The FABI International Seminar Series
In light of the extraordinary circumstances experienced around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most, if not all, scientific meetings have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. One of the many benefits of these meetings is science engagement.
The FABI International Seminar Series provides an opportunity for our research community to continue discussions on various topics. Our guest speakers will cover a wide range of topics related to plant health. Our monthly virtual seminars are open to all registered participants ensuring a wide audience.
Please fill in the registration form on the left menu of this page should you be interested in attending these events. You will be contact via email provided with relevant information on the seminar for each month. If you wish to contribute to this initiative by offering to present your research, please contact Dr Neriman Yilmaz or Dr Markus Wilken.
Upcoming seminar: 28 October 2021 - Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Speaker: Dr. Charissa de Bekker, Biology Department at the University of Central Florida, USA
Title: What makes a zombie ant tick? Connecting fungal genomes with ant behavioural phenomes in Ophiocordyceps camponoti-floridani and its carpenter ant host.
Please fill in the registration form below should you wish to attend the seminars in The FABI International Seminar Series for 2020. You will be provided with information regarding the seminar for each month.
Speaker: Dr. Charissa de Bekker
Title: What makes a zombie ant tick? Connecting fungal genomes with ant behavioural phenomes in Ophiocordyceps camponoti-floridani and its carpenter ant host.
Date: 28 October 2021 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Transmission-promoting summiting behaviours is a common parasitic manipulation, observed in a wide range of insect species, including those that get infected by fungi. Yet, the molecular mechanisms that these fungal parasites evolved to hijack host behaviours and the affected host pathways that give rise to altered behavioural phenotypes remain largely unknown. To provide a mechanistic perspective, we use carpenter ants and their manipulating Ophiocordyceps fungi as a model in which we combine comparative transcriptomics and metabolomics, with quantitative behavioral analyses, and functional genetics assays. As such, we have identified various candidate fungal compounds and ant host pathways that appear to be involved in the manipulated summiting of Ophiocordyceps-infected carpenter ants. These candidates are currently being tested through multiple functional genetics and behavioural assays. Additionally, through our behavioural studies we are learning how ant behaviours change in the early stages of fungal infection and that biological clocks are likely involved. As such, our integrative efforts are connecting behavioural phenotypes of infected and uninfected ants with the underlying host and fungal parasite genes that give rise to those phenotypes.
Biography: Charissa de Bekker received her bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. For her postdoctoral research she first worked at The Pennsylvania State University in the US for which she was awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship. Subsequently, she moved the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany where she received an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship. Currently, she is an assistant professor in the Biology Department at the University of Central Florida in the US. Here, her lab continues to work on Ophiocordyceps fungi, which is funded by a National Science Foundation CAREER award.
Speaker: Dr. Damon L. Smith
Title: Using Research-based Solutions for Managing Sclerotinia Stem Rot of Soybean
Date: 30 September 2021 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Sclerotinia stem rot (SSR), caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is one of the most important diseases of soybean in the Midwest U.S. In the last 5 seasons, SSR has resulted in more than 36 million bushels of yield loss in the Midwest region alone. Management of SSR is complicated and requires a multi-pronged approach. Researchers in the Midwest U.S. have been working to refine the integrated management strategy for SSR, which includes using resistant varieties, modifying row spacing and planting population, crop rotation, and fungicide applications. In addition, researchers are developing new techniques such as smartphone-based forecasting systems and using RNAi technology to combat SSR. This presentation will outline the latest SSR research-based tools and showcase how these tools have been integrated together to improve SSR management of soybeans. The presentation will also cover some of the new technologies being developed that may eventually be used to manage SSR.
Biography: Damon Smith is an Associate Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). Damon is also the Director of the Nutrient and Pest Management Program at UW-Madison. Damon’s responsibilities include research efforts that focus on improving our understanding of the epidemiology of plant pathogens in order to develop better control recommendations for the sustainable management of field and forage crop diseases. Damon is a native of Western New York State. He earned his B.S. in Biological Sciences at the State University of New York, College at Geneseo, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from North Carolina State University. Prior to Damon’s appointment at UW he was an assistant professor and extension specialist at Oklahoma State University for 5 years.
