Biological & Geological Sciences 3047
Biological & Geological Sciences 3057
(519) 661-2111 x 88647
The long-term research goal of the Thorn lab is to explore the relationships between phylogeny and function - evolution and ecology - in the fungi. Fungi are critically important in most terrestrial ecosystems, providing mineral nutrients to vascular plants through mycorrhizal symbioses and decomposing plant remains to recycle both organic and inorganic nutrients through the ecosystem. Fungi form networks of microscopic filamentous cells, and interact with all of the organisms - ranging from bacteria to mammals and plants - that share their physical environment. Although processes, such as nutrient cycling, that are driven by fungi are well recognized, almost nothing is known about which specific organisms are doing the job or how their interactions with other organisms affect the outcome of the process. A hypothesis underlying this work is that species are unique, multiplex organisms which can only be thought of as functionally redundant in terms of their ability to carry out a single biochemical reaction under laboratory conditions. Different species of fungi may indeed share this biochemical capacity, but each has a unique suite of other biochemical capacities and inter-organismal interactions that makes it unique in the natural environment.
Major research areas in Thorn’s lab include phylogeny of fungi inhabiting soil, litter and wood, discovery and description of fungal diversity, and determining the effects of disturbance, including agriculture, climate change and forestry, on fungal diversity and ecosystem function.