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Wesley A Bickford, PhD

My research interests lie in wetland ecology, invasive species, and plant-microbial interactions. Specifically, I explore new and innovative restoration and invasive species management strategies that use molecular biology, community ecology, and plant-soil interactions as a foundation. My research is focused on adding new tools to complement conventional restoration strategies.

Improving restoration strategies through intervention of microbial symbiosis. Microbes are everywhere. In humans, they are vastly important to health and bodily function. Likewise, bacteria and fungi play hugely important roles in nutrient availability in soils, nutrient acquisition by plants, and plant tolerances to extreme conditions. Management outcomes depend heavily upon the proper links between plants and their microbiomes.

-Microbial interactions could make invasive plants more competitive and aggressive. Therefore, management approaches that target microbial interactions could decrease the expansion and aggressiveness of invasive species. We are working on developing such management tools by testing the impacts of disruption in microbial symbiosis on invasive plant health, nutrient acquisition, and expansion. 

-Success of native plant restoration is often predicated upon the proper microbial partners. In addition, invasive species soil microbial legacies could undermine restoration success after removal. Therefore, we are exploring the roles of soil microbes in successful restoration of plants of ecological and cultural importance and developing strategies for improving native species restoration.