Speaker: Dr. Arunaloke Chakrabarti
Title: Mucormycosis in India
Date: 26 August 2021 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Mucormycosis, the devastating fungal disease with high morbidity and mortality, is a serious healthcare problem in the Indian population. The disease has a high incidence among uncontrolled diabetics. Several unique features have been described for mucormycosis in India including risk factors, emergence of rare species, and isolated renal mucormycosis in young apparently healthy individuals. However, the present outbreak of COVID-19 associated mucormycosis (CAM) has many new features and made an unprecedented impact in healthcare. The number of CAM cases crossed >50,000 cases from 28 of 35 provinces or union territories in India. The mortality was >40%. Though the reason of the outbreak is not clearly known; environmental factors, diabetes, high steroid therapy, and COVID-19 virus itself are considered to contribute in disease development. The outbreak has posed a formidable challenge due to limited awareness, diagnostic mycology laboratories, trained manpower, and availability of anti-Mucorales drugs. Though the rate of fresh CAM cases has come down in recent days, the recurrence of the disease is a new challenge.
- Patel A, Kaur H, Xess I, Michael JS, Savio J, Rudramurthy S, Singh R, Shastri P, Umabala P, Sardana R, Kindo A, Capoor MR, Mohan S, Muthu V, Agarwal R, Chakrabarti A. A multicentre observational study on the epidemiology, risk factors, management and outcomes of mucormycosis in India. Clin Microbiol Infect 2020; 26: 944 e949-944 e915.
- Chakrabarti A, Singh R. Mucormycosis in India: unique features. Mycoses 2014; 57 Suppl 3: 85-90.
- Prakash H, Chakrabarti A. Global Epidemiology of Mucormycosis. J Fungi (Basel) 2019; 5.
- Prakash H, Chakrabarti A. Epidemiology of mucormycosis in India. Microorganisms 2021; 9: 523
- Patel A, Agarwal R, Rudramurthy SM, Shevkani M, Xess I, Shama R, Savio J, Sethuraman N, Madan S, Shastri P, Thangaraju D, Marak RSK, Karuna T, Savaj P, Sunavala A, Gupta N, Singhal T, Muthu V, Chakrabarti A. Epidemiology of COVID-19 associated mucormycosis: a multicenter study from India. Emerg Infect Dis 2021
Speaker: Dr. Anne Pringle
Title: The Problem of Invasive Mycorrhizal Fungi
Date: 29 July 2021 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: The global demand for timber and pulpwood facilitates a commercial trade in wood. Plants in nature grow symbiotically with mycorrhizal fungi and foresters routinely use mycorrhizal inocula to grow trees more quickly. But inoculation has also accelerated the movement of mycorrhizal fungi among continents; forestry plantations are hotbeds of introduced fungi. Introduced fungi may escape plantations; for example, in California the death cap Amanita phalloides is spreading through local coast live oak forests while in Colombia Amanita muscaria is invading remnant forests of Quercus humboltdii. The problem of invasive, mutualist fungi is hardly discussed but invasive ectomycorrhizal species are characterized by a rich natural history of host shifts, changes in phenology and abundance, and mating system transitions. In my talk I’ll focus on the potential impacts of invasive ectomycorrhizal fungi. In particular, I’ll question whether it is possible for scientists to collect “baseline” data documenting fungal biodiversity. The movements of soils and fungi as undertaken by humans over the last century may have irrevocably altered local habitats to an extent that baselines are already lost.
Biography: Anne Pringle was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and spent her childhood traveling through Southeast Asia and West Africa. After being dragged along on one-too-many birding expeditions, she abandoned the birds for fungi. She was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and then completed a Ph.D. in Botany and Genetics at Duke University. After completing a Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, she joined the faculty at Harvard University. She next moved to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she is now Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Departments of Botany and Bacteriology. Pringle has given over 100 invited talks to academic and popular audiences in countries including China, Colombia, France, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States. She has been awarded the Alexopoulos Prize for a Distinguished Early Career Mycologist (2010), the Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award from the Harvard University Graduate Student Council (2011), the Fannie Cox Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching from Harvard University (2013), and a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship (2011-2012).Her research has been featured by the New York Times, National Public Radio, Slate, and the Wisconsin State Journal, among others. In 2019, Pringle was elected President of the Mycological Society of America.
