Professor and Associate Director, Center for Integrated Fungal Research
Partners Building III 225
Fungi have evolved complex relationships with the environment, animals, insects, plants and microbes, that have ultimately contributed to their success in space and time. My research aims to gain better insight into the ecological factors and population processes that have contributed to the ability of fungi to cause disease and survive in the absence of a host; this requires a comprehensive understanding of species concepts, genome organization, evolution, and population genetics in the context of plant microbial interactions. This is critical for establishing a foundation of fundamental knowledge that can be translated for the practical management of disease causing fungi and the promotion of beneficial microorganisms that address societal grand challenges. Research in my laboratory has focused primarily on understanding the disease ecology, genome organization, soil microbiome, population biology, and systematics of the soil fungus Rhizoctonia solani, an economically important pathogen of a wide array of cultivated and native species of plants. Our research has revealed that R. solani is not a single species, but a species complex that represents an early diverging assemblage of fungi that may have given rise to the mushroom forming fungi. These results have provided a conceptual framework for delineating species, examining the genetic diversity and structure of field populations, determining the occurrence and transmission of fungal viruses, and identifying two previously undescribed Rhizoctonia 1) the disease-causing species of Rhizoctonia on agricultural plants and 2) beneficial species of Rhizoctonia on orchids. In addition to Rhizoctonia fungi, research from my lab has contributed to the development of methods for identifying other species of beneficial and disease-causing fungi of plants and more recently animals. My laboratory has also provided valuable bioinformatics, genomic, diagnostic, metabolomic, and microbiome resources for scientists interested in understanding the complex dynamics of different nuclear genomes in Rhizoctonia and other plant/soil associated beneficial and disease-causing fungi. This information has provided foundational knowledge that is key to conducting comparative studies that address fundamental research questions related to host plant adaptation in relation to nuclear genome heterogeneity.
PP222 Kingdom of Fungi (fall and spring) – This course provides an overview of the diversity of fungi and their ecological, economic and historical impact on the environment and society. The fall course is a taught in a traditional classroom setting (face-to-face) and supplemented with the examination and discussion of fungal specimens. For the spring course, lectures, course content and discussions are presented and delivered in an online, distance education format.
PP575 Introduction to Mycology (fall, odd years) – This course provides a synthesis and survey of organisms in the Kingdom Fungi. Lectures focus on providing a comprehensive understanding of the biology, diversity, ecology, phylogeny, systematics, and taxonomy of fungi. The laboratory component of this course complement the lectures and involve characterizing, culturing and identifying fungi sampled from diverse ecological habitats.
B.S. Plant Pathology North Carolina State University 1980
M.S. Plant Pathology University of Illinois 1983
Ph.D. Plant and Soil Science University of Delaware 1991
- Characterization and Aggressiveness of Take-All Root Rot Pathogens Isolated from Symptomatic Bermudagrass Putting Greens , PHYTOPATHOLOGY (2022)
- "Jumping Jack ": Genomic Microsatellites Underscore the Distinctiveness of Closely Related Pseudoperonospora cubensis and Pseudoperonospora humuli and Provide New Insights Into Their Evolutionary Past , FRONTIERS IN MICROBIOLOGY (2021)
- Competing sexual-asexual generic names in Agaricomycotina (Basidiomycota) with recommendations for use , IMA FUNGUS (2021)
- Genome sequence of Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi sheds light on mummy berry disease infection of blueberry and mating type , G3-GENES GENOMES GENETICS (2021)
- Population Genomics Trace Clonal Diversification and Intercontinental Migration of an Emerging Fungal Pathogen of Boxwood , PHYTOPATHOLOGY (2021)
- Using Digital Natural History Collections in K-12 STEM Education , JOURNAL OF MUSEUM EDUCATION (2020)
- A Plethora of Fungi: Teaching a Middle School Unit on Fungi , SCIENCE ACTIVITIES (2019)
- A Plethora of Fungi: Teaching a Middle School Unit on Fungi , Science Activities (2019)
- Coccinonectria pachysandricola, Causal Agent of a New Foliar Blight Disease of Sarcococca hookeriana , Plant Disease (2019)
- Identification and characterization of Septoria steviae as the causal agent of Septoria leaf spot disease of stevia in North Carolina , Mycologia (2019)