Evolutionary Biogeography of Underground Microbial Networks



Justin Stewart, MSc

PhD student at: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Legume + Symbiosis Group

Supervisors: Prof. Toby Kiers, Dr. James Weedon

Overall aim: With my project I am to explore the global evolutionary biogeography of underground networks using experimental, geospatial, and statistical modelling approaches. I will identify how plant root microbiomes assemble and how this differs from domesticated and wild crops. Specifically plants will be stressed through nutrient deprivation as to shift microbiome structure.

Key Objectives & Expected Results


  • Identify how domesticated and wild crop root microbiomes are recruited.
  • Quantify how functional diversity varies across legume species.
  • Identify the link and disconnect between phylogenetic, taxonomic, and functional microbiome structure.

Expected Results:

  • We expect domesticated microbiomes to be limited phylogenetically, taxonomically, and functionally based on artificial natural selection of traits by humans.