Project Type

URC Presentation

College or School


Class Year



Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences


Genetics: Genomics, German

Faculty Research Advisor

Kelley Thomas

Second Faculty Research Advisor

Gregg E. Moore


Occurrences of dune dieback, a rapidly spreading blight impacting coastal dunes, are becoming increasingly more common along the seacoasts of MA and NH. Believed to be caused by pathogenic nematode (Meloidogyne spp.), dieback results in death of American beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata), which provides the primary, natural mechanism to stabilize dunes and protect coasts from the erosional effects of storm winds and surges. Despite evidence of Meloidogyne spp. in dieback events reported by others, it has not been found in dieback events in MA and NH.

We hypothesize that dieback may be the result of multiple factors, including nematodes and other organisms that may exploit the tissue damage such organisms can cause. To resolve the organisms involved in dieback in our region, we are conducting metagenomic analyses on the entire community of organisms in the rhizosphere of suspected dieback events and comparing them to reference sites nearby. This approach extracts DNA from all of the organisms on the root zone, allowing us to sequence that DNA and match results to a database of all the known sequences in the world, including putative parasites and diseases, and their vectors. Our analysis will look at the commonalities among the communities determining the most likely causes of dieback, including bacteria, fungi and other microbes linked to these events. The results will aid resource managers develop effective strategies to limit the spread of dieback in the future.


University of New Hampshire, Hubbard Center for Genome Studies, Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Illumina, QIIME, Earth Microbiome Project, NatureMetrics, Handoo Z., et al. Description and SEM Observations of Meloidogyne sasseri n. sp. (Nematoda: Meloidogynidae), parasitizing beachgrasses. Journal of Nematology, 25(4): 628-641. 1993.