Diversity Advancement Graduate Assistantship

BPP Diversity Advancement Graduate Assistantship 

Oregon State University – Department of Botany and Plant Pathology

“The Department of Botany and Plant Pathology (BPP) is pleased to invite applicants for the BPP Diversity Advancement Graduate Assistantship. BPP provides funding for a graduate assistantship to increase the ethnic and cultural diversity in plant sciences, to promote diversification of the academic environment in BPP and OSU, and to prepare students for their future careers in academics and industry. This assistantship is intended to create opportunities that enhance the inclusion of graduate students from nontraditional backgrounds who have expressed interests in a career in the plant sciences.”

Check information about qualifications, assistantship details, application requirements and deadlines at https://bpp.oregonstate.edu/bpp/botany-plant-pathology-diversity-advancement-graduate-assistantship.

For more information contact the BPP Graduate Studies Committee at 541-737-5362 or Bruce McCone at mccuneb@science.oregonstate.edu.

Grad Student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Dr. Stephanie Kivlin

University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Dr. Kivlin is an Assistant Professor and a microbial and ecosystem ecologist at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She is currently recruiting graduate students for Fall 2021. Her current research interests include (1) altitudinal gradients in fungal phytobiomes and resulting consequences on plant fitness and soil carbon storage, (2) the role of fungi and bacteria in above- and belowground ecosystem response to disturbance in the nearby Smoky Mountains, and (3) global patterns of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal distributions and diversity (her website).

Feel free to check her website https://kivlinlab.github.io/# and contact her to discuss about fungi, biogeography and global change before the Dec 1st (deadline to apply for the program).

Grad Student at NC A&T

Dr. Omoanghe Isikhuemhen 

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Dr. Omoanghe is at a LandGrant University in North Carolina (https://www.ncat.edu/) and is in the College of Agriculture. His background is in mycology, and his research is in the area of applied mycology. He is seeking graduate students for MSc now or PhD students (our PhD program is scheduled to come on in Fall 2021). The area of interest is Mushroom Science and Biotechnology. Specific research areas could be in truffle biology and cultivation; Mushrooms for food and feed; Plant pathology in emerging crops. Assistantship of up to 24k per year is available. The tuition waiver is difficult, but it is available sometimes.

Check out this cool story Made in Greensboro wrote about him and his research at NCAT: https://www.madeingso.com/2019/08/28/omon_isikhuemhen/.

if you are interested, please reach out to Dr. Omoanghe at omon@ncat.edu.

Kirsten Gotting

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Kirsten Gotting is from Portland, Oregon. She is doing her PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her current advisor is Cameron Currie.

Tell us about your project!

I’m really interested in evolution and diversification, and how symbiosis plays a role in these processes. The system I work on is the fungus-growing ant-microbe symbiosis. More specifically, I work on the specialized mycoparasite Escovopsis, which consumes the fungus that the ants cultivate. One of the cool things about fungus-growing ants is that they have been growing fungus for 55 million years, which for perspective was around when the dinosaurs went extinct. We don’t know when Escovopsis specialized on the fungus-growing ant cultivar, but we do know that it parasitizes almost every type of fungus-growing ant agriculture and there are specific species of Escovopsis that infect the different agricultures. I’m excited to learn more about the evolution of this parasite and how it has adapted and differentiated across ant agriculture.

What are your career goals/plans?

I came for my PhD because I really want to be a group leader some day. I love everything about basic research and can’t imagine a better job! My second choice would be some sort of data analysis project manager; data analysis and visualization is one of my favorite things on the job.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

This is so hard for me, so I’m going to name a couple. First off, the flagellated fungi that live in cow guts. I just find them absolutely fascinating, especially since when I think of flagellated fungi, chytrids and dead amphibians mostly come to mind. But the idea of having a mutualist with similar morphology in ruminant guts dispels that image for me and brings up a bunch of questions: How did they get there? How did they survive in early ruminant guts? How have they adapted to that environment?

I also am also obsessed with rust fungi; the complexity of their developmental life histories amazes me in so many ways. They create so many unique structures and have so many hosts, what’s not to love? There’s also a ton of cedar apple rust on all of the apple trees in Madison right now (early September), and while the telia are beautiful, the shape of them low-key triggers my gag reflex.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

Definitely soy sauce. But also how little we know about them. There are so many species to discover, life histories to unravel, and interactions to manipulate that I could study them for twenty lifetimes and still have more questions. I also get really inspired by the range of research that people do with fungi, it seems like they are the perfect models for so many things how could you not want to dive in!

