Extremophilic fungi possess adaptations that enable successful colonization of environments characterized by extremes of temperature, water activity, salinity, radiation, and/or pH. As part of a broad emphasis on understanding these adaptations, the long-term objective of the team’s research is to determine how fungi interact with photoautotrophs (algae and cyanobacteria). Their work focuses on fungal interactions in the context of biological soil crusts (BSCs), which are composed of bacteria (including cyanobacteria), fungi, algae, lichens, and mosses. Understanding the composition and functional interactions within BSCs represents a key step towards developing strategies for engineering and manipulating these communities to improve their resilience and enable their transplantation.The goal of this project is to obtain complementary metagenomic and metatranscriptomic data that will provide a broad perspective on the fungal and algal constituents of these communities and their expressed functions. In addition, the genome sequences of selected extremophilic fungi and associated algae will be generated with a view to revealing adaptations that enable their interaction and tolerance of environmental stress.
Proposer: Steven Harris, University of Nebraska, Lincoln