that live in cooperation with us the Human Microbiome. What is not so commonly known, however, is that plants are also covered with microorganisms, from root to shoot, inside and out! During winter break of 2013, from December 12 to December 31, my colleague Lin Kyan and I traveled to our field site at a remote nature preserve in Northern Ecuador, to conduct studies on the microbiome of trees of the cloud forest.
We used single-rope climbing techniques to ascend trees and collect leaves from positions throughout the canopy. We managed during our two-week stay to collect over 100 leaves! We hope that these leaves will provide us with important clues as to the way the microbiome of leaves change with respect to position in the canopy.
Our reserve is in a stunningly beautiful setting, in one of the largest remaining contiguous fragments of primary cloud forest in the Andes. It is home to numerous species of birds and mammals,
and thousands of species of plants and fungi. Our work there helps to employ local technicians,
promote conservation of the reserve, and encourage pride in the residents for their precious forest.
Thanks to Associated Students of the University of Oregon and GrEBES for helping to fund this
Danilo, our expert botantist, in the canopy.