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International Symposium speakers

8 October 2023 / 09:00 - 19:15 BST / Online via Zoom webinar / Free of charge

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Sally Fryar, Australia

Sally is an honorary senior research fellow at Flinders University in South Australia. She completed her PhD at Flinders University in 1997 on the taxonomy and ecology of terrestrial wood decay fungi. In 1998 she moved to Hong Kong as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hong Kong where she studied freshwater and marine fungi under the supervision of Professor Kevin Hyde. Her research took her to various peat swamp forests, mangroves and streams in Borneo where she was a visiting fellow at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam. Her research now involves the ecology, evolution, and systematics of freshwater and marine fungi.

Abstract: Fungi are found in lakes, rivers, streams, oceans, estuaries, mangroves, and tidal flats around the world. They are found in the deep sea, arctic regions, the open oceans, and tiny waterholes in arid regions. Marine and freshwater fungi are typically different species to those found on land and are an essential component of many aquatic ecosystems as decomposers, pathogens and mutualists. Most aquatic fungi are ascomycetes, but other major groups of fungi including basidiomycetes, chytrids, and microsporidia are also represented. So far there are over 5000 fungal species described from marine and freshwater habitats, with many more to be described.

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Yu Fukasawa, Japan

Yu is an assistant professor at the University of Tohoku. He works on the ecology of wood decay fungi, with a broad interest in their diversity, behaviour, and ecological functions, associated with environmental factors and interactions with other organisms in forests. He has worked on these topics for beech, oak, pine and spruce forests in Japan as well as in European countries doing field work, laboratory incubation and molecular experiments, including a variety of organisms such as tree seedlings, bryophytes, myxomycetes and invertebrates interacting with wood decay fungi.

Abstract: The type of wood decay brought about by fungal decomposers is a categorized based on extent to which lignin and cellulose are broken down in the wood. After conducting dead wood investigations in forests in Japan and Europe, I have discovered a clear latitudinal gradient in the occurrence of brown rot type of decay, where lignin remains with little modification. Wood decay type could affect carbon sequestration in forests, as brown-rotted wood may play a more significant role in soil organic matter accumulation than white-rotted wood, where lignin undergoes substantial decay. An important aspect to consider regarding wood decay type is that the activities of fungi involved in wood decomposition can indirectly have long-lasting, cascading impacts on forest biodiversity by altering the physicochemical properties of dead wood. Therefore, it is crucial to incorporate the effects of wood decay type into ecological models in order to predict the long-term dynamics of biodiversity, vegetation, and carbon cycling in forest ecosystems worldwide.

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Ek Sangvichien, Thailand

Ek Sangvichien obtained a B.Sc. from Chulalongkorn University and Ph.D (2005) from Liverpool John Moores University, UK, with a  thesis entitled “Studies on Tropical lichen mycobionts”. He currently works as a member of staff of the Lichen Research Unit (LRU), at Ramkhamhaeng University, Bangkok, Thailand and teaches on the microbiology programme in the Department of Biology. His primary research activities have focused on culturing lichen-forming fungi for their phylogenetic analysis and production of useful metabolites. He is a member of the British Mycological Society (UK) and received the BMS Benefactors’ award in 2009 and the Quarter Century Club of the Society of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (USA).

Abstract: Since the first account of lichens in Thailand from Koh Chang Island in 1909 and some collections from northern parts of country, LRU at Ramkhamhaeng University was established in 1997 by supporting local grants. The herbarium (RAMK) was supported by Prof. Philip Rundel (UCLA) with his donation of 10,000 specimens from around the world, and currently more than 80,000 specimens are held in the herbarium including more than 100 new species and 50 new records (since checklist, 2017). Originally, research activity focused on tropical lichen diversity and taxonomy, but other aspects including the fungal partner for isolation and culturing of lichen forming fungi for their phylogenetic analysis, identification of secondary metabolites and their potential applications and examination of enzyme properties. Lichen transplants and Quality Air monitoring are also important parts of team activities.

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Bernice Bancole, Benin

Bernice is a Plant Pathology Researcher specializing in biological control of crop pests and diseases. She did her undergraduate and master’s degrees in the Republic of Benin at the University of Abomey-Calavi, and obtained her PhD in 2018 from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa, where she is now an honorary researcher. She is currently a Research Associate at the National High School of Applied Biosciences and Biotechnologies (ENSBBA) of the National University of Sciences, Technologies, Engineering and Mathematics (UNSTIM)-Republic of Benin, and a Plant Pathologist at the Institute of Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR). One of her many current interests is working on Science des données au féminin en Afrique with researcher Professor Thierry Warin

