The microbial world is one of the last remaining frontiers in the study of biological diversity. While microbes associated with plant roots and leaves have been studied extensively, we know far less about their association with plant seeds, and almost nothing about their interactions with one another. Using a common plant species and the microbes associated with its seeds as a model system, three biologists and one chemist will bring their individual expertise to bear on a novel problem that will facilitate our understanding of large-scale ecological patterns in terms of processes occurring at levels of organization from the biochemical up to the forest community. At the same time, we will all become conversant with the new molecular biological and statistical techniques upon which this new area of biology depends. Because each of us brings specific skills and background that will facilitate our interaction, each of us will learn from one another. And through our collaboration with scientists at Argonne National Laboratory we will learn approaches not within any of our own toolkits. All of our professional perspectives and research orientations will change as a result, in ways that none of us would be able to accomplish alone. The proposed research project will also be an example of interdisciplinary research that could serve as a valuable model for scientists at Hope College and other GLCA institutions.