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Michelle Keller


Michelle Keller, Bio, Research Mentor

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    Attending: University of Wisconsin, Ph.D. Plant Pathology


    Acknowledgement to Mentor: I am thankful to Dr. Schwab for mentoring me last summer and throughout the year. Her guidance provided me with a greater understanding of finding, implementing, and troubleshooting laboratory methods. She provided me the freedom to work on my own, to find my own answers, and consistently made herself available to help. My time with Dr. Schwab impressed upon me the importance of asking better questions. I am grateful for her patience and her interest in my project. Dr. Joanna Matos and Dr. Robin Q'Quinn are two other longtime mentors I wish to acknowledge. They, like Dr. Schwab, are always willing to spend time with me and lend ears to my academic, research and personal challenges. These mentors helped define my undergraduate years. As I prepare for graduate school, I find their continued support, advice and encouragement reassuring, and I am deeply thankful to them.


    Michelle Keller is a biology major interested in plant pathology.  She intends to pursue a PhD, and wishes to conduct research focused on the results of interactions of plant cultivars and their fungal and bacterial associates.  Michelle hopes her future work will contribute to agricultural endeavors that seek to avoid the use of soil degrading chemical pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers, by encouraging farming practices that allow plants to utilize resources available to them from their mycorrhizal and bacterial partners.  Her goal is to promote plant health, which she believes will have positive ecological effects while producing higher quality food for human and animal consumption.

    Currently, Michelle spends time working in Dr. Joanna Matos' lab, assisting with C. elegan research.  During her spare time, she enjoys traveling, bicycling, hiking, camping, mushroom collecting, and huckleberry picking.



    Dr. Robin O'Quinn, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, EWU


    TRiO McNair Research Internship:___________________________________________________________

    Survey of Ericoid Mycorrhizae in the Pacific Northwest (2013)

    Nearly all land plants form symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi, and these relationships positively impact nutrient uptake and overall plant health. Endomycorrhizal fungi grow structures within plant root cells and extend hyphae beyond the root to take up water and nutrients from the surrounding soil. Ericoid mycorrhizae (ERM) are a group of highly specialized fungi that grow in symbiosis with ericaceous plants such as rhododendron, cranberry, blueberry, and wild huckleberry.  Huckleberries are members of Vaccinium and, despite requiring labor-intensive wild collection, they have substantial market value. The demand for huckleberries is great and work on developing reliable cultivation methods has occurred, yet they remain non domesticated. Their symbiosis with ERM permits them to thrive in acidic soils high in iron and aluminum but low in essential nutrients. The array of species of ERM associating with wild huckleberry species is mostly unknown. This work endeavors to collect, isolate, and identify ERM species from three sites composing multiple species of huckleberry.  ERM presence was confirmed through root staining, and specimens were cultured to isolate species for identification. Some of the ERM species were found at all sites, but the overall suite of ericoid species present differed among sites and huckleberry species.

    The Impact of Root-Fungi Mutualism on the Development of Trichomes on Tomato Plants (2012)

    Crop plants demonstrate increased nutrient uptake, pathogen resistance and tolerance to drought and herbivory when they form symbiotic relationships with fungal species. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) infect plant root cells, enabling them to acquire nutrition from the plant while enhancing root function, thus promoting overall plant health. Plants also have structural strategies to cope with environmental stresses. Trichomes, projections from epithelial cells, found on leaves and stems can counter herbivore attacks and mitigate some ill-effects of drought. Trichome shape and density diminish the effectiveness of herbivores by slowing the rate at which they chew, limiting their mobility, and by delivering secondary metabolites, which are often poisonous. The overall density of trichomes promotes water conservation by reflecting solar radiation and reducing evapotranspiration by slowing airflow over plant surfaces. My study aims to determine whether the density and types of trichomes on Solanum lycopersicon, differ significantly as a result of inoculation with two AMF species, Glomus mosseae and Glomus intraradices.  Trichome counts were conducted on adaxial and abaxial leaf surfaces and a cut portion of stem for three different tomato cultivars. In addition to finding variation in trichome density and type between inoculated and non-inoculated plants, comparisons were made between cultivars.


    Honors and Awards:______________________________________________________________________

    Eastern Washington University Libraries NCUR Award, Full funding, traveling expenses and spending cash awarded to two students for attending the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. (2012 & 2013)

    Ronald E. McNair PostBaccalaureate Achievement Program, Federally-funded research-oriented undergraduate program with the goal of increasing the attainment of Ph.D. degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society (2012 & 2013)


    Graduate School Acceptances:_____________________________________________________________

    University of Wisconsin, Madison, Ph.D. Plant Pathology

    Contact Information

    Eastern Washington University
    526 5th Street
    Cheney, WA 99004

    phone: 509.359.6200 (campus operator)

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