Research Team Awarded $1 Million for Collaborative Plant Investigation

Jyotsna Sharma will lead the study of distribution factors in plant communities, environmental spaces.

Jyotsna Sharma

Jyotsna Sharma

Jyotsna Sharma, an assistant professor of plant ecology and conservation in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at Texas Tech University, will lead a collaborative investigation on plant and fungal distributions.

For its study, the team received a $1,135,463 grant from the National Science Foundation. Texas Tech's part of the grant is $593,341.

“In just a few years, Dr. Sharma has developed a plant ecology program from inception to an established, well-funded research program that is employing undergraduate and graduate students and producing high-quality research publications,” said Eric Hequet, professor and chairman of the Department of Plant and Soil Science. “This grant is a testament of the high quality of her research. We are extremely proud of her achievements.”

The project, titled “Testing a Microbial-Association-Distribution Hypothesis to Explain Spatial Distribution and Species Co-existence in a Community of Epiphytic Plants,” will test an overarching hypothesis on the factors that lead to distribution of plants. Particularly, the hypothesis states “the distribution of mycorrhizal fungi together with the specificity of association influences the distribution of individual plant species, the structure of plant communities and partitioning of environmental niche space.”

Testing this hypothesis could lead to methods of plant distribution previously unrecognized and improved models that predict the composition of a plant community over time.

Sharma's work focuses on understanding the ecological factors influencing the growth, distribution and diversity of plants.

“We are looking forward to potentially transforming how plant distributions and community structure are explained by addressing a question that has been identified as one of the most important unanswered questions in ecology,” Sharma said.

Sharma received her bachelor's degree in horticulture from the University of Arkansas. She conducted graduate research in plant ecology at the University of Missouri and was a postdoctoral research associate at Iowa State University.

Her work focuses on understanding the ecological factors influencing the growth, distribution and diversity of plants. Her research is designed to discover answers to questions regarding plant ecology and conservation, symbiotic plant-fungal interactions and plant and fungal ecological genetics.

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CASNR

The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources is made up of six departments:

  • Agriculture and Applied Economics
  • Agricultural Education and Communications
  • Animal and Food Science
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Plant and Soil Science
  • Natural Resources Management

The college also consists of eleven research centers and institutes, including the Cotton Economics Research Institute, the International Cotton Research Center and the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute.

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