Who is your mycology role model?

This one’s super easy for me: Anne Pringle! I’ve never told her this, but when I was in undergrad, my Ecology professor Bitty Roy showed us a video of Anne doing her multi-year experimental survey on gravestone lichens. I remember thinking to myself, “Gosh it would be so cool to get to be like her some day!” and now I get to learn from Anne because she is on my committee! I’m so grateful that Bitty showcased women scientists in her classes. I got to reconnect with Bitty through the MSA because we were both at the meeting in 2019. I honestly never saw myself getting to the place in my life where I would get to do a PhD, so having these “full circle” moments with people I admire brings me more joy than anything else.

Any great stories from field work (funny/interesting/something that stuck out to you)?

Some of the fungus growing ants that we study live underground, so you have to dig an approximately two foot hole to find their nests. On my first field trip in Georgia, we were on our last day of digging ants and were trying to get as many colonies as we could. Currie lab postdoc Hongjie always “hit nest” first, but this time I was barely half way through digging my hole when he called out that he had gotten one. I couldn’t believe how fast he had finished! It felt like the further I dug, the harder it was getting for me. I asked him to come help me dig, and when he did, he exclaimed “This is like digging a rock!” Fortunately, teamwork got us to the ants by alternating digging until we got the nest. I later I come to find that the soil in the rest of the area was very soft in comparison, almost like sand, and I was kicking myself for picking a spot with really dense soil to start off with.

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

I read year round and in the winter I crochet while watching trash television. My favorite book I read this year was “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula Leguin, it’s the first book in a while that I feel strongly compelled to read again. Ursula built up the story and alien culture in such an interesting way that actually made me want to experience the cold dark planet, which would normally terrify me mostly because I don’t like the cold. In the summer, I like to get outside, but this summer has been challenging. Luckily, I found a new passion in SUP! In Madison we are fortunate enough to be within a couple miles of three lakes, so it makes for the perfect setting for pandemic era socializing.

Anything else you’d like to talk about?

One thing that I am really interested in is the history of genetics and specifically how it has harmed marginalized groups. I am getting my PhD through the Genetics Training Program at UW Madison, and one thing that struck me in my required course work was that there wasn’t any mention of eugenics or eugenics perpetrators, who are often the same people who contributed to foundational genetics principles. I had the same kind of feeling throughout my undergraduate coursework. This knowledge gap in many genetics classes really frustrated me. I felt like the whole curriculum that I had partaken in over the years ignored the socio-political impacts of how eugenics was a large start of genetics research in the US and shaped a lot of governmental policy. I knew that there had to be other students out there that were frustrated by the lack of acknowledgement of how much harm this field can have, and that it may have pushed those students away from science and genetics.

When the civil rights protests began this summer, I felt incredibly motivated to try to make a change in my department. I got in touch with faculty in the department and suggested that there could be an entire class on how genetics has shaped policy that harms marginalized groups and that these topics should be in every class. I’m really happy to say that the faculty fully supported the idea and are now integrating these topics into their coursework, whether it be naming perpetrators in the field, or including case studies where genetics directly harmed marginalized groups. In addition, a peer and I put together a reading group with a focus on scientific accountability where we highlight specific instances where genetics has done harm, or how we can improve our genetics pedagogy to be more inclusive. So far, it’s been a really great space where faculty and students have gathered to talk about these topics. I’m really excited to see where it goes in the next year. Thus far, we’ve already started a focus group to dig up information about how our genetics department connected to eugenics in the early 1900’s. I can’t wait to see what else comes from it and hope that departments at other universities adopt similar integrations of historical perspectives into their coursework. I’m not sure what the long lasting impact of this will be, but I hope that it helps serves as a start to greater change.

Executive Board 2020-2021 Nominations

Hi everyone!

