Maybe you remember reading the classic Dr. Seuss tale as a child, Horton Hears a Who! Or you may have also seen the 2008 movie adaptation on TV or at some recent family vacation? For those who haven’t, or whose memory might be a little fuzzy, Horton the elephant discovers, and becomes the sole champion of, an entire microscopic community living on a speck of dust: the fabled city of Whoville.
A similar champion for the hidden microscopic communities of our world can be found here at IU–a research scientist by the name of Natalie Christian from Dr. Keith Clay’s lab in the biology department. However, instead of a speck of dust, Natalie’s microscopic communities form inside of plant leaves, and instead of the Whos of Whoville, the inhabitants of these leaf communities are tiny fungi called endophytes, for which the Latin translation literally means “inside plant.” One of Natalie’s central research goals is to better understand the importance of these microscopic communities for the health and well-being of their host plants. (more…)