Orchids are one of the most diverse plant families with over 25,000 species spread across the world. Out of the total, about 200 species no longer photosynthesize and instead steal nutrients from fungi, like the coralroot orchids. This provides a captivating system to address questions of the adaptive evolution of host-specific associations. While numerous studies have been conducted in many mycoheterotrophic plants and their fungal hosts, there is a lack of understanding of how these associations evolved at the genetic level. To address these questions of adaptive evolution and host specificity, I study coralroot orchids (Corallorhiza maculata complex) and their fungal host (Russulaceae) to identify the interactions between plant and fungal individuals. This allows me to compare orchids and their fungal hosts among and within populations, and how fungal host-specificity impacts overall plant health.
American Society of Plant Taxonomists Graduate Research Grant (April 2021)
American Orchid Society Research Grant (June 2020)
Barrett, CF, Lambert, J, Santee, MV, Sinn, BT, Skibicki, SV, Stephens, HM, Thixton HL. Genetic, morphological, and niche variation in the widely hybridizing Rhus integrifolia‐Rhus ovata species complex. Plant Species Biol. 2021; 36: 17– 35. https://doi.org/10.1111/1442-1984.12293 Thixton, HL, Esselman, EJ, Corey, LL, Zettler, LW. Further evidence of Ceratobasidium D.P. Rogers (Basidiomycota) serving as the ubiquitous fungal associate of Platanthera leucophaea (Orchidaceae) in the North American tallgrass prairie. Botanical Studies 61, 12 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40529-020-00289-z
“Phylogeography, genomic variation, and fungal host specificity of the Corallorhiza maculata complex (Orchidaceae)”. Poster presentation at: Botany 2020 Virtual!, Virtual Meeting. 27-31 July 2020.