The fungal ‘kingdom’ represents one of the most successful groups of organisms on the planet. It consists of an unknown number of species, with estimates of the total numbers into the millions. Many of the best-characterised species are either beneficial or detrimental to humans.
In terms of the impact of fungi on ourselves, they are used to produce or modify foods and drinks, are the source of pharmaceutical agents, recycle nutrients in the environment, and interact with the roots of >80% of land plants in symbiotic relationships. As just one example, the discovery and then genetic engineering of strains for the production of the antibacterial agent penicillin and its derivatives has and continues to saved millions of lives every year. However, fungi are also the main agents of plant disease and rot wood, as well as causes of allergies and are amongst the most common human infectious agents. A small subset of species cause life-threatening mycoses but these are amongst the most difficult infectious diseases to treat. Fungi are closely related organisms to animals. As such, the fungi are amongst the most difficult organisms to combat, yet serve as powerful models to understand animal and eukaryote biology. This is reflected by the many Nobel prizes given to people who work with fungi.
For more on some of amazing properties, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew “State of the World’s Fungi 2018” is highly informative.
Research in the Mycology Laboratory is focused on how fungi respond to their environment to change physiology and development. We work on multiple and diverse species because, in additional to interests in providing practical solutions to problems caused by fungi, it enables us to address long-standing questions in fungal and eukaryotic biology by comparative approaches. The long-term goal is to develop strategies to reduce the adverse effects of fungi, especially disease-causing species, particularly Leptosphaeria maculans that cause blackleg of canola and the human pathogenic Cryptococcus species.
Our research approaches use a variety of experimental techniques. In addition to standard microbiology methods for culturing fungi, we use molecular biology tools, forward genetic mutant screens, classical Mendelian genetic crosses, phylogenetic comparisons, genome sequencing, and genomic profiling or expression analyses.
For more information about the activities in the laboratory, please refer to the sections under the Menu button in the top right corner.