The fungal kingdom consists of an unknown number of species with estimates of total numbers in the millions. Many of the best-characterised species are either beneficial or detrimental to humans. For example, fungi 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. However, fungi are the main agents of plant disease and rot wood, as well as causes of allergies and are common human infectious agents. A few species also cause life-threatening mycoses, especially in people with reduced immune function. Fungi are the most closely related group of organisms to animals. As such, they also serve as models to understand both animal and eukaryote biology.
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 the Leptosphaeria species 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 techniques, forward genetic mutant screens, classical Mendelian genetic crosses, phylogenetic comparisons, genome sequencing, and genomic profiling or expression analyses.