Nicola J. Day, M.Sc.(Hons)
Thesis topic: Changes in root-associated fungal communities during plant invasions: a case study in Ontario using Vincetoxicum rossicum
Exotic plant invasions are where one plant species dominates a landscape and may lead to declines in native biodiversity, social aesthetic values and economic losses. Recent research in has demonstrated the importance of belowground communities in determining the success of exotic invasions in a range of environments. Using a multifaceted approach of field studies, glasshouse work, traditional microbiology work and molecular techniques, I am investigating how root-associated fungal communities on one highly invasive plant species change during invasion. Vincetoxicum rossicum (Apocynaceae), also known as dog strangling vine, is originally from eastern Europe and is highly invasive in southern Ontario. Plant roots can harbour a wide diversity of fungi with different lifestyles, ranging from plant growth-promoting mutualists (e.g. mycorrhizas) to growth-reducing pathogens. I am interested in how root-associated fungal communities change during the course of invasion in this model invasive plant. In particular I am investigating changes in the balance of beneficial and non-beneficial root-associated fungi over time and describing and investigating function of different root-associated fungal taxa.
I am co-supervised by Dr Kari Dunfield and Dr Pedro Antunes at the Invasive Species Research Centre, Algoma University.
Keywords: Vincetoxicum rossicum; dog strangling vine; plant invasions; root-associated fungi; root endophytes; arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; pathogens; denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis; 454 pyrosequencing.