DIVERSITY & ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION AT MULTIPLE SPATIAL AND GENETIC SCALES IN A KEY PLANT-MICROBE SYMBIOSIS
This project is funded under the NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity program and will be a major focus of my lab in the coming years. This goal of this research is to illuminate the linkages between taxonomic, genetic and functional diversity across large spatial scales. This project in particular represents a synthesis between my previous research themes (see below) and a major step towards building a comprehensive roots-to-biome picture of mycorrhizal symbiosis.
The project is a collaborative effort with UC Berkeley (Tom Bruns, John Taylor) and Rytas Vilgalys (Duke University). We are combining next-generation DNA sequencing, population genomics, transcriptomics, and functional enzyme assays with a sampling design covering multiple spatial and phylogenetic scales. This study will, (1) provide the first continental scale perspective on ectomycorrhizal taxonomic diversity, (2) identify genetic markers under positive selection in multiple ectomycorrhizal taxa across North America, (3) measure a broad spectrum of functional trait expression on individual mycorrhizal root tips and in soils, and (4) use a hierarchical genetic sampling design to measure variation in functional enzyme production across individuals, populations and species of ectomycorrhizal fungi. Our goal is to synthesize these parts to test one overarching hypothesis regarding the general nature of EMF communities, namely that they are taxonomically diverse but have high functional redundancy.