My research interests are focused on the widespread interactions between plant roots and symbiotic fungi, together known as mycorrhizas. I use isotope tracers, environmental physiology and metabolomics to explore the exchanges of plant-carbon and fungal-acquired nutrients between mycorrhizal symbionts. My particular interests lie in how diverse mycorrhizas, including Mucoromycotina ‘fine root endophytes’, respond and interact with biotic and abiotic factors, in both evolutionary and applied contexts. Our research is helping us to understand the role mycorrhizal fungi may have played in the colonisation of Earth’s terrestrial environment by plants >500 million years ago, and how we might be able to use mycorrhizal fungi to reduce future agricultural usage of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Our research also seeks to understand the influence of emerging contaminants on mycorrhizal symbiosis and is helping to inform crop breeding programmes to produce the next generation of mycorrhiza-friendly crops.
I completed my PhD in environmental physiology in 2009 at the University of Sheffield before getting into mycorrhizas during my postdoctoral studies (2009-2015), also at Sheffield. I got my first academic post at the University of Leeds in 2015, moving there as a University Academic Fellow and becoming Professor in 2019. I moved back to the University of Sheffield this summer (2020) as Professor of Plant-Soil Processes.