Britt Koskella

Research Expertise and Interest

Bacteriophage, Microbiome, plant-pathogen interactions, disease ecology

Research Description

Britt Koskella is an evolutionary ecologist interested in the role that species interactions play in shaping the vast genotypic and phenotypic diversity found in nature. Using theory from coevolution, Disease Ecology, and infection genetics, she directly test the underlying assumptions and predicted outcomes of host-pathogen and microbial interactions through the lens of complex environmental change and the importance of agricultural sustainability.

Her research program seeks to unravel the dynamic ecological and evolutionary relationships between hosts, symbionts and their pathogens using both in vitro and in vivo approaches. There are three interdependent questions she is addressing in her current research program: (i) How does transmission mode of microbiota influence the host-microbiome interaction? (ii) How do bacteriophage viruses of bacteria shape the microbiome? and (iii) What general principles govern microbiome-mediated protection against pathogens?

In the News

How do you cultivate a healthy plant microbiome?

A new study by University of California, Berkeley, microbial ecologists used experimental evolution to help identify the core microbiome of commercial tomatoes. They selected for those microbial taxa that best survived on the plants and then showed that these “domesticated” microbial communities are able to effectively fend off random microbes that land on the plants. In other words, these selected communities look like a stable, healthy plant microbiome, akin to what a robust tomato plant might pass to its offspring.

When it comes to climate change, don’t forget the microbes

Scientists are rightly focused on anticipating and preventing the major impacts that climate change will have on humans, plants and animals. But they shouldn’t forget the effect on Earth’s microbes, on which everything else depends, warns a group of 33 biologists from around the globe.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
December 9, 2019
Offering hope to farmers interested in cultivating healthy crops with less fertilizer and pesticides, a team of microbial ecologists has used experimental evolution to identify the core microbiome of commercial tomatoes. The microbiome, which helps the plant naturally fight off pestilent microbes, could be managed with probiotics and other measures, leading to healthier crops and fields. "I see the implications of this work not just being about probiotics, but also about guiding agricultural practice," says assistant integrative biology professor Britt Koskella, the study's lead author. "When planting fields, we should be thinking about how what we do -- whether it is age structuring of crops or monocropping versus crop rotations, what is in the soil or what is living nearby -- can impact the acquisition and health of the plant microbiome. We should be manipulating the growing conditions in a way that microbial transmission is more akin to what would happen naturally." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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