Dr. Bridget E. Hilbig
Tracy Hall Science Center (TY)
Teaching Philosophy & Focus
I believe that people learn best when the process begins with basic curiosity and is followed by interactive, inquiry-based learning. The power of this approach to teaching and learning lies in its potential to increase intellectual engagement and promote a deeper understanding through hands-on investigation. It challenges students’ preconceptions while demonstrating the process and nature of science. To achieve this goal, I incorporate inquiry-based activity whenever possible. I strive to make my lectures engaging through incorporating activities such as think/pair/share, concept mapping, and demonstrations. For each activity, I identify questions that encourage critical thinking and that cannot be answered by simply recalling facts.
Research Areas of Interest
My research and teaching interests are broadly focused on addressing both longstanding and novel questions linking above- and below-ground biodiversity. I use biological invasions as unique “natural experiments,” and managed ecosystems (agroecosystems), to gain insight into plant-soil interactions that drive plant growth and plant community assembly. Through both field experiments and targeted greenhouse/lab experiments, my research addresses two overarching questions:
- How does the composition of the soil fungal community, particularly mycorrhizas, affect plant species co-existence and the competitive ability of rare and common plants
- How does the identity and provenance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi affect plant health and production in managed systems?
Enhancing soil biological complexity to conserve water in urban agriculture (ongoing): In natural systems, plants depend heavily on interactions with soil microbes to tolerate stressful growing conditions, such as drought. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi can increase drought resistance in plants. By functioning as an extension of the root system, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are essential for plant acquisition of water, nitrogen, and phosphorus from the soil. Through their production of extraradical hyphae and glomalin, they increase the water holding capacity of soils. While the multifunctionality and benefits of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to drought resistance and ecosystem health is well studied, the practical application of them in urban systems, especially urban agriculture, is unrepresented in the literature. Consequently, many questions regarding the practical application of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi remain unanswered. The main objective of this research project is to test how arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi identity and provenance can reduce irrigation requirements, while contributing to healthier and more productive plants, in three different urban agricultural systems.
The role of plant-soil feedback from different plant functional groups and soil management on perennial bunchgrass establishment during restoration (ongoing with Point Blue, CA): While many mechanisms have been proposed to explain the success of invasive species and the restoration of invaded lands, plant-soil feedback has been widely proposed and tested over the past two decades. Plant-soil feedback is defined as plant-influenced changes to the soil microbial community that then positively or negatively affects subsequent plant growth. However, less is known on how specific microorganisms may mediate or inhibit growth of desirable species—a gap which limits our ability to directly encourage plants like perennial grasses.
Naturally occurring pathogenic fungi of invasive Bromus species—a potential biological control agent: Fungal-plant interactions play a strong role in structuring plant communities. Antagonistic fungi have the potential to serve as biological control agents for invasive annual grasses. Ustilago bullata is the causal agent of head smut in grass species. Plants infected with U. bullata do not produce viable seed and thus can help to reduce the annual seed bank reservoir. We examine the potential for U. bullata to act as a biological control agent of Bromus grasses (invasive to California) through experiments examining the life cycle of this fungi, its synchrony with hosts, host specificity, and environmental conditions needed for infection.
Sites to Share
Monday - Friday
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Room TY424, Mail Code 2504
Weber State University
Department of Botany
1415 Edvalson St., Dept. 2504
Ogden, UT 84408-2505505
Tracy Hall Science Center (TY)
Click for campus map