Background and context
Fungi are everywhere. They live in the soil, float in the air, digest dead plant material, parasitize other organisms or live in mutualistic relationships. They are essential for the functioning of nearly all ecosystems, yet they are very cryptic. In the Netherlands more than 10,000 species of fungi have been recorded, amongst which more than 5000 species of mushrooms.
Although you would think we know a lot about the biodiversity of the Netherlands, this cannot be said about the fungi of the Netherlands. Even large, mushroom forming genera remain understudied and hide a lot of cryptic diversity and misinterpretations. Through the combination of DNA-based techniques, field work and morphological interpretation, you can help closing this gap in our mycological knowledge. Several projects are available at BSc and MSc level that study some hyper-diverse (ectomycorrhizal) fungal genera in the Netherlands in an interdisciplinary way.
Objectives and goals
- Delineate species in a selected (sub)genus of fungi
Morphology, with all its taxonomic disparities, has been the main criterion upon which current fungal species concepts are based and morphologically defined species make up the largest number of named species. In this study we will use an integrative approach: we start from a DNA based method to delineate species and then compare the results with morphological and ecological data.
- Integrate species in a phylogenetic framework
Using phylogenetic techniques we will look at the evolution and diversification of the selected fungal genus and reveal the historic biogeography and character evolution.
Methods, tasks and approach
Following methods will be used:
- Fieldwork can be incorporated depending on the timing of the internship.
- DNA sequencing of non-coding and coding DNA markers using either Sanger or Illumina sequencing.
- Phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequences from fruitbody samples from the Netherlands and possibly other counties as well.
- Analyses of genetic diversity (haplotype diversity) and species delineation.
- Ancestral state reconstruction of key morphological and ecological characters, ancestral area reconstruction.
- Comparing genetic diversity with morphological character variation.
The results will be of interest to a broad scientific audience, and may lead to a scientific publication.
Completion of the 1st and 2nd year of the biology program or a BSc degree in biology, and interest in fungal biology.