Research

I am interested in:
1) what makes fungi so diverse
2) what are the functional differences between different ectomycorrhiza
3) what makes some ectomycorrhizal fungi generalists while others are specialists
4) why are some fungi slimy, while others are dry

Why study Cortinarius?

The genus Cortinarius Fr. contains over 2000 described species and most of them in Europe. Many more are described each year. They occur on every continent except for Antarctica, although they do appear to be cold-adapted. They are mycorrhizal with members of the Fagales, Pinaceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Salicaceae, Ericaceae and Myrtales. Many species are generalists but a few are specific to alder or birch. Thus they are expected to have a great impact on the health and growth of trees. The genus contains a few species which a choice edibles, and a few species that are deadly poisonous. They are poorly understood in North America.

Current Research:
A Taxonomic Revision of Cortinarius subgenus Cortinarius

Members of this subgenus occur on every continent, except for Africa and Antartica (If you know of any collections, please let me know). Cortinarius violaceus is the type species for the genus Cortinarius. C. violaceus occurs with both hardwoods and softwoods. C. violaceus var. violaceus occurs with softwoods and C. violaceus var. hercynicus occurs with hardwoods. I would like to test whether there is any genetic variation between these two varieties. I will also do a worldwide taxonomic revision of the subgenus using morphological characters and by building a multigene phylogenetic tree. Preliminary results suggest there has been diversification in Central America, and I will use the tree to test hypotheses about their biogeography. I would also like to test if there has been co-evolution with their main host, the Fagales.

Past Research:


Cortinarius Species Diversity in British Columbia and Comparison with European Sequences


We sampled 962 Cortinarius specimens from the province of British Columbia, Canada. We present a maximum likelihood tree showing 179 putative Cortinarius species. As a working definition, we considered a “species” to be a monophyletic clade that included a reliably identified reference sequence, with a maximum of 3% ITS sequence variation. If no reference sequence was available, “species” were groups sharing 97% or more sequence identity. By these criteria, 110 putative B.C. species matched European species and 12 B.C. species matched species exclusively found in the Americas. Of the 56 B.C. species that did not match an identified reference sequence, some may be new to science, while others likely represent described species without available sequences. Since the paper has been published, C. parkeri (North America), C. aavae (Europe and North America), and C. xanthodryophilus (North America) have been described. C. phoniceus var. occidentalis has been renamed C. smithii.