The current board would like to introduce you to the nominees for the 2020-2021 Student Section Board. Look out for elections soon! 🙂

Chair – Robert Powers (University of Michigan)

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I am a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan working in Tim James’ lab. My research is primarily focused on understanding the genetic, epigenetic and gene regulatory mechanisms during mating and heterokaryosis in the mushroom-forming members of the Agaricomycotina. Prior to my PhD studies, I received my Master’s degree from the University of Michigan, also in Tim James’ lab, studying both sexual selection and biogeography in the Coprinellus disseminatus species complexMy passion for mycology bloomed later in life – my undergraduate training was in computer science and ethnomusicology. I worked for ten years in the information technology sector in San Francisco before deciding that my true calling was mycology. I served previously as secretary followed by Vice-Chair of the MSA Student Section, and am transitioning to the Chair position because the Society and the Student Section were instrumental in helping me transition into mycology, and I would like to help bring my enthusiasm and passion for fungi to other students as well. My previous experience on an executive board was as a member of the Tech-Underground technology co-operative, a group that provides technology services to non-profit, community, and arts groups – a co-operative of which I was also a founding member.  

 

Vice Chair – Tania Kurbessoian (University of California, Riverside)

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My previous experience in school or organization affiliated volunteering has been occurring for the past 8 years. As an undergraduate and Masters student at Cal State Northridge I’ve worked with the local chapter of ASM (on my campus was called MSA too, Microbiology Students Association) as the Secretary, Treasurer then President for 4 years (2012-2016). I’ve organized, planned and executed many microbiology related events (Beer Brewing, Wine Making, Networking, CLS). For the past 5 years I have also been involved with my local mycological organization (Los Angeles Mycological Society- LAMS), setting up events at the OC Fair and the Natural History Museums to better engage with everyday folk and to get them interested in fungi! Coming to UC Riverside I began involving myself in the local Micro- GSA (Graduate Student Association) as an outreach coordinator, Vice President and now President. I was the Social Outreach coordinator at another organization called AWIS (Association for Women in Science), and am now the Co-President.- where we are interested in fostering stronger bonds for women in all parts of science, connecting them to proper mentors who can take them to the right places, and just being an overall support system for women in science. For 2019-2020 I was the Communications Chair and loved my experience working with the folks in this organization and would love to continue to do so. I believe organizations like yours only helps enrich the experience of being an early scientist and helps garner other skills that may not be available as just a student. Currently I am in the Stajich lab, studying the role of melanized fungi in biological crust systems through Microbiology, Computational Biology and Mycological techniques. Follow me on @BlackYeastUnleashed on Instagram and @BYUnleashed on Twitter for updates!My previous experience in school or organization affiliated volunteering has been occurring for the past 8 years. As an undergraduate and Masters student at Cal State Northridge I’ve worked with the local chapter of ASM (on my campus was called MSA too, Microbiology Students Association) as the Secretary, Treasurer then President for 4 years (2012-2016). I’ve organized, planned and executed many microbiology related events (Beer Brewing, Wine Making, Networking, CLS). For the past 5 years I have also been involved with my local mycological organization (Los Angeles Mycological Society- LAMS), setting up events at the OC Fair and the Natural History Museums to better engage with everyday folk and to get them interested in fungi! Coming to UC Riverside I began involving myself in the local Micro- GSA (Graduate Student Association) as an outreach coordinator, Vice President and now President. I was the Social Outreach coordinator at another organization called AWIS (Association for Women in Science), and am now the Co-President.- where we are interested in fostering stronger bonds for women in all parts of science, connecting them to proper mentors who can take them to the right places, and just being an overall support system for women in science. For 2019-2020 I was the Communications Chair and loved my experience working with the folks in this organization and would love to continue to do so. I believe organizations like yours only helps enrich the experience of being an early scientist and helps garner other skills that may not be available as just a student. Currently I am in the Stajich lab, studying the role of melanized fungi in biological crust systems through Microbiology, Computational Biology and Mycological techniques. Follow me on @BlackYeastUnleashed on Instagram and @BYUnleashed on Twitter for updates!

 

Secretary – KC Cifizzari (Washington State University)

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My name is KC and I’m a Master’s student in Biology at Washington State University in Tri-Cities, WA. My current research is looking at mycorrhizal fungal inoculants and the impact on grapevine growth and nutrient uptake. I have been interested in mycorrhizal fungi for several years and have examined them in the majority of my projects to some capacity. I first joined MSA in 2016 but need to update and renew my student membership. I am interested to expand my myco-horizons to learn more about other types of fungi and research that folks are doing in this field. As an undergraduate at Indiana University I served as secretary for an organization called Grad Queers which served to network and organize LGBTQ graduate students on campus. While in that position I handled monies and kept the group’s leger. I look forward to more opportunities to connect with like-minded folks in different parts of the country and would be happy to serve as secretary for the MSA executive board.

