Brendan Hodkinson - Plant Ecology Lab  

College of William and Mary, Glouchester, VA

                                           

 

Throughout the summer I researched several aspects of fungal symbiosis in the orchid Goodyera pubescens , the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain. My first goal was to determine whether or not photosynthetic orchids switched fungal symbionts either in the field or in the lab. I found that they are able to switch fungal symbiont when forced to in the lab. In the field, many have switched fungal symbionts in the past three to four years. I believe that there are environmental factors, such as drought, that force the orchids to switch the fungi with which they associate from time to time in the field. I also investigated whether or not plants that were clones of one another would ever have different fungal symbionts. I found that they always have the same fungal symbiont, highlighting the importance of the ability to switch fungi. Under changing conditions, all of the genetically identical plants will be able to switch fungal symbionts, and will not be adversely affected because they all have a single fungus that may not be able to withstand the new conditions. I went on to apply this research to other species. I found that several other orchids of other genera have the exact same ecological patterns of fungal symbiosis as Goodyera pubescens , making my research applicable to a wide variety of plants, not just the species in question. I return to the College of William & Mary in the fall, and I plan to continue research with either orchids or fungi in the future.

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