My interests are in fungal (agaric) speciation patterns and biogeography. Phylogenies based on DNA sequences are used to answer the following questions.
Do agaric “species” have a global distribution indicating widespread gene flow via airborne spore distribution or are they partitioned into geographic sub-areas? If partitioned, what factors act to prevent gene flow between populations and how did populations migrate to present-day distributions?
Are current distribution patterns within species a consequence of vicariance events or more recent quaternary migrations?
Together with Ron Petersen and many other mycological experts, we are examining agaric biodiversity in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) with a grant from NSF. This is in conjunction with the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory that is taking place. We wish to answer the following questions:
What factors contribute to the unusually high diversity of fungi found in the Smokies? Is diversity partitioned?
What factors contribute to the unusually high rates of heterozygosity observed in fungi from the Smokies and are there limits to the observed heterozygosity.
How has biodiversity changed over a 50 year period? Can the effects of climate change be detected?
A third interest is in modernizing biological collections. The fungal herbarium at Tennessee holds over 60,000 specimens. An NSF grant has been awarded to digitize the collection and make it available through GBIF. Funds are available for undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in collections to work on this project.