 

Webmaster – Maria-Jose Romero-Jimenez (Oregon State University)

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Hi! My name is María-José Romero-Jiménez and I am finishing my Master’s at Western Illinois University. I am currently doing research at Dr. Andrea Porras-Alfaro Fungal Ecology laboratory characterizing Darksidea species and the effect they have on grasses. This Fall I will start a PhD at Oregon State University at Posy Busby’s lab. I have attended several MSA meetings and always enjoyed the great environment. For the past year I have been the webmaster for the Student Section and liked it! I would like to support and bring more to the society through the webmaster position of the Student Section Website. At WIU I am the vice-president of the Biology Graduate Student Association and we participate in several outreach activities like Biology Day, Discover Western and Girl Scout STEM. If we are aware of a conference, we send emails with deadlines for registrations and abstract submission. I also was a co-chair for the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference this year. As a member of the Fungal Ecology Lab, I co-coordinated the botany section of Harry Potter Summer Camp and helped in other outreach activities. One of the things I like is sharing with everyone our work and the outreach activities we do either on the Facebook page of the lab.

 

Merch Chair – Samantha Lynn Harrow (University of Wisconsin – Madison)

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Lynn is a Ph.D. candidate in the Pringle lab in the Department of Botany at UW-Madison and has a background in synthetic organic chemistry, natural products chemistry, and plant ecology. Her primary interests are centered on the biochemistry and ecology of plant and fungal secondary compounds. Her current research focuses on the population genomics and biosynthetic pathway of toxins in Amanita phalloides. She is using bioinformatics, genomics, and heterologous expression to understand the genetic underpinnings of this system as well as the intraspecific variation of individuals across North America and Europe.

 

Communication Chair – Gillian Bergmann (University of California, Davis)

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Gillian is currently working as a lab technician at Oregon State University, and will be starting as a Ph.D. student in the UC Davis Ecology program this fall to study seed mycobiome assembly. During her bachelor’s degree at Oregon State, Gillian was the OSU Cycling Club media coordinator and the OSU Mycology Club webmaster for several years. In these positions, Gillian shared club updates on their respective websites and social media platforms, acted as club photographer, and worked with club members to gather event photos for dissemination online. She also redesigned the website for the OSU Cycling Club, and set up the OSU Mycology Club website as it’s first media officer. As a lab technician, she assisted in revitalizing the OSU Mycology Club, and is working with Dr. Jessie Uehling to establish social media accounts for the Oregon Mycoflora Project. She also uses her personal website to share her research and experiences as an early career scientist. When she participated in the MSA meeting last year, she was struck by how welcoming and supportive everyone in the student section was. Gillian would like to contribute to supportive community through serving as the communication chair. 

 

Treasurer – Soleil Young (University of Wisconsin – Madison)

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I am currently a second-year graduate student in the Currie lab at UW-Madison, where I study the evolution of the fungal cultivar of leaf-cutting ants. I am particularly interested in how mutualisms shape the dynamics of sexual reproduction in microbial eukaryotes, and the active role that fungal mutualists play in establishment and maintenance of symbioses. The fungi have agency too! I am running for treasurer because I want to get more involved in the MSA student section and contribute to a society that has been welcoming and informative. I did my undergraduate work on bacteria, and only recently transitioned to studying fungi, but many members of MSA have mentored me during this transition. Although I have never served as a treasurer, during my undergraduate at Syracuse University, I was the managing editor of my school’s LGBTQ magazine, The OutCrowd, for three years. I am also currently working on a zine highlighting both historical women in science who have been largely overlooked or had their accomplishments stolen by male counterparts, and current women scientists involved in science communication. 

