profile2017aI am an evolutionary geneticist captivated by understanding how symbioses are established, maintained, and evolve over time. My research offers insight into how fungi function in symbioses with humans, plants, and bacteria, and how genomes evolve as a consequence of symbioses.

I am currently a postdoctoral scholar working at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco in collaboration with Drs. Anita Sil, John Taylor and Rachel Brem. I am working to understand population diversity of Coccidioides using Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS). Also known as Valley Fever, infections from this deadly 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 functional mechanisms of inter-kingdom symbioses and the genomic repercussions of symbioses for organisms that have co-evolved for millions of years. Specifically I studied interactions between bacterial endosymbionts (pictured below) as well as related free living soil bacteria and their host fungi. To better understand these symbioses and others I use microfluidics, microscopy, computational biology, and systematics to integrate a combination of genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic, and volatomic data. 

endobacteria TEM
Transmission electron micrograph of bacteria living inside of fungal cells

Before my time at Duke I received 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. 

Neotropical Clavulina fungal diversity


In addition to research I am strongly committed to teaching and leadership. I taught 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.