Speaker: Dr. David Hibbett
Title: Phylogenomics of Lentinula and the origin of cultivated shiitake mushrooms
Date: 01 July 2021 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is the number one species of cultivated edible mushrooms in the world. In his 1983 monograph, the British mycologist David Pegler recognized three species of Lentinula from Asia-Australasia and two in the Americas. Since then, three more species have been described, two in the Americas and one in Africa (Madagascar). A second African species may occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are using molecular phylogenetics and phylogenomics to understand the diversity and evolution of Lentinula. Phylogenies based on 343 ITS and 116 tef1-α sequences resolve about 14 species-level lineages in the genus. We generated 25 new Lentinula genomes with a broad geographic and taxonomic representation and added 4 published genomes. We also assembled and annotated 60 genomes from Chinese material, previously published as unassembled raw reads. Phylogenomic analyses, including Bayesian coalescent species delimitation approaches, corroborate results based on ITS/tef1-α. East Asian isolates, which correspond to L. edodes s. lato, comprise multiple lineages that may warrant recognition as species. Analyses of SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) suggest that there are two major populations of L. edodes s. lato in East Asia. One includes both cultivated and wild-collected isolates, and the other contains only wild isolates. A group of “mixed” isolates contains nearly equal proportions of SNPs assigned to either the cultivated/wild group or the wild group. One interpretation of these results is that there has been introgression from cultivated strains into wild populations, suggesting that shiitake farming poses threats to indigenous biodiversity in Lentinula.
Biography: I am from the state of Massachusetts, in the USA. I attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where I received a bachelor’s degree in Botany (1985), then went to Duke University for my PhD, also in Botany (1991). I spent one year in Japan as a postdoctoral fellow at the Tottori Mycological Institute. My next, and much longer, postdoctoral appointment was at the Harvard University Herbaria, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I joined the faculty of Clark University in 1999.
Speaker: Prof. Jonathan Gershenzon
Title: Tree texts: How poplars communicate with friends and foes using volatile organic compounds
Date: 27 May 2021 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Despite being rooted in place for most of their life cycles, land plants nevertheless communicate with other organisms at a distance via volatile organic compounds. Many reports are now available describing how volatile organics act as signals for insects, microbes, and other plants, but most of these experiments were carried out with herbaceous plants that are used in agriculture.
To learn more about volatile communication in woody plants, we are investigating the black poplar, a native European tree that releases an enormous blend of volatiles compounds, especially after herbivore damage. I will review our results about how native herbivores and herbivore enemies respond to these volatiles. We found that (1) a generalist caterpillar is repelled by damaged foliage, especially after feeding experience, (2) a parasitoid of this caterpillar is attracted to foliage damaged by its host, and (3) after pathogen infection, the caterpillar is attracted and not repelled, while attraction to the parasitoid is reduced. I will discuss the significance of this volatile communication under natural conditions, and which volatiles seem most important in conveying information.
Biography: Jonathan Gershenzon received a PhD in Botany (University of Texas, 1984) while studying the chemotaxonomy of plant terpenes. After investing terpene biosynthesis as a postdoctoral researcher and assistant scientist (Washington State University), he joined the newly founded Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in 1998. His group has focused on the biochemical basis of plant defense against insect herbivores.
Speaker: Dr Andrew Liebhold, US Forest Service Northern Research Station, Morgantown, WV USA
Title: Macroecology of Insect Invasions
Date: 29 April 2021 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Biological invasions are largely an unintended consequence of globalization. With increasing mobility, humans have accidentally transported organisms around the world, breaking the geographical boundaries that separated species ranges that persisted for millions of years of evolution. Among animals, the insecta is the most species-rich class, with thousands of insect species having been established outside of their native ranges and many of these species causing immense impacts on agriculture, human health and conservation of native ecosystems. Here, I report on a macroecological analysis of historical insect invasions spanning 300 years and 10 world regions. These data are used to compare frequencies of invasions among different insect orders and among different insect families. Species-area relationships for native insect assemblages are generally stronger than for non-native insect assemblages. Certain groups, such as the Hemiptera, Formicidae and the Staphylinidae are generally over-represented in non-native insect assemblages, while other taxa are under-represented. These patterns generally reflect characteristics of these insects that cause them to enter important invasion pathways and biological characteristics that facilitate invasions. These results ultimately allow us to better understand the socio-economic drivers of insect invasions and can be of use when conducting invasive pest risk analysis.
