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A Complex Triangle: Plants, Pollinators, and Microbes

Linda Seaton
| Jan 23, 2015

Dr. Alexander Keller, leader of the Molecular Diversity Group at Würzburg University, likens the potential ramifications of a sickened honeybee population to those of a malfunctioning public transportation system in a large city. If the buses or subways fail to run, the inner workings of the city will crumble. Similarly, if a species of honeybee or other wild pollinator dies off due to disease or habitat loss, our agricultural system will suffer. Dr. Keller is trying to change that.

By sequencing host-associated microbiomes with the MiSeq System, Dr. Keller and his team are piecing together the complicated interactions between bees, plants, and microbes in a given community. Dr. Keller chose the MiSeq System for its ability to quickly and accurately sequence multiple samples simultaneously. By integrating data from various sequencing studies, the team is uncovering a detailed web of interactions that could help identify alternative pollinators if one species should become sickened or die out.  

These studies represent a pioneering approach to understanding pollination networks and the need for pollinator biodiversity. Network ecology is an emerging field that will benefit from molecular techniques such as next-generation sequencing.  The technology will help researchers shed light on the importance of environmental monitoring and the need for sound agricultural decisions to maintain resilient ecosystems.

Dr. Keller is a winner of the MiSeq My Focus Award for 2014.