Summer 2012 Research
Dr. Laura Aldrich-Wolf
My research focuses on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, a group of fungi that form beneficial associations with the roots of most plant species. I am interested in how human use of the land has altered the diversity of these fungi and how we might manipulate these fungi to alter crop yields, reduce invasions by non-native plants and maintain local biodiversity. I currently have two projects involving students at Concordia.
Species composition and functional diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizas in native and non-native grasslandsPart of the key to the success of invasive non-native plants in grasslands may be the ways in which they alter community composition belowground. This summer, we will work at Concordia's Long Lake Research Station and surrounding sites to compare species composition of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi between recently established prairie, natural prairies and invaded grasslands. Students will have the opportunity to work in the field extracting soil cores and growing, harvesting and learning to identify plants. In the lab, students will use microscopy to identify fungal species and look at root colonization rates by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. There will also be an opportunity to use molecular techniques to extract DNA from spores and plant roots and amplify fungal genes using the polymerase chain reaction
Diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in conventionally and organically grown coffee
Fungicide use in conventionally-grown coffee greatly restricts the abundance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, the beneficial fungi that help plants to acquire nutrients and resist parasitism and disease. However, little is known about the effects of chronic fungicide use on diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. We will spend two weeks in Costa Rica taking soil samples in coffee fields with a history of high fungicide use and fields of coffee that have been grown organically. Back at Concordia, we will extract spores from the soil samples and begin to characterize the diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in these fields using both traditional microscopic approaches to identification and molecular identification by DNA extraction and amplification of fungal genes using PCR.
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