Plant microbiome ecology and evolution

Research in the Busby lab focuses on plant-fungal interactions, plant disease, and community ecology. Our current research seeks to characterize communities of non-pathogenic fungi that live in plants, “endophytes,” and to test how endophytes influence plant disease severity.





Populus trichocarpa

The role of fungal leaf endophytes in plant defense.

Potential, though not well understood, factors influencing forest pests and pathogens are the microbial communities of fungi and bacteria that live within plants (i.e., the plant microbiome). My research takes advantage of state-of-the-art genetic tools to characterize these communities and to test their role in plant defense. My current research focuses on fungal leaf endophyte communities of Populus trichocarpa, the black cottonwood of the Pacific Northwest, and its major foliar disease – Melampsora rust.







Geographic variation in plant-endophyte-pathogen interactions.


Skagit River, Washington

The abiotic and biotic factors influencing the outcome of species interactions vary across space. I am currently addressing how geographic variation in tripartite interactions among fungal leaf endophytes, Melampsora rust, and Populus trichocarpa influence range-wide patterns in disease.






Interdisciplinary research on plant microbes for sustainable agriculture.


Poplar plantation

Plant microbes could potentially be used to reduce disease in agricultural systems. I am conducting an assessment of the environmental, economic and social costs and benefits of using endophytes in Populus feedstock production for bioenergy.







Integrating pest and pathogen disturbances into models of tree population dynamics.


Tree infected with beech bark disease

Pest and pathogen disturbances are major drivers of forest structure and function that are expected to intensify with climate change. My research integrates pests and pathogens into a modeling framework that encompasses the full range of factors affecting forest dynamics (e.g., climate change, forest cutting, wind, fire) to better understand their effects on forests at regional and continental scales. I am currently focusing on beech bark disease, an exotic scale-fungus complex, affecting eastern deciduous forests.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1314095. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.