Exploring microbial fitness in forest floor environments
I use forest Saccharomyces yeasts to study the ecological processes that influence microbial fitness in nature. While we know a lot about microbial fitness in laboratory experiments, we know little about what determines fitness in nature. Saccharomyces paradoxus, a close relative of baker's yeast, lives on or near oak trees in oak forests, including a local German forest, and my colleagues and I isolate it easily from leaf litter and soil. I am currently investigating the influence of environmental nutrients, mutualistic viruses, sexual reproduction, and extracellular toxins on yeast fitness in these forest floor environments.