I am a mycologist and 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 fungal genomes evolve as a consequence. I am an Assistant Professor in the Botany and Plant Pathology Department at Oregon State University.
During my postdoctoral research, I was working to understand population diversity of Coccidioides in collaboration with Drs. Anita Sil, John Taylor and Rachel Brem at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. I was using Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) to study Valley Fever, the disease caused by Coccidioides. Infections from this deadly human fungal pathogen are rising at troubling rates in the Western United States, including Northern California and Southern Washington, where novel therapeutic targets are badly needed.
Before my postdoc, I was studying plant-associated bacterial fungal interactions. This work led to my PhD with Dr. Rytas Vilgalys (Genetics & Genomics, Duke University). By studying interactions between soil fungi and their bacterial endosymbionts (pictured below) in an evolutionary framework, I identified functional mechanisms and genomic repercussions of these inter-kingdom symbioses. To better understand fungal symbioses with bacteria, I use microfluidics, microscopy, computational biology, and systematics to integrate a combination of genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic, and volatomic data.
Before my time at Duke I was working to document plant associated ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungal diversity in the central Guiana Shield (Guyana) region of northeastern South America. During this project that led to my masters degree (Biology, Humboldt State University, with Dr. Terry Henkel) I collected and described many species in the 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 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.