Fungi provide essential services for ecosystems, such as decomposing organic matter, nutrient cycling, and in the case of mycorrhizal species, also nutrient transfer to plants. In forest ecosystems they are largely responsible for breakdown of the abundant large biopolymers cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and chitin. Activities of single fungal species or groups are difficult to access in soils. However, currently we are able to access fungal diversity and activities in soil samples - thereby unraveling the so called “black box”.
My aim is to discover fungal functions at the molecular level (e.g. gene detection, transcript-level expression and manipulation, protein expression) for fungi as a functional group, but also for single species. Specifically the expression of genes involved in carbon, nitrogen and phosphate biogeochemical cycles gain my interest. In future research these small steps of information on molecular level will provide a clearer picture of processes at ecosystem level.
Beside my research in fundamental ecology of fungi, I am also interested in potential biotechnological applications of several fungal genes (e.g. glycoside hydrolases, esterases and oxidoreductases). Several enzyme-encoding genes are hereby especially of interest for breakdown of diverse polymers, toxic waste or for synthesis of new compounds.
For another subproject (a metatranscriptomic primer-based study) during my postdoc in Michigan and Belgien, I developed a specific site which you can access here.