The genetic basis of fungal adaptation

Dr. Sara Branco
Department of Integrative Biology, University of Colorado Denver
Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 4:00pm
Zoom Link: Password: spls2021

This is a HYBRID event. The speaker will be presenting from Zoom; we will host a live broadcast in Marley 230
Refreshments served at 3:30 in the Marley Lobby
Fungi are ubiquitous, hyper diverse, and play critical ecological roles, but the origins of fungal diversity are still poorly understood. Here I address how natural selection shapes the evolution of fungal lineages, leading to adaptation and diversification. I will focus on the evolution of mating-type chromosomes in anther smut fungi (Microbotryum spp.) and how mating compatibility leads to recurrent convergent chromosome rearrangements that assure fitness increase. I will also address the evolution of heavy metal tolerance in Suillus luteus, a mycorrhizal fungus associated with pine trees, and how localized genomic divergence is sufficient to withstand novel environments despite ongoing gene flow. These two studies unveil distinct fungal evolutionary strategies and provide clear links between genetic variation, adaptation and environments that allow for a much more comprehensive understanding of fungal diversity.
Dr. Sara Branco completed her Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Chicago as a Fulbright scholar, was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Paris. She has been studying fungi since she was 16 years old and earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Lisbon (Portugal). Currently Dr. Branco is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Integrative Biology at University of Colorado Denver. Dr. Branco studies the ecology and evolution of fungi with the goal of understanding the ecological factors that generate and maintain fungal diversity. Specifically, the Branco Lab uses a combination of field, laboratory and computational approaches to investigate how fungi colonize and persist in the environment. Dr. Branco’s studies range biological scales, from ecological communities to genomes and genes, and have a particular emphasis on adaptation to hostile environments. In addition to her passion for scientific research, Dr. Branco is also committed to promote efforts for effective science communication and increasing diversity in science.
Zoom Link:
Password: spls2021