Dr. Ponder develops new methods to enhance detection of food-borne illness causing bacteria, identifies genes improving the survival and disease causing ability of bacteria that cause food-borne illness, and examines interactions of gastrointestival bacteria with each other and their host.
Dr. Ponder's laboratory studies the epidemiology and ecology of food-borne pathogens. The ability of a human pathogen to colonize a plant is influenced not only by environmental stresses such as temperature exposure to UV radiation and dehydration, but also by the interaction with the native species of plant microbiota. Ponder is working to identify antagonistic or permission members of the produce microbiota to develop strategies that make use of beneficial bacteria to control growth and survival of pathogens on produce, allowing for design of effective packing and control procedures post-harvest. She is also looking at differences in survival, host specificity, or expression of virulence genes using a combination of molecular subtyping methodologies and comparative molecular techniques to enhance the ability to develop intervention strategies and interpret subtyping data used to trace food-borne outbreaks.