Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are a group of ancient fungi that form a mutualistic symbiosis with most land plants influencing plant productivity, survival, and composition. For these reasons AMF are often used as biofertilizers. Multiple AMF can co-colonize many plant species simultaneously creating extensive interconnected mycorrhizal networks bellow our feet. These networks can expand further through connections between genetically distinct individuals where nuclei can be exchanged.
My research focuses on better understanding the evolutionary significance of the AMF unique nuclear dynamics across scales and specifically how they affect the function and fitness of the interconnected fungi and plants, in diverse abiotic and biotic conditions. I am interested in applying the acquired knowledge towards a more sustainable agriculture and to better understand the challenges that the mycorrhizal symbiosis faces against climate change.
MY RESEARCH AREAS ACROSS SCALES:
a) Nuclear scale
Via a combination of high resolution molecular methods, advanced microscopy, and imaging analysis, I examine how thousands of nuclei are arranged, coordinated and interact with one another within the multinucleate AMF cells.
b) Network scale
By including trait quantification approaches to the previously mentioned molecular and microscopy techniques I aim to understand in depth the AMF intrastrain interactions and their role at the connectedness of the mycelia.
Expanding beyond monoxenic AMF-plant interactions I also explore how the presence of bacteria (e.g. cyanobacteria) affects the morphology and function of fungal hyphae and spores, and how they affect the mycorrhizal networks and the overall symbiosis.
c) Agricultural/Ecosystem scale
Finally with the inclusion of biochemical assessment methods of in vitro, in plantae and field experiments, I am interested in whether/how the AMF nuclear dynamics affect the: plant response, plant community composition and ecosystem functioning across environmental gradients.