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Chung studies how microbes shape ecosystems

Alan Flurry

University of Georgia plant biologist and ecologist, Anny Chung studies the smaller things in life to understand how microscopic organisms can influence entire ecosystems.

As an assistant professor jointly appointed in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Plant Pathology and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Department of Plant Biology, Chung studies how plant-microbe interactions shift the landscape—which plants are most abundant, how ecosystems change over time and the nature of the relationship between the plant and its microbes. Through her research, she has found that microbes can shape an entire ecosystem from underground up.

Our colleagues in the UGA CAES share this terrific faculty profile:

Despite microbes not having the charisma of butterflies or bees—flagship organisms that serve as mascots for conservation—Chung hopes people will come to understand the outsized role they play in nature.

“I hope people get an appreciation for all the things that go on in the background of what we think about when we think of nature,” Chung said. “There are things that you can’t necessarily see, but they are the building blocks of the much larger picture.”

Chung classifies herself as an ecologist, although she fell into the field largely by accident while an undergraduate studying biology at Washington University in St. Louis. Struggling to find summer internship opportunities as an international student, she finally found an opportunity doing summer fieldwork at the Tyson Research Center.

“I ended up learning a lot that summer, and I just kept going back each year. I graduated from being an intern to doing independent research and learning how to write proposals,” said Chung. “I think that helped me to develop as a scientist much earlier than I could have in other scenarios.”

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Image: Anny Chung (Photo by Chamberlain Smith/UGA)

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