Nicole Colón-Carrión

Nicole Colón-Carrión grew up in Puerto Rico and is currently doing research at the University of Arizona with Dr. Elizabeth Arnold.

Tell us about your project!

In my dissertation research I seek to understand how climate changes impact plant-fungal associations, with a focus on two main environments: wild tropical forests and agricultural systems. Specifically, my work focuses on (1) understanding how hurricane disturbances affect the diversity and composition of fungal symbionts associated with roots and leaves of tropical forest trees; (2) exploring how fungal symbionts can protect cultivated plants against disease under a rapidly warming climate; and (3) assessing the needs and knowledge of farmers in Puerto Rico regarding the control and management of pests and pathogens in the field in order to customize educational lesson plan that best fit their needs.

Which awards would you like to brag about?

I was awarded with the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP), the Dr. Leathers Graduate Student Scholarship from the Arizona Mushroom Society, and with the National Geographic Early Career Award were I received the title of National Geographic Explorer. Currently, I was awarded with the MSA Interchange Ambassador Award to support my two projects, “Micología en Ruedas” and “LatinX mycleium”.

What are your career goals/plans for after you’re done your current position?

My career goal is to return to Puerto Rico as an extension specialist focused on the use development microbe-microbe interactomes into biocontrol strategies to reduce pathogenicity and the use of chemical agents in the landscape. I also aim to continue developing education programs and material that increase science exposure to underrepresented communities.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

If microscopic, Aspergillus niger. It was the first fungus I isolated from rice as an undergraduate researcher. If macroscopic, the basket stinkhorn (Clathrus ruber). I just love it s structure and bright color.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

The diversity of them and the significant roles they plan in ecosystem functioning. Also, I love their structures and colors.

Who is your mycology role model?

I am going to go with two Puerto Rican mycologist for this one. The first is Dr. Sharon Cantrell. Dr. Cantrell became the first Puerto Rican woman to be appointed as president of the Mycological Society of America and have done amazing work in elucidating the diversity of fungi within the tropical forest of Puerto Rico. The second is Dr. Chad Lozada. Dr. Lozada introduced me to the wonderful world of fungi as my research mentor at the University of Puerto Rico Cayey Campus. His passion and mentorship motivated me pursue a graduate degree in the field in order to later training the next generation of Puerto Rican mycologist.

Any great stories from field work?

Always wear bug spray if you are sampling in the tropics!

What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

I love to dance (salsa particularly), spent time in the beach, and read.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Along with my Ph.D., I am currently pursuing a certificate in College Teaching from the UA. This certificate provided me with a new appreciation for educational research. The knowledge obtained though this certificate and the eagerness to help underrepresented communities are the reasons I emerge myself in curriculum and educational program development. Something that I wish to continue as a Post-doctoral researcher. If you know of fellowships and grants that support this kind of work, send them my way (ncoloncarrion@email.arizona.edu). Also, for updates and cool pictures about “Micología en Ruedas” and “LatinX mycleium” stay tune to @ncoloncarrion (Twitter) and @thePuertoRicanmycologist (IG).

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