Professor, Environmental & Forest Sciences
Astrobiology Areas of Interest: Life in Extreme Environments
Sharon Doty graduated from UC Davis with a B.S. degree in Genetics in 1989. She received her Ph.D. in Microbiology at the University of Washington in 1995 with Prof. Gene Nester, studying Agrobacterium plant signal perception and responses. She did postdoctoral research in plant biochemistry with Prof. Milt Gordon in the UW Biochemistry Dept., focusing on developing improved phytoremediation of organic pollutants.
She joined the faculty of the UW College of Forest Resources in 2003 and is currently an Associate Professor in the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences in the College of the Environment. Professor Doty is interested in plant microbiology including nitrogen fixation in non-legumes, remediation of pollutants using plants, and biochemical production.
Recently, there has been a proliferation in research on endophytes, the microorganisms living fully within plants. Some endophytes are diazotrophic (nitrogen-fixing). It is now clear that these diazotrophic endophytes function in a wide range of plants across the globe. These discoveries point to a hitherto unexplored diversity of microbial life critical to the growth of plants in low-nutrient areas. Currently, plants are classified as “N-fixing” only if they have root nodules. By missing the important contributions of diazotrophic endophytes, it is not possible to make accurate assessments of terrestrial dinitrogen fixation. Furthermore, it has long been assumed that plants rely purely on specific genetic traits for successful adaptations to high temperature, salt, drought, low nutrients, etc. Recent evidence, however, points to symbiosis with microbial partners as a critical mechanism for the ability of plants to colonize and to thrive in challenging environments.