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Benjamin Sikes

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Assistant Professor

Kansas Biological Survey

Assistant Scientist

Curriculum Vitae

Contact Information

Phone 785-864-1599
Phone 785-864-1920



Benjamin Sikes


Soil Microbial Ecology


The vast world belowground has been referred to as the poor man’s tropical rain forest. Research in my lab explores this diversity and interactions among species there as well as how soil microbial ecology cascades up to aboveground communities and ecosystem processes. We focus mainly on fungi (and some bacteria) that live in soils. We are interested in understanding the dynamics of microbe-plant symbioses, the role of soil microorganisms in community assembly (above and belowground) and the potential to leverage soil microbes in restoration. Our lab uses a combination of study methods in the field, greenhouse and in controlled lab conditions. We commonly employ a variety of tools including fungal culturing, next generation DNA sequencing and modeling.

My lab was just established at KBS/KU in late August 2013 so some new projects will certainly 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. We are currently starting two projects: 1) Drivers of root endophytes in wetland plants as analogs to early land plants and 2) Feedbacks between 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 belowground plant material, and the synergistic benefit to plants from functionally different fungi.

Research Interests

Community Ecology of Soil Microorganisms