Welcome Deliang Kong - New SE

Submitted by editor on 12 April 2021.

Belowground does not mean out of sight! Join us in welcoming Deliang Kong as our new plant root ecology expert in our Editorial Board! He is a professor at Henan Agricultural University in China. He has kindly told us a bit about himself and his research in the interview below. Take a look!


Personal page: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Deliang-Kong

1. What's your main research focus at the moment?

I’ve been devoted in plant root ecology over a decade. Currently, I focus several topics in this field. I’m always fascinated by and interested in revealing the mystery of the relationships between roots and symbiont including mycorrhizal fungi and rhizobium. Despite a great advance in our understanding of such relationships, we are still in the infancy of the full story of the relationships. In my lab, we are examining the rhythm of the root-symbiont microbe relationships as well as responses of the relationships to exotic plant invasion and tree girdling. Second, multidimensionality is now recognized as the new paradigm for root trait variation. I’d like to know the ecological drivers of the two leading dimensions in roots, i.e., the root economics spectrum and the collaboration gradients with mycorrhizal fungi. The third, but not the last, is that I wonder whether and how plant roots coevolve with plant reproductive organs such as fruits and seeds. This is a fascinating perspective to understanding the linkage between above- and belowground plant parts, and could pave a new way for root ecology studies.

2. Can you describe your research career? Where, what, when?

I studied plant roots as early as in 2007 when I did my doctoral dissertation in a typical steppe in Inner Mongolia, north China. After that I was offered a postdoctor position with collaboration with Prof. Dali Guo and Prof. Hui Zeng for studying tree roots in south China in Peking University for two years. I was lucky to find an allometry between root cortex and stele, the two basic components in root structures responsible for resource absorption and transportation, respectively. In the following ten years, I’ve been devoted in uncovering the generality, mechanisms, and implications of such important allometry in root structures. I also studied exotic plant invasion for five years in Shenyang Agricultural University from 2015-2019 as an associated professor. In 2017-2018 I studied plant energy ecology as a visiting scholar in Prof. Jason Fridley’s lab in Syracuse University, USA. By the end of 2019, I came back to my hometown in Henan Province China, and continue to studying my loving roots as a professor in Henan Agricultural University.

3. How come that you became a scientist in ecology?

Almost 20 years ago when I was an undergraduate, my dream is to be a molecular biologist. It happened to change when I studied the alpine slipper orchid as a postgraduate student in southwest China. I was much abstracted in observing my pollinated stigma growing into a fruit. I came to study plant roots when I’m in Prof. Xingguo Han’s lab as a PhD candidate on grassland ecology in Inner Mongolia. The grassland is very different from my slipper orchid in the alpine ecosystems. Almost a year passed by and I still had no idea of the topic of my study. I remembered that I was a bit confused and worried about what I could do in the grassland. My roommate, Xiaotao Lv, now an outstanding professor, at that time was studying responses of leaf nutrient resorption to water and nutrient addition in a typical steppe. Then, I thought I could do something belowground in his place, and he agreed. I’m happy that I could choose and purse to studying roots over a decade, like a friend from knowing nothing at first and finally love each other.

4. What do you do when you're not working?

I like reading and travelling in my free time and vacations. After work I like to play badminton with my colleagues. I have a three-years old son, and I spend time with my kid in the garden, campus or sometimes watching cartoon together.