Jessica Wallace

Maîtrise en biologie
The ecology of microbial communities associated with Acer saccharum

Université du Québec à Montréal
Department of Biological Science
141, av. du Président-Kennedy
Montréal, Québec, Canada
H2X 3Y7

Directeur: Steven Kembel


  • M.Sc. Biology - Université du Québec à Montréal (2014 - 2015)
  • B.Sc. Biology - University of Victoria (2011)

Research Project

Bacteria, Archaea, viruses and fungi can all be found living on and within plant tissues with distinctly different communities existing between the structures. Plant-associated bacterial and fungal communities have many impacts on the host plant’s fitness and function. While some of these plant-microbe interactions are negative, many are beneficial. The microbes can serve either as a protection against pathogens or can increase uptake of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. While the microbes affect their hosts, in turn the plant’s attributes and surrounding environment drive the structure and assembly of the microbial communities themselves. However the dynamics and interactions of these pathways and their causes are poorly understood.

Using high-throughput DNA sequencing technology we can visualize and quantify selected genes found in environmental samples using molecular markers. These genes can then be identified based on phylogenetic similarity to previously determined DNA sequences. By selecting for bacterial or fungal DNA and matching these sequences to known genetic markers, a phylogeny of the community’s members and their relative abundances can be determined.

This project is investigating microbial communities found on the deciduous tree species Acer saccharum Marsh. This species known commonly as the sugar maple is an incredibly important tree species in North America both economically and ecologically. The species is very sensitive to many environmental stresses and conditions including light availability, soil conditions and altitude. These can have major effects on A. saccharum’s health and survival in both adults and seedlings. This project is examining the drivers of variation in the microbial communities and the effects these communities have on the plant’s function and fitness under varying conditions and environmental gradients.


  • Wallace, J., Alquilué, N., Archambault, C., Carpentier, S., Francoeur, X., Greffard, M.H., Laforest-L., I, Galicia, L. & Messier, C. (2015). Present forest management structures and policies in temperate forests of Mexico: Challenges and prospects for unique tree species assemblages. The Forestry Chronicle,91(3): 306-317, 10.5558/tfc2015-052.


  • Wallace, J.A. and Kembel, S.W. (2015) The Microbiome of Acer saccharum: environmental drivers of microbial communities in different plant structures. CEF annual conference. Poster presentation. Rimouski, Canada.
  • Wallace, J.A. and Kembel, S.W. (2015) The Microbiome of Acer saccharum: altitude and tree line effects in different plant structures. Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution annual conference. Oral presentation. Saskatoon, Canada.

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