K-State biologist Sonny Lee receives NSF CAREER award

MANHATTAN — Sonny Lee, assistant professor in the Division of Biology in Kansas State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has received a $900,703 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program award, known as a CAREER award, to study the interaction between plants and their soil microbiomes in the face of environmental change, especially drought.

K-State biologist Sonny Lee has received NSF funding to study the interaction between plants and their soil microbiomes in the face of environmental change, especially drought.

According to Lee, plant, soil and ecosystem functions are linked to the composition of the rhizosphere, or soil, microorganisms. Understanding how plant-rhizobiome interaction influences ecosystem sustainability is critical for anticipating ecosystem responses to environmental change.

The project, “CAREER: How do rhizosphere associated microorganisms and plant host interact to regulate soil microbial processes,” aims to link plant gene diversity to rhizosphere, or soil, microbial composition and determine how the rhizobiome affects plant function and resistance to drought stress.

“This project will advance the knowledge base to help students, decision-makers and managers learn fundamental concepts and gain context to manage ecosystems under the pressure of global climate change and drought,” said Lee.

The award also supports outreach efforts as the project integrates education with research. Lee’s team will work with students and citizen scientists to determine the mechanistic interaction between plant host ecotype and rhizobiome and how it affects fitness and drought resistance.

“I am very excited about Dr. Lee’s CAREER award,” said Chris Culbertson, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “His research not only drives forward fundamental ecological science but will also help Kansas farmers and ranchers better respond to changing climatic conditions, especially drought.”

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttp://www.sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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