Lynne Boddy is Professor of Fungal Ecology at Cardiff University UK. She has taught and researched into the ecology of fungi associated with trees and wood decomposition for 40 years. She is currently studying the fascinating communities of fungi and other organisms that rot the centres of old trees, the ash dieback fungus that is rampaging across the UK from Europe, the ways in which fungi fight each other and form communities, and how they search the forest floor for food resources and respond to their finds. She is a prolific author having co-authored “Fungal Decomposition of Wood” and “The Fungi”, her most recent (in early 2021) being “Fungi and Trees: their Complex Relationships”. She has edited six books, written well over 200 scientific papers, and is chief editor of the journal Fungal Ecology. She was (2009–2010) president of the British Mycological Society. Lynne is an ardent communicator of the mysteries and importance of the amazing hidden Kingdom of Fungi to the general public including TV, radio, popular talks, videos, articles and exhibitions. She was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2019 for Services to Mycology and Science Outreach.
Leah E. Cowen
Research in the Cowen Lab is focused on the overarching goals of understanding what allows some microbes to exploit the host and cause disease, and developing new strategies to thwart drug resistance and treat life-threatening infections. We focus on diverse facets of the biology and evolution of fungal pathogens, which have a staggering impact on human health. These eukaryotic pathogens infect billions of people worldwide and kill in excess of 1.5 million per year, on par with prominent bacterial or protozoan pathogens such as those causing tuberculosis or malaria. Treatment of invasive fungal infections is notoriously difficult, and mortality rates range from 30 to 90%, depending on the pathogen and patient population. Our goal is to address the pressing need for new antifungal drugs through an innovative and interdisciplinary approach that includes chemical genomics, functional genomics, experimental evolution, models of host-pathogen interaction, microbiome analysis of patient populations, and structure-guided drug design.
Richard C. Hamelin
Richard Hamelin works on the unprecedented threats from invasive pathogens that can cause large irreversible damage to forest ecosystems. His work addresses the need for biosurveillance, the process of gathering, integrating, interpreting, and communicating essential information about pathogen threats. Using genomics, his team is deciphering processes involved in fungal invasion that leave behind a DNA signature that can tell the story of the invasion. This signature can help understand the dynamic, multi-step process of invasion and inform management of current and future introductions. He leads the BioSAFE (BioSurveillance of Forest Alien Enemies) project that aims to develop genomic tools to identify pathogens, assign unknown samples to sources, identify pathways of spread, assess management efficacy and predict risk based on traits that impact the outbreak outcome.
Sarah Hambleton is a Research Scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, engaged in fungal systematics research. One major activity of her program is building reference DNA sequence databases for a broad diversity of fungi to improve identification systems for diagnosticians, to support the development of sensitive and specific DNA-based assays, and to calibrate bioinformatics analyses of metabarcodes derived from environmental samples. The reference data are also foundational for in-depth systematic studies to describe species, sort out species complexes, clarify contradictory taxonomic treatments in a phylogenetic context, and revise host ranges of fungal pathogens. A primary focus has been on the obligate plant pathogenic fungi causing diseases of cereal crops especially wheat and other grasses, such as stem, stripe and leaf rusts (Puccinia spp.) and the regulated species in Tilletia (Dwarf bunt and Karnal bunt). The availability of accurate identification criteria for the pathogens and their hosts is crucial for monitoring and controlling disease outbreaks.
Justine Karst is an Associate Professor in the Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta. She studies the mycorrhizal ecology of boreal forests. Her research program addresses the functional and community responses of ectomycorrhizal fungi to forest disturbances, the role of mycorrhizas in forest restoration, and linkages between mycorrhizas and ecosystem processes. Website: https://karstlab.ualberta.ca/
Christian R. Landry
We study diversity in the natural world as well as diversity that we create in the laboratory in order to understand how biodiversity comes about and how the natural variation that has evolved for millions of years shapes the ability of organisms to adapt today. We take a deep plunge and look inside the cell to understand the molecular basis of several aspects of evolution, including adaptation, speciation and the role of biophysical constraints in creating molecular complexity.
Ian R. Sanders
Ian Sanders obtained his PhD from the University of York in 1991, where he worked on the ecology and evolution of the mycorrhizal symbiosis. After postdoctoral positions at INRA Dijon and the Pennsylvania State University, he obtained a junior group leader position at the University of Basel, Switzerland. In 2000 he went to the University of Lausanne and is currently Director of the Department of Ecology & Evolution. His main research group focuses on molecular genetics of the mycorrhizal symbiosis. A part of his research is dedicated to applying knowledge about the genetics of mycorrhizal fungi to improve productivity in globally important crops in the tropics, particularly cassava and improve soil quality and carbon sequestration. His work in the tropics is conducted in collaboration with the group of Prof. Alia Rodriguez Villate (National University of Colombia).
Jason E. Stajich
Jason Stajich is a bioinformatician and mycologist who studies the evolution of fungi using comparative and population genomics. His research group sequences and analyzes genomes of fungi to resolve phylogenetic relationships and understand the evolution of fungal symbioses with plants, animals, and other microbes. This work includes broad sampling of genomes from across the kingdom, with an emphasis on resolving and exploring phylogenetic relationships of the zygomycete and chytrid fungi. The lab also uses population genomics to characterize genomic variability in pathogenic fungi such as Aspergillus fumigatus, amphibian disease causing Batrachochytrium, and Candida species. He also develops bioinformatics tools and pipelines to support automated approaches for phylogenomic methods and exploring comparative approaches to identify genes that mediate host-microbe interactions in a variety of plant- and animal-associated fungi. The research team is also exploring the function, diversity, and ecology of desert and dryland associated fungi found in both hot and cold deserts.
Eva H. Stukenbrock
The research of Eva Stukenbrock focuses on the ecological interactions and co-evolution of fungi associated with plants. Since her PhD at the ETH in Zurich, she has used the plant pathogenic fungus Zymoseptoria tritici as a model to study pathogen evolution. During her post doc at Aarhus University, Denmark she worked with Prof. Mikkel Schierup to apply whole genome coalescence analyses to infer the speciation history of Z. tritici and related Zymoseptoria species. In 2010, she was appointed group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, Germany, and since 2014 she is Max Planck Fellow and professor at Kiel University. Her group integrates computational biology with experimental and molecular approaches to study mechanisms of host specialization of plant pathogens.
Bart Thomma is a molecular plant pathologist who studies mechanisms that underly pathogenicity of fungi on plant hosts, using comparative, population and functional genomics as well as molecular biology. Thomma and his research group investigate the genomics and molecular biology of the soil-borne broad host-range vascular wilt fungus Verticillium dahliae. With comparative population genomics they try to identify molecular processes that mediate adaptation to plant hosts, and study the evolution of novel “effector activities” that are exerted my molecules that are secreted by the fungus to mediate host colonization. The functional analysis of the most relevant effector proteins leads to the discovery of crucial processes that are targeted by the fungus to subvert host immunity and support host colonization. One of the most recent discoveries concerns the identification of particular effector proteins that are secreted by Verticillium dahliae during host colonization to manipulate the microbiome composition of its hosts to particularly repress potential antagonists.