2006-01: Welcome, Katalin Molnár, Visiting AFToL Researcher

January 2006 – Welcome, Katalin Molnár, Visiting AFToL Researcher

The Lutzoni Lab welcomes Katalin Molnár to Duke University! Katalin is currently a PhD student and a member of the Bryological Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, where she is the curator of lichens for the Eger Cryptogamic Herbarium of Eszterházy College (EGR). She comes from a floristic background, and has recently studied the lichens of the Carpathian Basin. She is spending the semester assisting with the AFToL project, and hopes to use the techniques that she learns in order to conduct future population studies addressing questions concerning pollution tolerance in Hypogymnia physodes and Lecanora conizaeoides.


2005-10: Welcome, Martin Kukwa, Visiting AFToL Researcher

October 2005 – Welcome, Martin Kukwa, Visiting AFToL Researcher

The Lutzoni lab is extremely excited to welcome Martin Kukwa from the University of Gdansk in Poland! He will be visiting for the next several months to work on the continuing AFToL project. His work in the lab will consist mostly of lichen identification and sequencing of the eight major loci outlined for the AFToL grant.


2005-07: Welcome, Brendan Hodkinson, New Graduate Student

July 2005 – Welcome, Brendan Hodkinson, New Graduate Student

The Lutzoni lab is excited to welcome Brendan Hodkinson to Duke University! Originally from Westminster, MD, Brendan received his B.S. in Biology from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, where he conducted a flora of the local lichen species.

He is spending the summer working as an associate in research on the AFToL project. Beginning in September 2005, he will be a first-year Ph.D. student at Duke, where his research will focus on interactions between non-photosynthetic bacteria and lichens.


2005-04: Congratulations, Dr. Valerie Reeb!

May 2005 – Congratulations, Dr. Valerie Reeb!

Lutzoni lab members congratulate Dr. Valérie Reeb, our first graduate student to be awarded a PhD! She has completed her thesis entitled “The lichen family Acarosporaceae: circumscription, origin of divergence and evolution of group I intron encoded homing endonuclease,” and is looking forward to returning in September 2005 to conduct her postdoctoral research.


2004-09: Welcome, Tami McDonald, New Graduate Student

September 2004 – Welcome, Tami McDonald, New Graduate Student

The Lutzoni lab is delighted to welcome Tami McDonald to Duke! Originally from St. Paul, MN, Tami received her B.A. in Biology and English from Grinnell College, and her M.S. from the Biology Department at the University of Minnesota.

After her Masters research regarding the taxonomy of Sticta, Tami worked on secondary metabolism in Aspergillus at the Plant Pathology department at the University of Wisconsin. She is now a first-year Ph.D. student at Duke, where her research interests will center on the molecular genetics of fungal symbiosis and pathogenicity.


2004-04: Undergraduate Research in the Lutzoni Lab

May 2004 – Undergraduate Research in the Lutzoni Lab

Two Duke undergraduates will join the Lutzoni lab this summer to carry out independent research regarding symbioses between Ascomycota and photosynthetic organisms.

Amanda Way, a rising sophomore, will be sponsored by the Howard Hughes summer fellowship program, and will be exploring the diversity and molecular systematics of secondary fungi associated with the lichen Umbilicaria from western North Carolina.

Lindsay Higgins, who has worked with us for the past semester, will be supported by the NSF REU program in Bioinformatics and Phylogenetics, and will be using a direct-PCR approach to assess the diversity, species composition, and molecular systematics of apparently unculturable fungal endophytes associated with representatives of several major plant lineages. Welcome, Amanda and Lindsay!

2004-03: New Grant to Study Seed-Associated Fungi

March 2004 – New Grant to Study Seed-Associated Fungi

Postdoc Betsy Arnold and collaborator James W. Dalling (University of Illinois) have been awarded an NSF grant to study the diversity, distribution, and demographic effects of seed-associated fungi inCecropia (Urticaceae). Recent work regarding the ecological impact of fungal pathogens on adult plants and seedlings in tropical forests has revealed that fungal diseases can play a significant role in determining demography, spatial distributions, and population genetic structure of their hosts. Equally important, however, are the hidden effects of seed-infecting fungi that constrain seedling recruitment by limiting seed survival in the soil. Seed-infecting fungi are likely to play an especially critical role for pioneer species that depend upon transient or persistent soil seed banks for colonization of infrequent canopy disturbances. Arnold and colleagues will conduct a detailed ecological and molecular taxonomic characterization of the suite of seed-infecting fungi (endophytes, saprophytes, and pathogens) associated with multiple species of Cecropia in three neotropical sites (Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador).


2003-11: First AFToL Visitor, New Graduate Student

November 2003 – First AFToL Visitor, New Graduate Student

Our lab welcomes two new arrivals: Damien Ertz, the first visiting scholar supported by the NSF AFTOL grant, and Suzanne Joneson, a new Ph.D student.

Damien, a Ph.D. student in lichenology at the National Botanical Garden of Belgium, is working to revise the paleotropical Opegrapha (crustose lichens). During his four-month stay at Duke, Damien is focusing on molecular systematics of the family Roccellaceae.

Suzanne completed her Master’s research (systematics of the Ramalina almquistiicomplex) at the University of Washington, and joined the Lutzoni lab in August to explore the molecular and genetic bases of lichen symbioses. Her interests center on elucidating the genes and molecular processes involved in the formation of lichen associations.


2003-02: Three new postdocs, NSF recipient

February 2003 – New Postdocs, NSF Recipient

On January 1, 2003, three new postdocs have joined our lab. Cymon Cox and Valérie Hofstetter will play an active role in Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life (AFTOL) project. Valérie, is the coordinator of the activities related to the sequencing of 7 loci (ca. 10 kb) for 400 lichenized and allied ascomycete species. Cymon in collaboration with Frank Kauff is responsible for the development of the bioinformatic structure of this project.

Betsy Arnold is the recipient of an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Microbial Biology to develop an eco-phylogenetic approach to study previously unexplored questions of fungal endophyte evolution.