Fungi are critical players in functioning terrestrial ecosystems, from forests to agriculture. They are the principle decayers of wood and other plant matter. Almost all plants rely on fungi for nutrient acquisition, and many rely upon them for defense against disease and stress. Occasionally, fungi emerge as formidable pathogens of plants and animals, and as toxic agents of food spoilage.
In our lab, we investigate fungal adaptation to these ecological roles in genomic and metabolic contexts. Our general approach is to use evolutionary analyses to identify genetic mechanisms associated with fungal (and sometimes bacterial) interactions with other organisms and the environment, and then characterize the function of those mechanisms using a combination of molecular genetics and metabolomics.
Current research projects in the lab are:
Neurochemical ecology – how organisms interact with animals by manipulating their neurological signaling pathways.
The evolution and diversity of metabolic gene clusters
The role of the environment (and humans) in pathogen emergence
–Evolution of heavy metal resistance mechanisms
Fungal transportome diversity and function