Olivia Asher

Summary of Research

In the dark underbelly of every ecosystem networks of tiny fungal filaments called "hyphae" snake through the soil. Some of the hyphae penetrate the roots of plants growing near them and form circular colonies inside of plant tissue called "arbuscules."

Plants and the fungi which form these arbuscules (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi or AMF) form a symbiotic relationship where the plant provides the fungus with carbon and the fungus provides the plant with nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen. This relationship evolved over 400 million years ago, and around 90% of plants have the ability to form symbioses with AMF.

One of the main goals of agriculture is to maximize crop yields while maintaining the viability of the land. AMF help provide plants with the nutrients they need to grow, and if the power of this symbiosis could be harnessed to maximize plant growth and health, farmers could increase crop
yields while decreasing fertilizer use. The potentials of AMF are currently underexploited due to lack of knowledge on these organisms and their relationship with plants.

Previously conducted research on AMF-plant symbiosis focused on the interaction between one plant type and one AMF species. In the real world, hundreds of species of AMF fungi may associate with one plant. Understanding these fungus-fungus and plant fungus interactions would allow for development of agricultural tools to enhance beneficial symbioses and increase crop yields. My research interest is to use computational modeling tools to both understand the dynamics of this complex system and to make predictions about how to best manipulate conditions to maximize the effectiveness of plant-AMF collaboration.

Unraveling the interactions of AMF-plant symbiosis will allow for benefits to agriculture and enhance our understanding of how symbiotic fungi impact natural ecosystems.

Publications

Asher, O.A. & Lendemer, J.C. (2021). Molecular data provide a new perspective on the evolution of reproductive modes and biogeography in the lichen genus Platismatia (Parmeliaceae, lichenized ascomycetes. [in prep]
Asher, O.A. & Davoodian, N. (2020). The Boletales fungi of New York City, Rhodora. [in press]
Davoodian, N., Hosaka, K., Raspé O., Asher, O.A., Franck, A.R., De Kesel, A., Delaney, T.P., Ammirati, J.F., Nagasawa E., B. Buyck & Halling, R.E. (2020). Diversity of Gyroporus (Gyroporaceae, Boletales): rpb2 phylogeny and three new species. Phylotaxa 434(3), 208-218.
Duncan, N., Asher, O.A., Weckel, M., Nagy, C., C. Henger & Yau, F. (2020). Baseline diet of an urban carnivore on an expanding range front. Journal of Urban Ecology, 6(1), https://doi.org/10.1093/jue/juaa021.
Asher, O.A. & Lendemer, J.C. (2018). Lecanora caperatica (Lecanoraceae, lichenized ascomycetes) a new sorediate species widespread in eastern North America. The Bryologist, 121(3), 306–323.

University of Georgia Research Experience Undergraduate Symposium 2020 (Online) – Who Will Survive? Ecological Modeling of Nutrient Exchange Between Plants and Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi. https://youtu.be/DVKpYmVcHTA

Northeast Natural History Conference 2017 (Cromwell, CONN) – Spatial Variation in the Diet of New York City Coyotes

Mycological Society of America Meeting 2019 (Minneapolis, MN) – Phylogenetic Analyses of the Genus Platismatia (Parmeliaceae, Lichenized Ascomycetes) Shed New Light on Species Relationships

Northeast Natural History Conference 2019 (Springfield, MA) – Phylogenetic Analyses of the Genus Platismatia (Parmeliaceae, Lichenized Ascomycetes) Shed New Light on Species Relationships

Student Undergraduate Research Conference 2019 (New York, NY)– Phylogenetic Analyses of the Genus Platismatia (Parmeliaceae, Lichenized Ascomycetes) Shed New Light on Species Relationships

Lehman Student Scholars Conference 2019 (New York, NY) Phylogenetic Analyses of the Genus Platismatia (Parmeliaceae, Lichenized Ascomycetes) Shed New Light on Species Relationships

Student Conference on Conservation Science 2016 (New York, NY) Diet of New York City Coyotes

Awards

Macaulay Honors College, Full Merit Full-Tuition Scholarship (Four Year), 08/2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 05/2021.
Lehman College, Presidential Scholar (Academic honor), 2017, 2018, 2019.
Macaulay Honors College, Goldsmith Scholar (Academic honor), 2019, 2020, 2021.
Torrey Botanical Society, Undergraduate Student Research Fellowship ($1,000), 2019.
Macaulay Honors College, Enhanced Opportunities Fund ($5,000), 2019.
Mycological Society of America, Undergraduate Research Award ($500), 2019.
Con Edison Inc., Con Edison Endowed Scholarship ($5,000), 2019.
National Institute of Health, Research Initiative in Scientific Enhancement (RISE) ($3,040) 2019, 2020, 2021.