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New 5-year grant for study of nectar microbial communities

Prof Tad Fukami studying flowers of Mimulus shrubs at Jasper Ridge

Stanford professor Tad Fukami has been honored with a 2017 Dimensions of Biodiversity award from the National Science Foundation to support his lab’s research on nectar microbial communities, related to three dimensions of biodiversity: functional, genetic and phylogenetic. The NSF award continues a decade of study that has involved hundreds of biology students at Jasper Ridge.  Congratulations, Tad!  

The research views flowers as miniature ecosystems in which the nectar is populated by changing communities of yeast and bacteria. The scientists will explore how those micro-organisms are introduced to the nectar and whether the order in which they arrive determines the final subset that end up living there. The research is expected to have lessons for how ecosystems of all sizes develop; this may aid in preserving rare species and in keeping ecosystems functioning in ways that benefit both humans and wildlife. In addition, because pollinators play a large role in establishing the microbial community in flowers, the study may have implications for effective pollination of crops.