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Nicole Hynson, Associate Professor, Pacific Biosciences Research Center, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, delivers an impressive overview of the fascinating research she and her team are conducting at Hynson Lab.

Hynson heads the Hynson Lab for Community Ecology that is located in the Department of Botany at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. The lab’s primary focus is the ecology of plant and fungal communities, with a particular interest in the symbiosis that exists between plants and fungi, which is known as mycorrhizae. Since 2012 her lab has been digging deep into the science of fungi. Their diverse laboratory group is comprised of advanced scientists with backgrounds in varying fields from ecology and evolution to physiology and computational biology.

Hynson details the work they do in her lab, studying the interactions fungi have with other organisms, specifically—plants. She discusses the symbiotic interactions of fungi over time. Additionally, Hynson discusses how different capacities are required to gain nutrients, detailing the function of fungi in the symbiotic relationship with plants, in which fungi assisted plants to transition from a water growth environment to soil. In exchange, the plants provided the fungi with carbon to complete their lifecycle—a truly symbiotic exchange.

The fungi expert and Ph.D. talk about the complexities of microbial symbiosis, explaining the intricate interactions that could take place between bacteria, fungi, plants, etc. As Hynson states, her job, as she sees it, is to untangle these interactions—to understand the role that they play, and how the interactions can change depending on the environmental context. Hynson says that one of her lab’s goals is to use these microorganisms, specifically fungi, in restoration and conservation practices. Hynson elaborates on the other areas of great interest in regard to fungi, such as increasing crop yield, sustaining resources, and limiting the need for fertilizers.

Hynson continues with her discussion of how nutrients are transferred to hosts and how competition and diversity impact the processes. Hynson received her Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of California Berkeley and worked extensively in the Bruns Lab. And she was a vital postdoctoral researcher in the well-known lab of Prof. Kathleen Treseder at the University of California Irvine.

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