My project will determine the composition of the bacterial communities within Greater Wellington, Hawkes Bay and Southland soils. These samples cover a collection of land uses (including indigenous forests, horticultural lands, plantation forests, dairy farms and dry stock farms), allowing us to test the impact different land uses have on bacterial distributions, the functions they’re carrying out and overall soil health.
A key component of this research will be analyzing the distribution of microbial functional genes. By knowing what functions the bacteria are carrying out, we can improve the analysis of soil health; we can see what functions the microbes are carrying out in unhealthy soils (such as heavy metal transformations) and so predict what is causing the infertility (such as an overabundance of heavy metals). From this we can produce a more complete soil health index, allowing it to become diagnostic in nature.