Friday, March 30, 2012

MSA Symposium on Fungal Diversity

As I noted in my last post, I will be attending the Mycological Society of America meeting at Yale this summer. At the meeting, I will be chairing a symposium that I put together, entitled Phylogenetic, Ecological, and Functional Diversity of Fungi. Financial support for the symposium will be provided by 454 Life Sciences, a Roche company. The symposium will have an introduction from a representative of 454, one of the major companies providing solutions for large-scale studies of diversity through metagenomics and related fields. After that, there will then be five talks on a variety of topics relating to fungal diversity. Abstracts for all of the talks in the symposium can be found here:

Here is the brief formal summary of the event:
"How do we best characterize fungal diversity? The speakers in this symposium will explore fungi in the environment from varied perspectives, examining the relationships and interactions between organisms. This symposium links various disciplines (e.g., systematics, ecology, genetics, metagenomics, metaproteomics) around the theme of studying environmental fungal diversity."

My own talk at the symposium will focus on a new pyrosequencing-based approach that I am using to obtain sequence data for studying the systematics of lichen-forming fungi. Here is the abstract:
"Lichen-forming fungi represent one of the most readily visible and publicly accessible groups of organisms studied by mycologists. Remarkably, despite their 'high profile' nature, many aspects of lichen biology and taxonomy remain poorly understood and critically understudied. These two factors converge noticeably in a highly speciose assemblage of lichens that are referred to as sterile asexually-reproducing crustose lichens, or more simply, 'sterile crusts.' These taxa do not represent a monophyletic group, but rather are treated together because they have all evolved to reproduce primarily through the dispersal of lichenized diaspores (specialized dispersal units that include the major constituents of the lichen microbiome). Species that employ this mode of reproduction have evolved in nearly all of the diverse lineages that comprise lichen-forming fungi. In an effort to overcome the taxonomic impasse in this group, we have developed a set of high-throughput procedures to test for correlations between molecular sequence data and non-molecular character data to phylogenetically place and phenotypically define a large number of species so that they can be formally described and subsequently integrated into conservation and management plans. This work includes using slower-evolving loci (e.g., mtSSU and nucLSU) to place many of the 'incertae sedis' lichen-forming fungi into a higher-level framework and testing species boundaries using the ITS fungal 'barcode' region."

Thanks to all of the speakers for agreeing to participate in the symposium and to all of the people at MSA and 454 who helped me to get this symposium together!

- Brendan

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