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Research

I study mushroom foming fungi and their ability to break down organic matter (such as cellulose and lignin) produced by other organisms. The mechanisms involved in the decomposition of organic matter are complex involving enzymes but also other less understood agents such as secondary metabolites and metal ions. To understand these mechanisms in depth I have been developing new ways to look at the decomposition of organic matter using spectroscopic methods. Furthermore, I use genomic sequences to understand how decomposition mechanisms have been evolving the last 350 MY. 

Why is the understanding of evolution and function of decomposition mechanisms important? Fungal decomposition releases carbon trapped in plant tissues back into the atmosphere. At the same time, fungi transform part of the plant carbon into fungal biomass, which along with the byproducts of decomposition participates in the formation of soils. Therefore, fungi play tremendous role in carbon cycling in terrestrial ecosystems.

Additional interests in relation to fungi include systematics and biodiversity, applications of fungi in industry and green technologies and the popularization of the cryptic lifestyles of microbes to the general public.

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