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During my postdoctoral research in Nick Talbot's lab at The Sainsbury Laboratory, I investigated the nature of the lichen symbiosis. How is such a cross-kingdom partnership, which has evolved multiple times, initiated and maintained?

I used a combination of transcriptomics, genomics, and microscopy to investigate these questions, within the lichen study systems of Xanthoria parietina and Cladonia portentosa.

(Stay tuned for the exciting results once I emerge from beneath a mountain of data!)

I conducted my PhD in Alan Prather's lab in the Department of Plant Biology and the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior program at Michigan State University.

 

I investigated the latitudinal diversity gradient of lichens using a comparison of two methods; using herbarium collections data, and using my own field-sampled data along a latitudinal gradient in the Americas. From my own observations in the field, I have seen very high species richness and beta diversity of lichens in tropical forests versus temperate and boreal forests. However, the herbarium collections data show a peak of lichen diversity in the mid-temperate latitudes, and not in the tropics.

 

Could lichens be an exception to the classic latitudinal diversity gradient pattern? Or are the tropics simply undersampled/underrepresented in collections data? Stay tuned to find out!

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The focus of my Master's Thesis work was on the ability of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to help their plant symbionts deal with salinity stress. I studied a mixture of native, invasive, and agricultural legumes in south Florida with a particular focus on the pine rockland ecosystem.

During my thesis tenure I had the opportunity to visit ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) in Hyderabad, India. There I helped to study the impact of various field conditions on rhizobial bacteria and their symbiosis with crop legumes.

(pictured left)

A component of my thesis work is published here:

Scharnagl K, Sanchez V, von Wettberg E (2018) The impact of salinity on mycorrhizal colonization of a rare legume, Galactia smallii, in South Florida pine rocklands. BMC Research Notes 11:2

doi.org/10.1186/s13104-017-3105-8