I 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 advised by Dr. Rytas Vilgalys 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.