My research interests focus on the interactions between mycorrhizal fungi and their host plants, in particular on the evolution of the mycorrhizal specialization of mycoheterotrophic plants. These special plants are achlorophyllous, so they don’t use light to grow and consequently they need to parasitize fungi to survive. This interaction is characterized by the rupture of the symbiotic association usually seen between green plants and mycorrhizal fungi.
The aim of my PhD project is to study the evolution of mycorrhizal specialization of mycoheterotrophic flowering plants, more specifically the lineages in the angiosperm families Burmanniaceae, Thismiaceae, Triuridaceae and Petrosaviaceae. I will use next generation sequencing to study the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi community, associated with the roots of these plants and use phylogenetic reconstruction methods trying to detect common mycorrhizal specialization patterns in the evolution of mycoheterotrophy.