Dr. Jeremiah Henning's Research

Areas of interest

 Areas of interest
·     Plant-microbial interactions
·     Community ecology of mutualisms
·     Soil biodiversity and carbon storage
·     Biodiversity and ecosystem function linkages
·     Community and ecosystem response to global change

Broadly, my group is interested in the biotic and abiotic contexts that shape the composition of ecological communities and the functioning of ecosystems. We use a combination of microcosm experiments, manipulative field experiments, and global-scale observational experiments to explore: 1) the drivers of biodiversity at local and global scales, 2) how fine-scale changes in plant-microbiomes scale to influence community interactions and ecosystem function, and 3) how global change will re-shape interactions among microbial communities, plant communities, plant microbiomes, and ecosystem function. We are conducting most of this work in coastal dune ecosystems along the gulf coast.

Dr. Henning's research page work diagram

What are the drivers of  biodiversity at local and global scales?
Since the time of Wallace and Darwin, global biodiversity patterns have fascinated scientists; however, the most diverse area in the world, the soil, still remains a mystery. To understand the biodiversity and abundance patterns of belowground communities globally, as well as the factors that drive them, we implore macroecological and computational approaches to synthesize across a variety of soil bacterial and fungal communities. This provides us a set of testable hypotheses for drivers of microbial biodiversity.  We then test these hypotheses by conducting a wide-variety of biotic and abiotic drivers in manipulative field experiments. By collaborating within global networks such as the Nutrient Network (NutNet) and Warming and Removal in Mountains (WaRM), as well as experiments established around Mobile, we can unravel the underlying factors driving microbial biodiversity.

Do fine-scale changes in plant microbiomes scale to influence community interactions and ecosystem function across the landscape?
Changes in the composition of microbiome communities can alter plant host phenotype and performance, which can scale to shape plant community dynamics and ecosystem function. Using mesocosm approaches, our group explores how the  diversity and composition of microbiome communities regulate host function. To conduct this work, our group is isolating and maintaining organisms from natural plant microbiomes and maintaining those microbial taxa within our lab. Then we are able to construct synthetic microbiome communities to understand how plant-microbiome and microbe-microbe interactions shape plant host function.

How will global change re-shape interactions among microbial communities, hosts, and ecosystem function? 
Global change alters plant productivity, carbon allocation to symbionts, and ecosystem inputs, which feedback to alter the structure and function of belowground symbiotic communities. To explore how global change is re-shaping the distribution of plant and soil communities and the subsequent feedback to community composition and ecosystem function, our group has established a wide variety of global change experiments in and around Mobile. We are interested in understanding how a wide variety of global change drivers, like eutrophication, habitat disturbance, drought, disease outbreaks, changes in herbivore density, and warming will shape the structure and function of ecosystems.


Recent publications

Wood, S., Henning, J.A., McKibben, T., Chen, L., Smith, M.L., Weber, M., Zemenick, A., & Ballen, C.J. Accepted. A scientist like me: demographic analysis of biology textbooks reveals both progress and long-term lags. Proc. B.

Rewcastle, K.E., Moore, J.A.M., Henning, J.A., Mayes, M.A., Patterson, C.M., Wang, G., Metcalfe D.B., Classen, A.T. 2020.  Investigating drivers of microbial activity and carbon mineralization in a forested bog. Pedosphere.

Henning, J.A., Ballen, C.J., Molina**, S. Cotner, S. 2019. Multi-faceted student identities demand multi-faceted teaching techniques. Frontiers in Education.

Henning, J.A., Weston, D.J. Timm, C., Pelletier, D.A., Jawdy, S. ,Classen, A.T. 2019. Low abundant root endophytic bacteria drive plant resource allocation and resource acquisition patterns. American Journal of Botany.

Henning, J.A., Read, Q.D., Sanders, N.J., Classen, A.T. 2019. Nitrogen, neighbors, and the ghosts of neighbors past influence on colonization patterns of co-occurring root-colonizing fungal symbionts. Ecosphere.

Schütte, U.M.E., Henning, J.A., Ye**, Y., Bowling**, A., Ford, J., Ekanayake, S., Fox, G., Turetsky, M., Waldrop, M., White, J.R., Bever, J.D. 2019. Effect of permafrost thaw on plant and soil fungal community in the boreal forest: Does fungal community change mediate plant productivity response? Journal of Ecology.

McKibben**, M.T.W. & Henning, J.A. 2018. Hemiparasites regulate alpine plant communities by increasing plant diversity and disrupting mycorrhizal interactions. PeerJ. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.5682.

Lugo M.A., Menoyo E., Negritto M.A., Henning J. A., Anton A.M. 2018. Arbuscular mycorrhizas and dark septate endophytes in grasses from Argentinean Puna. Mycologia. DOI: 10.1080/00275514.2018.1492846

Henning, J.A., Leppaanen, C., Bush, J.M., Sheldon, K.S., Gotelli, N., Gravel, D., Strauss, S., Simberloff, D., Wilson, E.O. 2017. A pioneering adventure becomes an ecological classic. ESA Bulletin – Paper Trails.


For Full listing visit Jeremiah's google scholar page or lab website.

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Co-PI, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Eloranta fellowship. 2017

PI, US National Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute fellowship 2014

Dr. Jeremiah Henning's Research
LSCB 121
Ph: (251) 460-7987
Currently seeking interested MS students