Our Students

  • Alexis Faulborn
  • Title: Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Plant Biology
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Graduate Student Alexis Faulborn with her poster, “Mycobiome associated with Sphagnum moss in New Jersey Pine Barrens Ecosystem,” at the 2023 Mycological Society of America Conference at Little America Hotel in Flagstaff, AZ.

I attended my first ever Mycological Society of America (MSA) annual business conference held at the Little America Hotel in Flagstaff, AZ from July 29th to August 3rd, 2023. MSA was founded in 1932 and is a group open to mycologists, students, and any person with interest in fungi. Members of MSA come from forty different countries and various backgrounds, ranging from academic to industrial. The society’s purpose is to promote mycology and foster education in mycology in all its aspects. I had the opportunity to present my work “Mycobiome associated with Sphagnum moss in New Jersey Pine Barrens Ecosystem” during Poster Session #1 in Ballroom A. My poster highlighted the fungal communities that I was able to culture and identify from NJ Pine Barren-collected mosses; it also focused on validating higher percentages of Leotiomycetes in both vascular and non-vascular plant communities. I was able to connect with fellow mycologists to explore accomplishments and potential pitfalls of my work. I networked with some bright individuals, who offered chemical approaches to test on my studies and advance my fungal interaction work. I was also able to interact with fellow scientists and help them in their own personal studies; a few collaborators were interested in some of my plant soil stock to advance their data pool, and I agreed graciously to send them any samples I have that might help.

My work also tries to tackle the immersive topic of climate change by implementing a multiple-state field plan. My study specifically investigates the impact of climate variation on mycobiome dynamics along a latitudinal transfect from Maine to Florida. Each pine barren environment has varying levels of micronutrients, with similarly low pHs; therefore, it is important that the soil and environment are documented as a dependent factor in my studies. In the study so far with the limited data I have on hand, we traveled to Florida, where the soil pH was acidic, and the soil composition was mostly phosphorus. We were able to culture and identify a limited mycobiome that provided potentially new species, in comparison to the slightly more composed NJ pine barren soil(s). With such drought affecting the pine barrens, and it only increasing in intensity over time, it is crucial to culture the beneficial fungi that promote continued plant growth before we lose the ability to study them altogether.

This was the 91st installment of the MSA conference, with this edition showcasing the ways in which fellow researchers are specifically elevating mycology. There were two opportunities to participate in an excursion to the Grand Canyon, as well as multiple socials, events, and interactive auctions to help the society continue to thrive. Each day there were up to six parallel sessions, with the choice to attend whichever related to our research more. The same situation applied with the few featured symposiums each day, followed by discussion and refreshments. I attended “Fungi and Global Change,” “Fungal Interactions of Biological Soil Crusts in a Changing Environment,” “Systematics and Diversity 2,” “Fire and Fungi,” “The Agents of F.U.N.G.I.B. (Fungi Underscoring Novel Gains in Biocontrol,” “Soil Fungi and Nutrient Cycling,” “Animal Associations,” and “Burning Topics.”

I am grateful for the networking opportunity and connections I made along the way in attending this conference. I look forward to attending future conferences, with the next one scheduled to be in Toronto, and the one after that in Wisconsin. For my next conference, I intend to expand my knowledge and have a tentative paper formed, so that I can give an oral presentation on top of the poster. I cannot wait to see how science evolves along my journey to become a well-rounded scientist and researcher.