Academic degrees and fellowships
Postdoctoral fellow, Bio-Protection Research Centre, Lincoln University, New Zealand, 2012-2013
David H. Smith Postdoctoral fellow, University of Texas at Austin, 2010-2012
Ph.D., Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Canada, 2010
B.S., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, 2001
KU Ecosystems Research Group
Areas of specialization
Soil microbial ecology, community ecology of soil microorganisms, plant-soil interactions
The vast world below ground has been referred to as the poor man’s tropical rain forest. Ben studies community ecology of soil microorganisms. Research in the lab explores this diversity and interactions among species there as well as how soil microbial ecology cascades up to aboveground communities and ecosystem processes. He focuses mainly on fungi (and some bacteria) that live in soils, and is interested in understanding the dynamics of microbe-plant symbioses, the role of soil microorganisms in community assembly (above and below ground) and the potential to leverage soil microbes in restoration. The lab uses a combination of study methods in the field, greenhouse and in controlled lab conditions, commonly employing a variety of tools including fungal culturing, next generation DNA sequencing and modeling.
Ben's lab was just established at the University of Kansas in late August 2013, so new projects will develop over time. Past and ongoing projects include the role of mycorrhizal fungi in plant succession, pathogen accumulation in non-native plants over time, benefits of fungal additions on ecosystem restoration, and interactive assembly of plant and root endophyte communities. New projects under way:
- drivers of root endophytes in wetland plants as analogs to early land plants;
- feedbacks among fire, fungi and plants in determining fire regime.
Past undergraduate projects have explored competition among fungi from different land use types (natural, disturbed, converted to agriculture), the ability of fungi from different land uses to decompose above- and below-ground plant material, and the synergistic benefit to plants from functionally different fungi.
J.R. Powell and B.A. Sikes. 2014. Method or Madness: Does OTU delineation bias our perceptions of fungal ecology? New Phytologist. 202: 1095-1097.
B.A. Sikes, H. Maherali, J.N. Klironomos. 2014. Mycorrhizal fungal growth responds to soil characteristics, but not plant host identity, during a primary lacustrine dune succession. Mycorrhiza. 24(3):219-226.
B.A. Sikes, H. Maherali, J.N. Klironomos. 2012. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities change among three stages of primary sand dune succession but do not alter plant growth. Oikos. 121:1791-1800.
K.C. Courtney, L.D. Bainard, B.A. Sikes, A.M. Koch, M.M. Hart, H. Maherali, J.N. Klironomos. 2012. Determining a minimum detection threshold in termal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. Journal of Microbiological Methods. 88(1):14-18.
J. Harnden, A.S. MacDougall, B.A. Sikes. 2011. Field-based effects of allelopathy in invaded tallgrass prairie. Botany. 89(4):227-234.
S.A. Schnitzer, J.N. Klironomos, J. HilleRisLambers, L.L. Kinkel, P.B. Reich, K. Xiao, M.C. Rillig, B.A. Sikes, R.M. Callaway. 2011. Soil microbes drive the classic plant diversity-productivity pattern. Ecology. 92(2):296-393. [Selected by Faculty of 1000]
- - Development of wetlands in aging reservoirs: Opportunities to enhance wetland capacity and improve water quality. 2016
- - Local ecosystem workshop for 6-12 Kansas educators 2016
- - Assessing microbial community phylogeny and diversity along a natural climate gradient 2015
- - Can improving predictions of soil oxygen dynamics increase understanding of greenhouse gas hotspots and hot moments? 2015
- - Collaborative research: Hierarchical functioning of river macrosystems in temperate steppes—from continental to hydrogeomorphic patch scales 2015
- - Connecting soil O2 and greenhouse gas fluxes 2015
- - Data sharing agreement for the management of protected and sensitive species data. 2015
- - Diagnostic study of the lakes Laborde (or lake Cocoyer), Lachaux, and Douat to identify zones of protection. 2015
- - Dissertation research: Historical changes in food web structure of large rivers 2015
- - Ecosystems soil O2 and GHG model 2015