For Josh Kielsmeier-Cook, the race is on to better understand the fungal genus Xylaria, which may be useful in pharmaceuticals and bioenergy production. The plant pathology Ph.D. student is studying the fungus in Yasuní National Park, which sits on top of one of Ecuador’s largest oil reserves.
“It’s an incredibly biodiverse location, and it’s under quite a bit of threat,” says Kielsmeier-Cook, a recipient of the C. Jerry Nelson International Fellowship and the John Dueck Plant Pathology Fellowship.
There are almost 700 named species of Xylaria, which were last classified in the 1950s using physical characteristics. Now, using DNA analysis, scientists can build a more accurate understanding of the genus’ diversity.
Browse through Kielsmeier-Cook's photos below to see examples of this fascinating fungus, and watch this short video about his research.