18221713_1117961871642038_1637401120501260552_nI am an evolutionary biologist captivated by understanding how symbioses are established, maintained, and evolve over time. I use a combination of computational approaches and wet-lab experiments to study fungal symbioses with plants, other fungi, insects, bacteria, and humans. 

I am currently a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley in the labs of Drs. John Taylor and Rachel Brem. My work is focused on understanding population structure and infection biology of Coccidioides. Also known as Valley Fever, infections from this human fungal pathogen are on the rise in the South Western United States, including California.

I received my PhD in Genetics & Genomics at Duke University co-advised by Drs. Rytas Vilgalys and Jennifer Wernegreen using plant-associated bacteria and fungi as a model to study evolution of symbioses. This work identified aspects of microbial interactions that lead to long term inter-kingdom symbioses and the repercussions for microbial genome evolution. The research was primarily focused on elucidating interaction mechanisms between bacterial endosymbionts (pictured below) and their host fungi via whole genome sequencing and comparative genomics.

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Transmission electron micrograph of bacteria living inside of fungal cells

During my PhD research, I was also investigating how plant associated fungi interact with free-living soil bacteria known as ‘mycorrhizal helpers’ (pictured below) to facilitate bacterial-fungal-plant symbioses. 

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Fungi & bacteria growing together in lab

To better understand these symbioses and others I use computational biology, microfluidics, microscopy, and systematics to integrate and interpret a combination of genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic, and volatomic data. 

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Making time lapse videos of bacterial fungal interactions with custom designed microfluidic devices

Before my time at Duke I earned my masters degree at Humboldt State University with Dr. Terry Henkel. My research efforts were aimed at documenting ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungal diversity in the central Guiana Shield (Guyana) region of northeastern South America. Specifically my project was focused on systematics, alpha-taxonomy, and molecular ecology of the mushroom genus Clavulina (Basidiomycota, Cantharellales). This work is part of on-going research aimed at documenting and describing tropical plant fungal interactions.

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Neotropical Clavulina fungal diversity

 

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In addition to research I am strongly committed to teaching and leadership. I have experience teaching my own Mycology (Biology 540) course at Duke University, and have helped teach several college level Biology courses and field based workshops. I also  helped establish and am a past chair of the Mycological Society of America Student Section. 

My research has been supported by The National Science Foundation, The Department of Energy, NASA, and various local Mycological Societies.

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