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Faculty Research
Dr. Mary Ruth Griffin

My education and research background is in Botany. My area of expertise is in Plant Symbiology, which examines the symbiological and environmental interactions between plants and organisms, such as bacteria, fungi and insects. In the real world study of plant symbiology, plants act as both willing and unwilling hosts for a myriad of mutualistic, commensal and parasitic organisms. Organisms, which live and occupy space internally within a plant, are commonly referred to as endophytes, while those residing externally on plant surfaces are called ectophytes. Both endophytes and ecotophytes can influence the overall vitality of their hosts in a variety of ways. For example, in numerous scientific studies, these organisms have been shown to affect their hosts by altering characteristics such as the overall plant growth rate, fruit/seed productivity, nutrient allocation, cellular development, pest/pathogen resistance and secondary compound production. Part of my fascination with this area of study involves the fact that this scientific approach involves both experimental discovery and application. Plant-host colonization varies based on plant species, plant age, plant health and environmental conditions such as soil nutrient availability. Survey studies involving the isolation and identification of host-specific colonizing organisms at environmentally unique sites can provide valuable insights into the mechanisms of symbiology. In addition, intentional application of specific compounds, biological agents or augmentation of environmental conditions, such as soil amendments can encourage colonization by beneficial organisms that can assist the plant (crop) to produce desired effects for commercial growers.

What I am interested in accomplishing with undergraduate research:

Initiation: Selection of a commonly grown economically valuable crop to survey

Identification of 3-4 sites for environmental comparison study, such as sunlight exposure and soil nutrient comparison

Strobel, S. A., & Strobel, G. A. (2007). Plant endophytes as a platform for discovery-based undergraduate science education. Nature Chemical Biology, 3(7), 356-359.

Application approach will vary based on needs/wants of grower

Griffin, M. R. (2013). Biocontrol and Bioremediation: Two areas of endophytic research, which hold great promise. Advances in Endophytic Research pp. 25—282. Springer, New Delhi.

Equipment needs: This project will require the purchase of a mobile laminar flow hood.