He’s well-acquainted with the tropical plants and landscapes of Southeast Asia. But for Dr. Kadeem J. Gilbert, sandhill cranes visiting an agricultural field after a corn harvest counts as an unusual sight. Not for long, however.
The W.K. Kellogg Biological Station community is excited to welcome Gilbert to Michigan State University and to southwest Michigan. Gilbert is joining MSU as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Biology and resident faculty member at KBS, marking the first such hire following the retirements of several long-time faculty at the Station.
“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Gilbert to our KBS community as a remarkable scholar of plant biology, an area of excellence for which KBS and MSU are globally renowned,” said KBS Director Fredric Janzen. “With his most recent work on physiology and leaf microbiomes of weed and crop plants, he also will contribute expertise to our world-class team of experts concerned with sustainable agriculture issues.”
Kadeem J. Gilbert
Gilbert comes to KBS from the Pennsylvania State University, where he was a USDA-NIFA postdoctoral fellow in Penn State’s Department of Entomology. He earned his Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University.
His research interests center on plants and their interactions with nearby animals or microbes that have physical contact with their leaf surfaces.
“I am especially interested in how plants change the micro-environmental conditions of those surfaces to then affect what is able to live there,” said Gilbert. “For example, acidifying the leaf can prevent certain bacteria from living there.
“I also have a particular interest in carnivorous plants, especially the tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes) of Southeast Asia,” he added.
An early interest in science
Kadeem Gilbert had an early curiosity about the natural world. An avid reader, he frequented the science section of the library as a child, and he read all the National Geographic magazines he could get his hands on. By about the age of 10 his interests had all but settled on biology, though there still was room for discovery.
“I was more interested in animals until my freshman year of college, when I took an intro botany class from Professor Karl Niklas, which sparked a greater interest in plants,” he shared.
As an undergraduate at Cornell University, Gilbert participated in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program as a student investigator both at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest and at the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center.
Strengthening a culture of collaboration
Jeff Conner, faculty member and former interim director at KBS, looks forward to Gilbert’s contributions to the collaborative environment that is a defining quality of the Station.
“I think Kadeem will interact broadly at KBS, as his work fits very well with our focus on interspecific interactions and our strengths in community and microbial ecology,” Conner said. “He also broadens KBS research into areas like phylogenetics—evolutionary relationships among species—and plant physiology.”
Join us in welcoming Dr. Gilbert to KBS!