PLANT MICROBIOLOGY LAB
focuses on pressing environmental issues and possible “green”
solutions. Our three main research interests are in using natural
plant-microbe partnerships to:
1) Improve plant growth with less input of chemicals and water
2) Remove environmental pollutants
3) Improve the sustainability of bioenergy production
Check out the short video that Illumina produced about our research. It is part of their collection of videos on Adventures in Genomics
here to download a more detailed overview of our lab's work
My Vision: To understand plant-endophyte interactions in natural systems at the molecular level and to apply that functional understanding to improving phytoremediation and the environmental sustainability of agriculture, forestry, and bioenergy crop production
Plant-Microbes for Improved Plant Growth and
• Nitrogen (N) is an essential nutrient for plant growth. But since chemical fertilizers are produced using fossil fuels, excess N fertilizer in soils can be converted by soil microbes to nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, and fertilizers in agricultural run-off can disrupt aquatic ecosystems, a more environmentally-sustainable way of improving crop growth is needed.
• Plants growing in natural, nutrient-limited conditions may rely more on symbiosis, partnerships with microbes, to obtain the nutrients they need for growth.
• My lab studies the pioneering plant species, poplar (Populus) and willow (Salix), that naturally thrive in nutrient-limited areas. Often seen in rocky riparian zones such as the one pictured at the top of this website, poplar seedlings establish on sites where few other plant species can grow.
• We have isolated and studied many different bacteria and yeast from
within these wild-grown trees and studied their symbiotic properties
• These microbes improve the growth of many other plants such
as grasses, corn, rice, Douglas-fir trees, bell peppers, tomatoes, and more, with reduced requirements for fertilizer and water. The ability to recruit and support beneficial microbes may have been lost in modern agricultural cultivars.
Removing Environmental Pollutants
• Standard environmental solutions such as excavation and
pump-and-treat are often far too expensive to be used
• Phytoremediation is the use of plants to remove pollutants
• When pollutants are too toxic, adding natural microbes that
can break down the pollutant can help phytoremediation work much better. Our successful field trial of endophyte-assisted phytoremediation of the common, carcinogenic pollutant, TCE, was published in August 2017 (see the Publications tab for that article or the News tab for a press release on the topic)
Environmentally and Economically Sustainable Bioenergy
• The plant biomass of choice needs to be region-specific. For
the Pacific Northwest, hybrid poplar is the fastest-growing, high
biomass plant for biofuel production
• With funding from the USDA/AFRI program, a strong research
program for sustainable biofuels from poplar is underway:
• By using natural microbial partners from wild poplar, we may
be able to increase production in an environmentally-friendly way.
Bioenergy or biofuels could be produced with
fewer inputs since these microbes provide fixed nitrogen and
bioavailable phosphate, and increase drought tolerance.
• Some of the microbes within poplar can produce valuable
biochemicals and biofuels
Follow us on twitter! @dotylab
Oct 3, 2018: This Grist article is a fun read about the exciting times we are in on using endophytes rather than chemical fertilizers
August 10, 2018: Our lab's research was highlighted in this Smithsonian magazine article on N-fixation in maize.
May 24, 2018: Two of our microbial endophyte strains originally isolated from within wild willow plants at the Snoqualmie River were launched into space this week for an experiment on the International Space Station. This collaborative experiment with Valley Christian High School in San Jose, California, Dr. John Freeman and David Bubenheim at NASA-Ames, and Prof. Doty's lab at UW, will look at how these plant growth promoting bacteria perform in microgravity. Click here for the UW news story
Our lab is passionate about helping the environment but is severely limited now by lack of funding. Please consider
helping through a fully tax-deductible donation. Click on the “Donate” tab for more
Illumina produced an 8 minute video about our research. It is part of their collection of videos on Adventures in Genomics
Click on the News tab (upper left corner) for information on all the latest news and activites of our lab.
Professor Sharon Lafferty Doty
Prof. Doty’s education is in genetics,
microbiology, and plant biochemistry. For more information, see
her C.V. She is the current Chair of the working group
on Environmental and Ecosystem Services of the International
Poplar Commission, a branch of the United Nations. She was recently (2018) re-elected vice president of the International Symbiosis Society in charge of education. Doty is part of the NSF-funded Plant Nitrogen Network (PlaNNet) to link together researchers. She is a member of the UW Astrobiology
program and the UW-SPACE program. Professor Doty is part of the School of
Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) in the College of the
Environment at the University of Washington.
Prof. Doty's Courses:
Environmental Applications of Plants
(ESRM 325 & SEFS 523)
Pacific NW Ecosystems (ESRM201) http://courses.washington.edu/doty201/
Plant Microbe Interactions seminar (SEFS522) http://courses.washington.edu/cfr522/
Current Topics in Phytoremediation (SEFS 524) http://courses.washington.edu/cfr521g/
Plant Microbiology Lab class (ESRM 404) http://courses.washington.edu/plmiclab/
Symbiosis JC (SEFS 521B) https://sites.uw.edu/symbiojc/
For any questions or comments about the lab, contact Sharon
Doty at: firstname.lastname@example.org