Abstract: In West African countries, known fungal diversity represents 11.4% of the expected diversity. Particularly for the Republic of Benin, such known diversity is less than 2%. Benin is located in West Africa and has a rich and diverse natural environment that remains largely unexplored in terms of fungal diversity and importance. For several groups of animals and plants, such data are available, but for fungi and fungus-like organisms they are mostly missing. However, scientific information about the fungal biodiversity distribution and importance are indispensable for their conservation and sustainable management. Collation of the small amount of available fungi diversity data is needed to secure the survival of species and natural habitats providing ecosystem services, in the face of pressure from an increasing human population causing land use changes, pollution, and climate change. The analysis of fungal diversity will yield insights into the species richness, abundance, and distribution patterns across different ecosystems in Benin. The analysis of the ecological factors influencing fungal distribution, the potential applications and use of the identified fungal species in various domains will shed light on the fungal diversity in the Republic of Benin, filling a potential critical knowledge gap in our understanding of the ecology of the fungi.

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Nailoke Pauline Kadhila, Namibia

Nailoke is an Associate Professor at the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Science. She also leads some research activities at the Zero Emissions Research Initiative (ZERI) in the Multidisciplinary Research Services (MRS), University of Namibia (UNAM). She has a PhD and MSc in Applied Biology from UNAM and BSc from Zhejiang University. Her interests are in Mycology, Microbiology, Molecular biology, and Biotechnology. Her main interest is in Mycology, especially basidiomycetes. Her current research is on the Namibian indigenous mushrooms and plants, with emphasis on those with medicinal significance, for the purpose of drug discovery and validation of indigenous knowledge, domestication of Namibian indigenous mushrooms, value addition and product development from edible and medicinal mushrooms. She Coordinates the (AUDA-NEPAD/SANBio) Mushroom Node.

Abstract: Nailoke will focus on how mushrooms have a cultural significance in many African societies being used in traditional medicine, culinary practices, and rituals. How Africans use indigenous knowledge that is passed down through generations by preserving cultural heritage on identification, collection, and preparation of edible mushrooms. Some regions in Africa that are known for their unique and diverse mushroom species and how this biodiversity attracts tourists interested in mycology and nature exploration will also be considered.

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Bethan Manley, UK

Bethan carried out PhD and postdoctoral research into the genetics and genomics of a particular group of mycorrhizal fungi - the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Her research involved using molecular and computational techniques to understand the genetics underlying the interactions between crop plants and fungi, and how the genomes of these secretive fungi affect their lifestyles. Bethan is now the Project Manager for Global Data Science at SPUN (Society for Protection of Underground Netwoks), a scientific research organization founded to map mycorrhizal fungal communities and advocate for their protection.

Abstract: Nearly all plants on Earth form a symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi and these fungi have altered the evolutionary history of the planet. When working toward understanding and conserving organisms there is a strong focus on what we can see, even when it comes to the fungal kingdom. We can sometimes miss or underestimate contributions from mycorrhizal fungi, crucial actors that exist out of sight in the soil. I will talk about the work that SPUN is doing to overturn this 'aboveground bias' and to work toward a better understanding of the world's mycorrhizal fungi through global mapping of underground mycorrhizal networks.

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David Andrew Quist, Norway

David is a researcher, restaurateur and entrepreneur. While he holds a Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley in Mycology, much of his career has been devoted to the science and policy of sustainable food systems. More recently, in 2018 he returned to his love of food and fungi to open the fermentation-forward “Nordic” ramen restaurant, Hrimnir in Oslo. In 2020, he launched a fermentation science company, Norwegian Mycelium, valorizing process industry side-streams with fungal technologies to create a range of high-value, sustainable food and feed ingredients.

Abstract: For this talk, David will discuss some of the ways that startup companies are tapping into the enormous potential of the fungal world, to create innovative solutions to global challenges.

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Kevin K Newsham, UK

Kevin Newsham is a research scientist at the NERC British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge, UK. Trained in microbiology in the 1980s at the University of Wales College, Cardiff, he has studied mycology for over three decades, with his main interest being in soil fungal responses to environmental change. After joining BAS in 1997, he spent nine summer seasons working in Antarctica, often under canvas on Alexander Island. Since 2010, he has worked at the international research community at Ny-Ålesund on Svalbard in the High Arctic, and in 2014–2017 was an adjunct professor in Arctic mycology at the University Centre in Svalbard. In 2018, he was awarded the polar medal by Queen Elizabeth II for his outstanding achievement and service to the United Kingdom in the field of polar research.

Abstract: Polar regions are exposed to some of the harshest conditions for life on Earth. They are also currently subjected to rapid climate change. Here, I’ll outline the environmental conditions encountered by terrestrial fungi in polar regions, how these conditions shape fungal communities and the strategies used by fungi to grow and survive in polar environments. I’ll also describe climate change at the poles and its effects on the environment, and detail experiments in the southern maritime Antarctic and High Arctic aimed at understanding how soil fungi will respond to increased temperature and precipitation. Some of the day-to-day challenges of working in polar regions – such as encounters with Arctic wildlife and camping on Antarctic glaciers – will also be explained.

