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Natalie Oram

Research Leader

Research Interests

I’m fascinated by grasslands and by how extreme weather events affect plant-soil interactions and the ecosystem functions that they drive. My research focuses on how grassland communities withstand climate extremes (e.g. floods and droughts). I am interested in how plant-soil microbe interactions change during these events, how (or if) they recover afterwards, and how these shifts in interactions affect plant and microbial community resilience. A plant’s functional traits can influence their interactions with microbes, and their response to extreme weather events, and I would like to understand more about the links between plant traits, microbial communities, and resilience.

 

Current Projects

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Leaders 2025 fellowship (grant number grant agreement 754380), in collaboration with Dr. Fiona Brennan (Soil Environmental Microbiology Group, Teagasc), Prof. Dr. Michael Bahn (University of Innsbruck), and Prof. Dr. Richard Bardgett (The University of Manchester).

The frequency and severity of drought is increasing, and this leaves grasslands parched. The long-lasting effects of drought may be more difficult to see, as they may be hiding beneath our feet. Plants are continuously interacting with the multitude of soil microbes that inhabit the zone around their roots. Plants transfer carbon, a major food source, to microbes and in return, microbes directly or indirectly increase nutrients, vitamins and other essential resources available for the plant. Drought could disrupt this exchange by reducing the amount of carbon transferred to the soil microbes. The disruption could have a lasting effect, leaving the soil with a ‘memory’ of drought. A soil’s memory could hamper a grassland’s ability to cope with a future drought. Like Alice, we will jump down the rabbit hole to find out more about soil’s memory of drought: how the soil community changes, and if it functions differently after drought. We will discover if a soil’s memory of drought affects the grassland’s response to a future drought. We will find out if soil memories are different in grasslands with more plant species, and if these grasslands could offer a solution to better cope with a drier future.

 Read more about our project in TResearch.

Education

  • 2018       PhD Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation, Wageningen University, NL
  • 2012       MSc. Organic Agriculture, Agroecology, Wageningen University, NL
  • 2009       BSc. Agricultural Science, University of Guelph, CA

For a full list of Natalie’s peer-reviewed scientific publications, see her ORCID account

Oram, N. J., Sun, Y., Abalos, D., van Groenigen, J. W., Hartley, S., & De Deyn, G. B. (2021). Plant traits of grass and legume species for flood resilience and N2O mitigation. Functional Ecology, 35, 2205– 2218. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13873

Oram, N., Ingrisch, J., Gleixner, G., Praeg, N., Illmer, P., Brennan, F., Bardgett, R., and Bahn, M.: Drought intensity effects on grassland plant communities and soil microbial community function, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-8870, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-8870, 2021.

Oram, NJ, De Deyn, GB, Bodelier, PLE, Cornelissen, JHC, van Groenigen, JW, Abalos, D. Plant community flood resilience in intensively managed grasslands and the role of the plant economic spectrum. J Appl Ecol. 2020; 57: 1524– 1534. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13667