My research is focused on using genomics to better understand fungal-host interactions. My several research interests, areas of expertise, and the associated questions include;

How do plant associated microbes interact and how do these interactions scale up to the ecosystem level?

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This project is aimed at understanding diversity, ubiquity, and molecular mechanisms of plant associated bacterial fungal interactions. Some of these bacteria are free living and associated with the exterior of fungal cells. Others are long term, obligate, intracellular endosymbionts that rely on host fungal resources. To answer these questions we generate and analyze whole genome sequences, amplicon barcodes, multiple -omics data sets, and physiological assays.

  •  Microfluidics

How can we leverage single cell time lapse microscopy to study fungal biology with extreme precision?

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Mortierella elongata growing in a microfluidic chamber

This project includes designing, fabricating, and using microfluidic platforms for imaging microbial interactions and behaviors. By culturing microbes in microscopic chambers appressed to glass slides we are able to dissect microbial behaviors and interactions with great precision.

How diverse are groups of obligate plant associated fungi in various forests and what can these patterns tell us about evolutionary history?

 

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Dicymbe corymbosa root tip colonized by ECM fungi, fungal tissue in red

The goals of this project include elucidating the distribution and diversity of ectomycorrhizal plant hosts and their fungi in tropical rainforests. In particular I focus on the fungal genus Clavulina and relatives in the Cantharellales (Basidiomycota). Clavulina is distributed globally and associates with multiple hosts but exhibits hyper-diversity in the neotropics based on current collection and molecular data. The project involves collecting and preserving fruiting bodies (mushrooms), identifying them in the field and in lab, and describing new species including generating DNA barcode sequences. At the community level we sequence amplicon barcodes from soil and colonized root tips to identify what fungi are present.

 

How can regional fungal culture and mushroom collections aid in analyzing biogeographical hypotheses and be applied for biotechnological endeavors?

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Geographic, evolutionary, morphological, and biogeographic diversity assessment of Clavulina, wold wide

This project is geared towards collecting, identifying, and documenting regional fungal diversity using macroscopic characters, light microscopy, and DNA sequencing. My fungal collection consists of >300 fruiting bodies and/or cultures from across the United States and South America.

How diverse are wide spread are human pathogenic fungi? What makes some fungi able to infect and kill humans while others remain avirulent?

This project involves using whole fungal genome sequences to assess how much molecular diversity resides within populations of fungi that infect and can kill humans. A second goal is identify genes in the genome that enable human fungal pathogens to colonize and kill their hosts.