 

Postdoctoral Representative – Arthur Grupe (University of Colorado, Boulder)

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Hello! I am Arthur Grupe, a Post-Doctoral Scholar at University of Colorado Boulder with Dr. Alisha Quandt. I study host jumping in entomopathogenic fungi. Prior to this, I studied the ecology and systematics of the pecan truffle (Tuber lyonii) and related species in commercial pecan orchards in Georgia. This work at the University of Florida (UF) with Dr. Matthew Smith led to my PhD. Before that I studied diversity and evolution of tooth fungi (Sarcodon species) from Central and South America at Humboldt State University with Dr. Terry Henkel for my Master’s thesis. My leadership experience includes being president of the local mycology club, Florida Academic Lichen and Fungal Enthusiasts League (F.A.L.A.F.E.L.) at UF and regular contributions to citizen scientist projects such as the Mycoflora project and macrofungal identification special interest groups on social media. My mentoring experience includes training undergraduate and high school researchers, and receiving excellent mentorship at multiple career phases. My goals for being the post doc representative on the MSA Student Section would be to organize workshops/discussions on: 1) Being a competitive candidate for permanent jobs in academia or industry; 2) Post Doc Life: how to manage? 3) mental health resources and strategies (we all know this is a weird spot in our career); 4) diversity and inclusion in academia; 5) successful techniques for teaching/creating undergrad/grad classes that utilize an inclusive pedagogy; 6) your idea! Thank you for your time and consideration.

Savannah Gentry

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Savannah Gentry grew up in Port Neches (Texas) and Klamath Falls (Oregon). She is currently doing research at Madison, Wisconsin with Anne Pringle.

Tell us about your project!

I work with fungal pathogens of wildlife and have found that two pathogens responsible for infectious diseases in snakes and lizards (snake fungal disease and yellow fungal disease, respectively) can infect other animals. 

Stemming from the results of that experiment, I’m currently interested in creating a project to identify keratinases (specialized enzymes that degrade keratin) and other degradation enzymes that are activated when the fungi interact with different substrate treatments. In short, I want to understand if these suite of activated enzymes could be pathogenicity factors.

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

My career goal would be to land a position that allows me to continue to do work with fungal pathogens and community-based research dealing with access to education and socioeconomic inequity.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

Cat’s Tongue (Pseudohydnum gelatinosum) because of how they feel and they can be candied – a textured and sugar snack wrapped up in one fungus.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

Two things: 1) how much we don’t know about fungi, even ones that are considered well-studied are constantly revealing new things and 2) their versatility as pathogens, degraders, mutualists, parasites, etc., one fungus can fall into multiple categories at the slightest environmental difference and I find that extraordinary.

Who is your mycology role model?

For me that has never been one person but multiple people whether they are my peers or people that have been in the field for decades, I find speaking with other mycologists inspires me to stay curious about the world. However, if I have to name names, there are few people I’ve met that can identify mushrooms like Alden Dirks can.

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

I’m a big gamer, so in my free time I enjoy both video games and tabletop games. My main hobby is drawing and use that as my main avenue to relieve stress. Check out my instagram @kawaiifungi!

Anything else you’d like to talk about, leave here! (career goals, outreach, science communication, photography, etc).

It’s important that scientists do not separate themselves from the general public or their own communities. In order to stay connected, unite others, and share the wonderful world of mycology, connections are important. So, be active in your community and build those connections; it’s never just about the science.

Alden Dirks

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Alden Dirks is from Coatesville, Pennsylvania. He is currently doing research with Dr. Tim James in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Tell us about your project!

Gyromitrin is an acute toxin and potent carcinogen that is found in some mushrooms, particularly false morel mushrooms (Gyromitra spp.). The product of gyromitrin metabolism, monomethylhydrazine, is infamous for also being a component of rocket fuel, which is as bad for you as it sounds like it would be. You’d think this would be a deterrent to the consumption of false morels. However, in Finland, the highly poisonous Gyromitra esculenta is widely harvested and consumed as a delicacy after first being prepared with a laborious parboiling and washing procedure to rid it of the majority of its gyromitrin. In Michigan there is also a culture of consuming certain false morel species, but these appear to be less toxic than the European species. But are they really? Despite its importance as a mycotoxin, we still don’t know which species produce gyromitrin or how much of it. False morels belong to a taxonomic family sister to that of the true morels (Morchella spp.). True morels should always be cooked thoroughly, in part because they are poisonous to many people when eaten raw, and these symptoms are strikingly similar to those caused by gyromitrin (although less severe). Our aim is to first determine which morel species (both true and false) contain gyromitrin, then find the genes responsible for its synthesis, and finally elucidate its evolutionary origin and history of horizontal gene transfer, if any. Along the way, we hope to formulate a set of best foraging practices for mushroom hunters in Michigan so that people can avoid gyromitrin exposure.

