Current Student Spotlight

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  • Michael Malone (He/Him)

    Michael Malone

    Michael Malone (he/him) grew up in Long Island, New York and is currently an undergraduate at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry where he is advised by Dr. Alex Weir.

    Current project description

    Our project focuses on a poorly misunderstood group of fungi called the Laboulbeniales. They are obligate ectoparasites of arthropods, especially beetles. This study is the first to test infection rates based on habitat type. Moreover, collections took place in a region where these fungi were never intentionally collected (Long Island). We know so little about the diversity of these fungi, that the discovery of new species during this project is quite possible.

    What is your favorite fungus and why?

    My favorite fungus is Herpomyces ectobiae, an ectoparasitic fungus that grows only on the large setae of cockroaches. The thallus is grown parallel to the seta, however, its haustorium emerges from the side of the thallus to penetrate the seta. Only those thalli located near the base of the seta will become reproductive. Antheridia are produced on a receptacle that grows laterally from the suprabasal cell of the primary receptacle and down the seta.

    Three species of Laboulbeniales: (A) Distolomyces, (B) Tavaresiella, (C) Triceromyces. Image from https://www.esf.edu/Laboulbeniales/

    Which awards would you like to brag about?

    I am on my college’s Dean’s List.

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

    I hope to return to my college for graduate school and study other forms of fungi, as this is my first fungal project. Now I’m hooked!

    What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

    Possibly my favorite thing about fungi is their high degree of host specificity and niche specialization. A good example being Mycena luteopallens, which I have found growing in walnut shells.

    Who is your mycology role model?

    Dr. Alex Weir (my project advisor)

    Any great stories from field work?

    I did have one lady come up to me while I was collecting insects to check them for parasitic fungi. In response to her asking what I was doing, I told her the truth of it all. What ensued was a lengthy conversation of me convincing her that these fungi could not cross over to humans and infect us via vertical transmission. She still insists that I wear gloves.

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

    When taking a break from my studies, I like to play guitar, go rock climbing with friends, and maintain my native plant garden.

    Anything else you’d like to talk about?

    I am currently figuring out which institution to go pursue a master’s in mycology, and possibly getting my PhD to become a professor. I am already a teaching assistant and tutor at my college, so you can tell I love to teach!