Dr Jonathan Plett
Western Sydney University
A spoonful of dirt contains billions of micro-organisms, some of which cause are harmful to plants while others cohabit peacefully with the plant, boosting plant immunity and provide essential raw nutrients. These plant/micro-organism relationships, are governed by a form of ‘dialogue’. Instead of words, however, chemical signals are used as a communication medium.
Dr Plett studies how plants interpret these chemical signals to distinguish between disease-causing and peaceful micro-organisms. Understanding how a plant responds to these chemical communications will allow us to breed plants that are better able to respond to, and benefit from, partnerships with soil micro-organisms while ignoring or rebuffing disease causing micro-organisms.
Jonathan has been interviewed by specialised media outlets (e.g. Farming Future, and the Australian Grain Magazine) and generalist media (e.g. Hawkesbury Gazette). Due to his expertise in studying plant/fungal relationships, he is part of a documentary covering the amazing world of fungi, which will be distributed within Australian schools and used to foster citizen science projects.
In addition, through school-based science literacy programs he conducted hands-on science classes in over 100 classrooms from kindergarten through Year 12 in both urban schools as well as part of a program targeted to Aboriginal youth in rural/remote schools.