Awards you’d like to brag about?

At the end of my senior year at Swarthmore College, the Biology department awarded me the “Leo M. Leva Memorial Prize”, which recognizes undergraduates whose work shows “exceptional promise for future societal impact”. I strive to live up to this recognition!

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

I feel like infinity lies between me and the end of my current position, but at the end of the universe I might teach mycology and conduct research on fungal taxonomy and biodiversity at a small liberal arts or community college; or have a restorative agroforestry operation where I cultivate truffles, grow mushrooms, and raise sheep or goats; or maybe open a restaurant and a fungus-focused storefront.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

One of my favorites is Ganoderma applanatum, the artist’s conk – but not because you can draw on it. Rather, this mushroom is host to forked fungus beetles (Bolitotherus cornutus), which can live on the same shelf for about a decade and have a lifespan of up to 20 years (or so I’ve heard). I once had a pet artist’s conk with pet forked fungus beetles. Unfortunately, there are no blogs or help pages on taking care of forked fungus beetles. Needless to say, they didn’t live up to their long lifespan. But I’m confident next time things will go better and we will grow old together.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

The longevity and extent of the humongous fungus, the oldest and largest organism on earth, never ceases to amaze me.

Who is your mycology role model?

Barbara Mosse and Charles McIlvaine

Any great stories from field work (funny/interesting/something that stuck out to you)?

I collected a hearty bunch of jelly fungus to eat. Of course, mushrooms are best fried, so that’s what I did to this mushroom. I was soon screaming and running out the kitchen dodging hot bits of oily jelly fungus as the chopped up mushroom began exploding out of the pan! Pro tip: don’t fry jelly fungus.

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

I love to dance salsa and bachata!

Anything else you’d like to share?

I have the lifelong goal of eating 1001 species of mushroom (a one-up on Charles McIlvaine). You can read about my discoveries and eats at my website, aldendirks.com. I also have a soft spot for crust fungi, which are ecologically important as saprotrophs and ectomycorrhizae, but are poorly studied. As a side project, I am developing a website called crustfungi.com that I hope to build into the MushroomExpert of crusts.

Gillian Bergmann

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Gillian Bergmann is from Portland, Oregon. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University in the spring of 2019, and now works as a faculty research assistant (lab technician) for Dr. Posy Busby and Dr. Jared LeBoldus in OSU’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology.

Tell us about your project

I am currently working on characterizing the wood mycobiome of black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) as part of a study on how the wood microbiome to plant genotype and resistance/susceptibility to the pathogen Sphaerulina musiva. So far, the project has been a great learning experience for me in creating a large metabarcode library for high-throughput sequencing. On the side, I am also characterizing the fungal seed endophytes of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) using high-throughput sequencing for comparison against the culture-based characterization I did in my undergraduate thesis.
Awards you would like to brag about

This past summer, I received the MSA Undergraduate Research Award for my poster presentation about my undergraduate thesis at the MSA meeting in Minneapolis! It was my first time presenting at a national conference, so I am honored to have received this award.
What are your career goals/plans for after you are done with your current position?

I have applied for Ph.D. programs in Ecology to start in the fall of 2020. I hope that I’ll be able to conduct my graduate research on seed mycobiome assembly, and the potential roles of seed fungi in plant responses to disturbances compounded by climate change (e.g. wildfire, drought). My long-term goal is to be a professor of fungal ecology, so I’m looking forward to this next step in my training.
What is your favorite fungus and why?

My favorite fungus is Pseudohydnum gelatinosum, also known as the cat’s tongue jelly fungus. I like this fungus because it’s a jelly fungus with tooth- shaped hymenophore, and because it’s jiggly and edible. I’ve tried candying them, as suggested by Arora, and would like to try them in honey and cream next!
What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

I’m sure a lot of mycologists say this, but one of my favorite facts about fungi is that we’ve only documented a small fraction of the world’s total fungal diversity. This shows that we still have so much to learn about/from fungi, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
Who is your mycology role model?

