Portrait of

Fungi Evolution

Dr. Anna Bazzicalupo, a postdoctoral fellow in the Otto Lab at the UBC Biodiversity Research Centre explains her research on the fascinating underground lives of fungi and their ability to adapt to harsh environments.

I'm Anna Bazzicalupo. I am a post-doc in the Biodiversity Research Centre working in the Otto Lab. My main field of research is fungal evolution. I love fungi because they are a diverse kingdom. They are everywhere in terrestrial ecosystems. Their evolution - the study of their evolution helps us understand how this diversity of forms and ways of living comes about.

How did you come to study fungi?

Mushrooms live above ground as mushrooms only about three to five days a year. They maybe fruit twice a year, but most of the time they're underground as filamentous cells and that's where they feed. That's where they find their mates. I got interested in trying to figure out certain parts of that part of the life cycle, that has to do with being able to survive highly polluted soils. Highly polluted soils are extremely common nowadays because we've polluted them. I started studying the DNA of fungi that are able to withstand these soils and what I'm doing now is actually working with Saccharomyces cerevisiae - the budding yeast - a model organism that I can evolve in the lab and see what kind of response organisms have when they are exposed to such harsh environments.

Why do you study biology?

Living on earth is a special experience. From what we know, it's the only planet that hosts so much diversity and to study every organism that we're in a way related to seems like a really great idea.

What is your favourite organism?

I've had many, many different favourite organisms throughout my life - I think from age five to seven, it was giraffes, but right now I'm concentrating on yeast and I love them very much.

What is your favourite research memory?

I don't have a specific moment that I can say is my favourite research moment. I enjoy research as a process. The feeling of discovering something is amazing.

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