Corrina Thomson
PhD Candidate

Department of Biology
University of British Colombia

Supervised by Dr. Jason Pither

Ecological and evolutionary drivers of host-mycorrhizal associations

I study the ecological and evolutionary factors that drive the distribution of mycorrhizal host types and associations between hosts and mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi form symbiotic associations with host plants through their roots, and generally improve plant nutrient uptake and pathogen protection. These fungi are very important in natural ecosystems, yet many questions remain unanswered. Which abiotic factors control the distribution and abundance of mycorrhizal host types? The relative abundance of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) hosts is a very strong determinant of the cycling and storage of carbon and nitrogen, and climate change may alter the abundance and distribution of these types. Do plant-soil feedbacks from mycorrhizal fungi impact plant community structure in natural ecosystems? Lastly, why do some plant hosts associate with many fungi and some with only a few, and what governs this specificity?