Ms Lizzy Ramela
Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology
My area of research is a group of bacteria called rhizobia. Rhizobia are soil bacteria that are capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen into a form that living organisms can utilize. An interesting fact about rhizobia is that they can form a symbiotic relationship with leguminous plants which is initiated through an exchange of chemical signals. In this relationship, the rhizobia provide the plant with fixed nitrogen and the plant provides the rhizobia with food in the form of carbohydrates. All of this happens in specialized organs called nodules.
The focus of my MSc is looking at the rhizobia found in plantations in South Africa, particularly Acacia mearnsii plantations. I compare the rhizobial species found in different plantations in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mpumalanga. This is done by extracting the rhizobia form their nodule homes then identifying them using sequencing. Rhizobia have been studied in an array of environments, particularly in those where Acacia spp. have invaded the land, but this is not the case for plantations. Not many studies have looked at the rhizobial community in plantations in South Africa and that is what makes my project worthwhile.