My three role models are Dr. Posy Busby, Dr. Joey Spatafora, and Dr. Ed Barge. They all mentored me at various stages in my undergraduate thesis research, and they’ve inspired me with their passion for mycological research and for fungi in general.
Any great stories from field work?

This past fall, I helped a graduate student in the Busby Lab with field collections across multiple locations in Oregon and Washington. My favorite moment during these collections was when I stopped for lunch in one of our Oregon sites. I sat down amongst the undergrowth on the hill where we were working, and watched some birds flying between the r trees as the clouds cleared to reveal a beautiful view of the surrounding hills. This peaceful moment reminded me that the goal of ecology is to better understand (and even appreciate) the land and its diverse ecosystems, and cemented my desire to do field work in my own graduate research.
What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

I’m an avid cyclist and bike racer, so much of my free time is spent riding my bike. I also enjoy singing with the Jubilate Women’s Choir of Corvallis, baking, reading, hiking, playing board games, and going on mushroom forays or road trips with my boyfriend.
Anything else you would like to share? You can follow me on Instagram at Ingrid_blv426,
where I share my adventures in fungal ecology and cycling. I also have a professional website where I blog about my experiences as an early-career scientist and share research updates. You can check it out at gebergmann.weebly.com.

Sara Getson

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Sara Getson hails originally from State College, Pennsylvania where she received bachelor’s degrees in Plant Science and French Language. She is currently a master’s student in her final year studying under Dr. Mary Hausbeck at Michigan State University.

Tell us about your project!
So, I am really excited to be working on two different crops; Asparagus in Michigan and ginseng in Wisconsin and the Fusarium species affecting these systems. After nearly 30 years since the last survey of Fusarium species found in Michigan asparagus fields, my research is focusing on creating a new baseline for this pathogen for our growers. This is important because asparagus may take 2-3 years of establishment in a field before a harvest may be taken, consequently, if Fusarium isn’t managed effectively, it could mean a significantly reduced yield and revenue for our growers. To do this, I sampled crowns from a variety of growers and cultured them in order to get an idea of what species were present. This data will be able to help researchers focus management strategies on these most prevalent Fusaria. The other portion of my project centers on Fusarium species found in the ginseng perennial system as well. Ginseng is a high value crop and (like asparagus) may take a number of years to fully mature, thus pathogen management from the start is critical. Again, in order to manage this pathogen, we first need a baseline for what we might expect to find and control. This is where my survey project fits in, in order to develop that baseline data.It’s really super exciting to see all of the different morphological structures for each of these species!

Awards you would like to brag about?
I was the American Phytopathological Society National Meeting recipient of the Efrat Gamliel-Atinsky and Joseph P. Fulton Joint Student Travel Award in 2019! I also received a scholarship from the Michigan Vegetable Council in 2018 at the Great Lakes fruit and vegetable Expo and a Beneke Award recipient from Michigan State University Plant Pathology Program in December, 2017 😊

What are your career goals/plans for after you are done with your current
position?
After completing my master’s degree in a vegetable pathology lab, I will be returning home to Pennsylvania to co-manage a fruit farm and get some experience in fruits production in the state! Eventually, my long-term goal is to work for Penn State extension as an extension educator to work collaboratively with the university and with our growers to solve the challenges of the current day.

What is your favorite fungus and why?
My favorite fungus is Armillaria mellea (the honey mushroom!). This one has particular meaning for me since I would go mushroom hunting with my dad since I was pretty young and it is the first one I ever learned how to identify. It’s also super good when cooked well! 😊

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?
My favorite thing about fungi is how many roles they can play in our environment, from helping trees and plants to grow better and faster (mycorrhizae), to plant rust diseases with intricate life cycles, to phenomenal decomposers!

Who is your mycology role model?
Hmmmm, this is kind of a tough one… I suppose I would have to go with Gerlach and Nirenberg who compiled incredible illustrations of Fusarium conidia and morphological structures.

Any great stories from field work?
Well, let’s just say that ginseng gardens require rather tall boots 😉

What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
Basically everything, haha! I love ballroom dancing, rock climbing, baking, cooking, gardening, mushroom hunting, reading, and a whole host of other things!

