Awardee: Gaurav S. Kandlikar
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Gaurav Kandlikar is a PhD candidate and NSF Graduate Research fellow in Dr. Nathan Kraft’s plant community ecology group. Gaurav is deeply fascinated by the origins and consequences of diversity, and in his research he uses a combination of ecological theory, field experiments, and molecular techniques to study the ecological processes that help maintain plant species diversity, especially in southern California grasslands. He also contributes to efforts to document diversity across California using modern environmental DNA sequencing. During his time at UCLA, Gaurav is also working on developing his sense of environmental and education ethics.
Bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms in the soil can have a dramatic impact on a variety of ecosystem processes. In this project, I will conduct a greenhouse experiment to quantify the extent to which plant-microbe interactions influence plant species interactions. I will then use novel theoret- ical models that I have developed, along with high-throughput DNA sequencing, to compare these microbial effects to estimates of plant competition from a parallel field experiment. This research will improve our understanding of whether soil microbes generally favor or hurt plant diversity, and will be important for managing and restoring plant diversity in California.