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D Jean Lodge, USA

Dr. Lodge earned her MS in Plant Pathology and her PhD in Botany-Ecology at North Carolina State University. She subsequently conducted ecology and fungal systematics research for 36 years in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Basin, the first 10 years with the University of Puerto Rico, and the last 26 years with the USDA Forest Service (Center for Forest Mycology Research). After retiring in 2018, she became an adjunct professor at the University of Georgia, USA.

Abstract: Some tropical agaric fungi grow on shrubs and trees in humid tropical forests and frequently appear to be harmless. However, these fungi can rapidly change from a saprotrophic (Dr. Jekyll) to a necrotrophic (Mr. Hyde) stage, killing, then decomposing parts of the plants supporting them. Many of these tropical plant pathogenic agaric species are in the Marasmiaceae. A few plant pathogens in the Russulales and Gomphales are also known. In some cases, forest disturbances that opens the canopy trigger fungal conversion to the pathogenic stage.

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João Araújo, USA

João has PhD from Penn State University. He is now Assistant Curator of Mycology in the Institute of Systematic Botany at the New York Botanical Garden. He is an expert on entomopathogenic (insect-infecting) fungi and their mycoparasites. Currently he is researching the diversity and evolution of entomopathogenic fungi from Japan, the Amazon and Africa. He combines fundamental lab and field (especially in Amazonia) science with natural history, microscopy and photography. He is a keen science communicator, and likes to do this through the arts.

Abstract: The ability to infect insects arose multiple times along the evolution of Fungi. However, none has shown such broad and sophisticated strategies to infect, persist and transmit spores than the so-called “Zombie-Ant Fungi”. These fungi evolved the ability to make their hosts leave the colony, climb up to a summit position on plant parts and bite onto the substrate. The infected ant remains attached by locking its mandibles into the plant tissue, which is often further reinforced by fungal structures. A few days after the host’s death, the fungus erupts from their bodies to grow structures that will shower spores on the forest floor, eventually infecting new workers that forage on the ground. They also developed a broad range of morphologies, adapted likely in response to the host ecology and morphology. In this talk, I will present how these behaviour manipulators arose and which strategies they have developed in order to thrive and spread through several species, becoming a diverse fungal group.

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Primrose Boynton, USA

Primrose Boynton is an assistant professor in Biology at Wheaton College (Massachusetts, USA). She studies the ecology and evolution of single-celled fungi (i.e., yeasts), and engages undergraduate students with field and laboratory research. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2012, and worked for several years on yeast diversity at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology. She has worked with yeasts in a variety of environments, including carnivorous pitcher plants in bogs, domesticated fermentations in wine, and temperate forest floors. She is currently asking questions about how yeasts interact with one another and with other organisms in these complex natural communities.

Abstract: The kingdom Fungi is broad and diverse, and includes thousands or more species of yeasts. Yeasts are single-celled fungi, and this single-celled form has evolved many times in the Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Because yeasts are so diverse, they live in every imaginable habitat on Earth and interact with communities of microbes and macrobes. But yeasts are mysterious: despite their diversity, it's not always clear how they live and reproduce in their natural habitats.
The model yeast Saccharomyces paradoxus lives on soil and leaf litter in temperate northern hemisphere forests. S. paradoxus seems well-adapted to high sugar environments but cannot digest plant polymers, which are the most common source of energy in forest floor environments. However, S. paradoxus has diverse interactions with other forest floor fungi, some of which can facilitate its growth. My research explores the ecology and evolution of S. paradoxus and other yeasts in their natural habitats: I investigate how community interactions influence yeasts' growth and survival in these complex environments.

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Silvia Restrepo, Colombia

Silvia was born in Bogotá, Colombia. She is currently Vice President for Research Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá. She is a full Professor at Universidad de los Andes, School of Engineering, Department of Food and Chemical Engineering, and  Director of the Mycology and Plant Pathology Laboratory. A specialist in fungal diseases of plants, molecular, population genetics, epidemiology, and control, Prof. Restrepo has been working in the research and management of plant diseases for the last 20 years.  She is a member of the Colombian Academy of Sciences, and has been awarded prizes by TWAS, Christiane Doré, Elizabeth Grose, and Louis Malassis.

Abstract: We are starting to understand how plants and fungi interact. For the last 20 years, I have studied fungi that cause devastating diseases in plants but also fungi that live inside the plants without causing apparent damage and fungi that establish symbiotic relationships with their hosts; what we have to understand as humans is that the fungi, like all other living organisms, are just trying to survive in complex environments. In my talk, I will focus on fungi and fungus-like microorganisms that cause disease in the Solanaceae (nightshades) botanical family of plants. I will also illustrate other fungal representatives of the incredible biodiversity of Colombia.

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