New grants in 2018!
NSF RAPID (PI), NSF PopComm (Co-PI), and DOE BER Systems Biology (PI). Here comes some research goodness! These grants are facilitating a general push in the lab in biology of wood decay, the potential to harness genes and pathways in biotechnology (primarily industrial biomass deconstruction) and the consequences at larger scales in nature.
Papers up in 2018!
Seven papers are on the books so far in the following journals: Applied Microbiology & Biotechnology, Applied & Environmental Microbiology, International Journal of Microbiology, Journal of Microbiological Methods, Functional Ecology, Fungal Genetics & Biology. Three of these are Dr. Gerry Presley's PhD papers, wind that filled his sails on route to his gig at Oak Ridge National Lab.
About the Lab
Since 2006, our research has been basic and applied mycology. We focus most of our efforts on fungi that decompose non-edible plant tissues like wood, with specific attention to the basics of how they metabolically transform carbon. Understanding that underlying biology is very important when prospecting new metabolites and pathways for biomass conversion and medicine. It also provides biological insight into terrestrial carbon dynamics. Carbon cycling shapes our climate. The more we know about plant decomposition, the better we will be at predicting how our climate will change – plants are the largest pool of biotic carbon on Earth.
The techniques we use in the laboratory combine old and new, and are increasingly in a collaborative context. Wood degradation research has been active for over 100 years, often with the focus on durability. Many techniques evolved in a pre-molecular (before DNA-based tools) era and focused as much on analyzing the changes in the plant tissues (lignocellulose) as they did on the fungi. These were often very clever benchtop techniques, and they remain extremely useful in our lab. With the proliferation of DNA- and RNA-based tools, we now have an amazing window into the fungal processes and community assembly dynamics driving these processes. This adds to the picture rather than supplanting the old view; therefore, we are coupling modern tools (transcriptomics, proteomics, enzymatic assays) with traditional techniques (C fraction mass balance, wood solubilities, fungal biomarkers), with the goal of linking fungi and their genomes to their functional roles in nature and in our day-to-day lives.