Dr. Gian Maria Niccolò Benucci (postdoc) researches the biology, ecology, and genomics of plant and fungal microbiomes. Current research is focused on assembly of ectomycorrhizal communities on forest trees, and adaptive microbiomes in the biofuel crop ‘switchgrass’.






Dr. Pedro Beschoren da Costa (postdoc) researches the microbiome of biofuel crops including switchgrass, rice and poplar. Pedro is particularly interested in interactions between plant associated fungal and bacterial communities, and impacts of the plant microbiome on host plant traits.






Zhiyan Du (postdoc) studies lipid biochemistry and molecular biology of algae and fungi. ‘Rock’ is researching the molecular mechanisms underlying fungal-algal mutualisms, and is particularly interested in biotechnological applications utilizing fungal-algal consortia.





Chris Wright (postdoc) researches ligninolytic fungi in the Basidiomycota and Ascomycota, as well as those that produce edible mushrooms. Chris is also studying morel cultivation and ecology to decipher interactions between Morchella species and the roots of plants.



Natalie VandePol (PhD candidate) researches plant growth promoting fungi in the Mortierellaceae. Her project is focused on resolving the phylogeny of the fungal lineage and characterizing the extent and genetic basis of Mortierella-plant interactions.




Reid Longley (PhD student)is interested in microbiomes and their impact on the fitness of their host (holobiont). Reid is researching the impact of crop management on the soy microbiome. He is also researching impact of genetic and environmental factors on communities of eukaryotes and prokaryotes that constitute the coral microbiome.






Bryan Rennick (Masters Student) is researching the application of ectomycorrhizal fungi in forestry and agriculture. Bryan is particularly interested in the fungal diversity and the viability of co-cropping truffles with economic species of trees in the Midwest US.






Xinxin Wang (PhD student) is  interested in mushroom cultivation and disease management. Her PhD research is focused on the ecology, cultivation and comparative genomics of Morchella (morel fungi).







Julian Liber (undergraduate) is  researching the diversity, evolution, and ecology of fungal symbioses, aided by the power of molecular and computational methods. Julian is a second-year undergraduate pursuing a major in Plant Biology and a minor in Computational Mathematics, Science, and Engineering.





Abigail Bryson (undergraduate) is a microbiology and genetics major. Abby maintains our Mortierella culture collection and has been preparing nucleic acids from a diversity of Mortierellomycotina taxa for genome sequencing and annotation. Abby also researches the functional impact of Mortierella on moss phenotype.


Morgane Chretien  (undergraduate) is researching fungi in the rhizosphere and phyllosphere of switchgrass, a crop that is being used for cellulosic biofuel. Morgane loves the diversity, intricacy, and beauty of fungi.







Alissa Kuhn (undergraduate) is a Plant Biology major who is fascinated with mosses and their interactions with fungi. Alissa is also working on research into the cultivatable switchgrass mycobiome.







Rachel Sanders (undergraduate) is studying Urban Planning with a minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. Rachel is particularly interested in the global diversity and evolution of fungi, ectomycorrhizal fungal ecology, and wild fermentation.






Judson Vanwyk (undergraduate) is majoring in Environmental Microbiology. Judd enjoys foraging for mushrooms and is fascinated by fungal diversity and ecology. Judd’s research is focused on the transmission biology of endobacteria of  Mortierella fungi.  Judd is motivated to find ways in which fungal biota can be harnessed to improve agricultural and ecological sustainability.





Karissa Renberg (undergraduate) is studying microbial communities recruited by fungal hyphae across a phylo-diversity gradient, to understand ecological interactions between bacteria and fungi.







Brother Tulasne (Field assistant) conducts research on  “Fungi hypogaei” and native edible truffle diversity in Michigan. Brother’s research has implications on forest biodiversity, conservation, and rural economic development.




Previous Lab Members

Alessandro DesiroDr. Alessandro Desirò (postdoc) is characterizing bacterial endosymbionts in early diverging lineages of fungi including Endogone, Umbelopsis, Mortierella and Glomeromycota, and their impact on fungal fitness and physiology.





Dr. Pedro Marco Montori is a visiting research scholar from the Centro de Investigacion y Techologia Agroalimentaria. Pedro researches truffle ecology and cultivation.  He is particularly interested in the truffle microbiome and its impact on the volatile profile of truffles.






GGiorgio Marozzi Ph Studentiorgio Marozzi, visiting scholar from the University of Perugia , is researching the microbial ecology of truffle cultivation.







Daniel Ojwang (visiting scholar) is a mycologist in Kenya researching sustainable mushroom cultivation in Africa. 

Daniel Ojwang (visiting scholar) is a USDA Borlaug Fellow from Kenya researching sustainable mushroom cultivation in Africa.  Daniels applied fungal biology research is aimed at improving child nutrition and rural economies.


Sophia Fitzgerald (undergraduate) conducted summer research on the cultivatable soy microbiome, with support through the Long-Term Ecological Research Network at Kellogg Biological Station (NSF REU). Sophia loves the outdoors and is passionate about the environment, ecology and languages.






Ana Vazquez Catoni (undergraduate) is from Puerto Rico. Ana spent her summer at MSU through the Plant Genomics Research Experience for Undergraduates program (NSF REU). Ana’s research focused on the diversity and functional impact of endohyphal bacteria in Mortierella. Ana won best undergraduate research poster at the 2018 International Mycological Congress.


Kayla Burnett (undergraduate) visited us from Illinois as an NSF REU student. Kayla’s research is focused on fungal diversity in soils and associated with plants. Kayla is also looking at the impact of lanthanides on fungal growth.







Elizabeth Gall (graduate student) is researching the impact of plant domestication on the  microbiome of Allium species (garlic, leeks and onions).








Emily Marie Washington  (undergraduate) is interested in fungal ecology, health and nutrition, and community development.







dsc_0048Zackary Roush (undergraduate) is gaining research experience in ectomycorrhizal ecology and plant propogation.








Ruiqing (Rachel) Ji is a visiting scholar from Jilin Agricultural University in China. Rachel’s research is focused on ectomycorrhizal synthesis and fungal diversity in Christmas tree nurseries and farms.







Nils BenningNils Benning (undergraduate) uses gas chromatography and fatty acid methyl ester analysis to research impact of phylogenetic history and environmental factors on fatty acid and  lipid metabolism in species of Mortierella fungi. These fungi are reknown for their efficient lipid anabolism.








Quinn Hanses (undergraduate) studies fungal  morphology with light and scanning electron microscopy.









Shelby Hughey (undergraduate) is interested in fungal biochemistry and inter-cellular communication.








Zhen Hao (undergraduZhen Hao is a visiting undergraduate researcher from China interested in fungal-plant interactions.ate) is a visiting undergraduate researcher from China researching in fungal-plant and fungal-bacterial interactions.