Tangled Bank Seminar
Tangled Bank Seminar by Martin Grube (University of Graz) on "Lichens as models of symbiotic complexity " and Ester Gaya (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) on "What are fungi and why are they important?"
Lichens as models of symbiotic complexity
Institute of Biologie, University of Graz, Austria
The self-sustaining association of algae and fungi gave rise to the intricate structures known as lichen thalli. Their persistence provided good conditions for other microorganisms to take part in the symbiotic system. These include primarily other fungi, as well as a diverse bacterial community. Symptoms of lichen-inhabiting fungi have since long been observed, while multi-omics analyses were use to study diversity of bacteria and their potential involvement in the lichen symbiosis or their responsiveness to the varying environmental condition. These results suggest that, in addition to the two classic partners, lichen symbioses comprise also multiple further players interacting in long-living lichen thalli.
Martin Grube is a Professor at the Institute of Biologie, Graz, Austria. He obtained his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Graz in 1995. He worked on taxonomy of tropical lichens (in particular the family Arthoniaceae) and lichen-inhabiting fungi and pioneered molecular phylogenetics of lichens. Later on, he also studied of algal selectivity in lichens symbioses before he steered research on the diversity and roles of bacterial communities in lichen symbioses. His scientific interests also comprise diversity studies of rock-inhabiting extremotolerant fungi, biological soil crusts, plant-associated microbiomes, and slime molds.
What are fungi and why are they important?
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
How many species, families and phyla are currently known to science and why is it so difficult to work these numbers out? What are we doing about filling the knowledge gaps in the fungal tree of life? What makes a species of fungus economically valuable? What daily products utilise fungi and what are the useful fungi of the future for food, medicines and fungal enzymes? How many whole fungal genomes have been sequenced to date? Which fungal diseases pose the greatest threats to global ecosystems? What impact is climate change having on fungal communities across the globe? How many species of fungi are threatened with extinction and why are they so difficult to assess? These are some of the questions that the State of the World’s Fungi report led by Kew in collaboration with more than a hundred scientists across the world tried to answer last year. This report marked the first time that any organisation has attempted to pull together data on fungi in this way to examine the current status of knowledge. The main goal was to highlight the global significance of fungi not only to the scientific community but also to conservation, business and government communities as well as to the general public. This report shows that fungi have remained in the shadows when compared to research on plants and animals.
Ester will also give an overview on some of the fungal research carried out at Kew.
Ester Gaya has worked at Kew since 2013, conducting research on the diversity and evolution of fungi. She focusses on processes of speciation and phenotypic evolution using lichenised fungi as a case study. Her main scientific interests include methods testing using an empirical approach: phylogenetics, phylogenomics, dating events, ancestral character state reconstructions. Her specialties include taxonomy and systematics of Teloschistales (Ascomycota).