Anything else you’d like to talk about?
I really love teaching and it’s been a lot of fun to work with the Midwest Mycology Information program in Michigan to lecture for their mushroom hunting certification courses. This program is the first of its kind and helps to better inform those who wish to collect wild mushrooms and sell to restaurants and farmer’s markets for example!

Regina Bledsoe

IMG_1944 - Regina Bledsoe

Regina Bledsoe grew up in a small town on the South Louisiana Gulf Coast. She is currently doing her research at East Carolina University Greenville, NC.
Tell us about your project!
While soil may seem lifeless to most, below-ground plant roots, fungi, and bacteria (and other organisms) are living life to the fullest below the surface. Whether we can see it or not, these below ground plant and microbial activities play a huge role in global biogeochemical processes. My current research is investigating impacts of long-term disturbance and fertilization on plant and soil microbial community diversity and how changes in community diversity impact wetland carbon storage. Human activities have increased deposition of nitrogen and phosphorus in unintended ecosystems such as wetlands which store a majority of Earth’s carbon. Because carbon has such a vital role in global climate processes, it is important for us to understand how different ecosystems will respond to continual nutrient deposition. Historically low-nutrient wetlands, like the one I am studying, are potential carbon sinks but are also particularly sensitive to increases in nutrient availability and can become sources. I am using a combination of genomic sequencing and metabolic assays to better understand how plant, fungal and bacterial community composition and function shift due to prolonged fertilization. Insights from this project will help inform future studies within the lab addressing potential mechanisms for C cycling in wetlands.
Awards you would like to brag?
NSF GRFP recipient and 2019 MSA Backus Award!
What are your career goals/plans for after you’re done your current position?
Between now and finishing my doctoral degree next spring, I hope to find a post-doctoral position that allows me to explore more culture based methods of examining plant-microbial interactions to better understand how shifts in microbial community members impact plant growth. I am particularly interested how fertilization shifts plant-microbial interactions from cooperative to competitive.
What is your favorite fungus and why?
My interest in fungus started through my stomach so I have to go with Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane). Its unique toothy pom makes it easy for a novice to identify making this one of the first wild mushrooms I foraged. And it is delicious! A little butter and aptly applied Maillard reaction with a dash of lemon juice makes a tasty meal.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?
Among the amazing things fungi do, when exposed to UV mushrooms produce vitamin D, similar to animal skin. This makes them a rare dietary source of non-animal, unfortified vitamin D.

Who is your mycology role model?
My fungal eureka was only a couple of years ago after I attended a mushroom cultivation workshop led by mycologist Tradd Cotter. He was clearly passionate about fungi and teaching people how to access this wonderful resource. At his workshop, he not only discussed edibles and cultivation but also how he is experimenting with fungal cultures to answer his own research questions. Oh the possibilities! Much thanks to him for his introduction into the world of mycology.

Any great stories from field work (funny/interesting/something that stuck out to you)?
Have you ever done something stupid and while it was happening (usually about 5 seconds of stupidity) time slows down to a crawl and you see it in slow motion? Trucked loaded with sampling gear, I arrived at our field site a little earlier than everyone else. Then in about 5 seconds, I threw my keys on the dash and promptly hopped out, locked the door, and slammed it shut as my eyes made contact with the keys on the dash. Doh! We were only about 20 minutes from main campus and campus police would assist. I didn’t feel awkward when I had to explain to the police that we were in an overgrown field and he should drive in to a dead end and then get out and I would walk him to my truck in the field. I totally thought I sounded creepy and suspicious but he showed up a few minutes later and he quickly freed the field equipment and my keys. Thankfully the rest of the day was flawless!

What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
I like growing plants and mushrooms. But not just any plants, I tend towards wild natives that I have collected the seeds for. We often do not need to look far for beauty in nature but only open our eyes and see it. Two of my favorite South East natives to grow are Passiflora incarnata or simply passion flower and Hibiscus moscheutos and H. laevis. It can be challenging at times, especially since each species can have its preferences and it can take a long time but this also makes it more rewarding when things grow. Most recently I was tinkering with Cordyceps militaris cultivation but my favorite to grow has been pink oyster (Pleurotus). While waiting for things to grow, I like to do a little baking, sweet things and breads mostly. My cinnamon rolls keep getting better!

Anything else you’d like to talk about?
Please follow me on Twitter: @Gina_Bledsoe