About me

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee where I am a member of the Matheny lab.

My interest in mycology started during my last two years of college when I had the opportunity to develop my own research project performing a taxonomic revision of the genus Melanoleuca. After earning my B.S. degree in Biology, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in order to expand my undergraduate project studying the systematics of Melanoleuca in a molecular phylogenetic context. This project helped to uncover some hidden diversity of Melanoleuca in Mexico. As a result, I described four new species in this genus from Central Mexico.

I joined the graduate program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UT in fall 2011. During this time I have been studying the systematics and evolution of the Tricholomatoid clade, which is one of several major clades of Agaricales, the largest order of mushroom-forming fungi.

One part of my dissertation focuses on the systematics of the family Tricholomataceae. This family has traditionally been considered one of the largest families of Agaricales with 98 genera belonging to it. However, it has been shown to be highly polyphyletic. The main objective of this project is to re-evaluate the family Tricholomataceae in a phylogenetic context. I reconstructed a multi-gene phylogeny including sequence data from public databases and newly produced sequences. Based on these analyses, I reduced the Tricholomataceae from 98 to seven genera; three of them were described as new. A publication with these results is currently in press.

Other part of my dissertation focuses on the evolution and diversification of ectomycorrhizal (ECM) taxa in the Tricholomatoid clade. ECM symbiosis is a relationship between plant roots and fungi, where fungi enhance mineral uptake, water absorption and provide protection from root parasites in exchange for carbon produced by the plant during photosynthesis. Several families of land plants are involved in this symbiosis, including dominant trees in boreal, temperate, and tropical forests. The objective of this research is to evaluate whether the ECM mode is a driver of diversification within the Tricholomatoid clade.

Additionally, I am interested in the genetic changes that underlie transitions from saprotrophic to ECM fungi, and the patterns that shape the great diversity observed in fungi.

Contact information:
569 Dabney Hall
1416 Circle Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-1610