Survey of Nematode Communities in Soils of the North Central Region

Project Director: Mandy Bish, University of Missouri

Funded in 2023

Soil health is essential to ensure our food security. An estimated 95% of the global food supply is produced on soils. Nematode communities are commonly used bioindicators to assess the health of soil ecosystems and impact of disturbances caused by environmental and anthropogenic events. Yet information on nematode community dynamics in the North Central region of the US remains limited. Can we increase knowledge of nematode community dynamics in the North Central US to better understand and measure our impacts on the soil and potential disruptions to the soil food web?

We propose to utilize morphological characterization and DNA sequencing to develop a baseline understanding of nematode communities in the North Central United States. The initial focus will be on undisturbed soils in four different ecoregions of Missouri. Characterization of nematode communities in these soils will serve as baseline information for future projects. We plan to utilize this baseline data generated to secure future funding that will allow us to (1) monitor shifts in nematode community compositions over time and with changing climate conditions and (2) compare nematode communities from undisturbed and disturbed soils to better understand environmental and anthropogenic effects on North Central US soil health.


  • Collect and preserve nematode samples from undisturbed or minimally disturbed areas within four different ecoregions¬†of Missouri that span into seven additional North Central states
  • Image up to 50 nematodes per sample to develop a nematode reference guide
  • Use morphology to characterize nematodes within each sample
  • Extract nematode DNA from each sample for amplification and genomic sequencing with use of selected nematode-specific markers