Olivia Asher

  • Program Year: 3
  • Academic Institution: University of Georgia
  • Field of Study: Bioinformatics
  • Academic Advisor: Jeffrey Bennetzen, Jeffery Bennetzen
  • Practicum(s):
    Los Alamos National Laboratory (2022)
    Los Alamos National Laboratory (2023)
  • Degree(s):
    B.S. Biology, Macaulay Honors College at Lehman-City University of New York, 2021
  • Personal URL: https://thesciencenotebookblog.wordpress.com

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.


Longley, R., Robinson, A., Asher, O.A., Middlebrook, E., G. Bonito & P. Chain. (2024). Signatures of Mollicutes-Related Endobacteria in Publicly Available Mucoromycota Genomes. (in prep).

Asher, O. A., & Davoodian, N. (2023). Boletes in the Bronx and Beyond: A Study of Boletales (Agaricomycetes, Basidiomycota, Fungi) Specimen Records of New York City. Rhodora, 124(997), 1-16, 16. https://doi.org/10.3119/20-27

Asher, O. A., Howieson, J., & Lendemer, J. C. (2023). A new perspective on the macrolichen genus Platismatia (Parmeliaceae, Ascomycota) based on molecular and phenotypic data. The Bryologist, 126(1), 1-18, 18. https://doi.org/10.1639/0007-2745-126.1.001

Davoodian, N., Hosaka, K., Raspe, 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.

Olivia, A. A., & James, C. L. (2018). Lecanora caperatica (Lecanoraceae, lichenized ascomycetes) a new sorediate species widespread in eastern North America. The Bryologist, 121(3), 306-323. https://doi.org/10.1639/0007-2745-121.3.306


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.