Biography: Andrew “Sandy” Liebhold has been a research entomologist with the US Forest Service Northern Research Station, Morgantown, WV USA since 1988. His research focuses on the ecology and management of biological invasions and the spatial dynamics of insect outbreaks. Liebhold received his PhD in Entomology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984 and worked as a postdoctoral at the University of Massachusetts before joining the Forest Service. He is a fellow of the AAAS and serves on the editorial board of the journals Population Ecology and Biological Invasions. He also currently serves as a scientific coordinator with the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Science, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague and a visiting scholar with Scion Research in New Zealand.
Speaker: Prof Marc Stadler, Department Microbial Drugs, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany
Title: Discovery of biologically active fungal metabolites from new and hitherto unexplored species
Date: 25 March 20201 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Over the past years, we have been able to build up a sustainable, international network with leading researchers from all over the world to explore systematically the mycobiota of tropical countries for their potential to produce novel chemical entities that can be used to combat infectious diseases. In addition, we have targeted rare European species that are difficult to culture. Most of the new compounds were isolated from new genera and species that were concurrently discovered in the course of taxonomic studies. Modern methodology for biotechnological process development is also available to scale up particularly interesting metabolites, and the newly evolving methods of bioinformatics and synthetic biotechnology now even substantially facilitate the task to make the target compounds available in sufficient quantities (multi gram scale) for preclinical development. The strategy of this approach will be outlined, also including some highlights from our recent research in an international, interdisciplinary scenario.
1885-1990 Studies in biology, University of Kaiserslautern, Germany
1991-1993 Doctorate studies; Dept. Biotechnology, Univ. Kaiserslautern
1994-1995 Postdoc, Natural Product Chemistry, University of Lund, Sweden.
1995-2006 Bayer AG, Wuppertal, Germany (Natural Products Research)
2003-2012 Lecturer (Mycology), Univ. Bayreuth, Germany
2006-2012 InterMed Discovery GmbH, Dortmund, Germany, Co-founder, shareholder and director
2012 - ... Head of Department Microbial Drugs, HZI Braunschweig, Germany
Professor, Institute of Microbiology, Technical University of Braunschweig.
Speaker: Prof Prof Daniel Croll, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Title: Drivers and brakes of pathogen emergence
Date: 25 February 20201 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Plant pathogens are notorious threats to agricultural production. How to manage current diseases on crops and how to successfully predict the risk of future outbreaks remain significant challenges. In our research group, we try to understand evolutionary and ecological processes governing pathogens. For this, we investigate within-species diversity at the phenotypic, genomic, transcriptomic and epigenetic level in order to advance our understanding of pathogen emergence. We find that a multitude of different factors act as drivers of pathogens. But we also show how trade-offs can act as brakes by constraining the evolution of individual pathogen traits. Explicitly considering evolutionary processes in pathogens will help to transition to a more sustainable agriculture.
Biography: Prof Daniel Croll joined the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in 2017 where he leads the Laboratory of Evolutionary Genetics as an Assistant Professor. Daniel Croll received his MSc in Biology in 2003 and his PhD in Life Sciences in 2009 from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. He then joined the ETH Zürich as a postdoctoral fellow. Later, he received an Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation to work 2013-2014 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. In 2015, Daniel Croll was appointed as an Oberassistant (group leader) and lecturer at the ETH Zürich. At the University of Neuchâtel, Daniel Croll continues to investigate the evolutionary dynamics of disease emergence in agricultural ecosystems. The main interests include the dissection of phenotypic traits using genome-wide association mapping, the mechanisms of rapid genome evolution and the signatures of recent adaptive evolution.
Speaker: Prof Sarah De Saeger, Centre of Excellence in Mycotoxicology and Public Health at Ghent University, Belgium
Title: Mycotoxins, an important threat to human health?
Date: 28 January 20201 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Food safety is key to address global food security and improve human health. Mycotoxins, which are toxic fungal secondary metabolites, are a significant food safety threat worldwide. The mycotoxin problem has become more challenging partly due to emerging knowledge on the intricate relationship between co-occurrence of multiple mycotoxins, climate change and population growth.
Accurate human exposure assessment is key to infer associations between mycotoxins and diseases such as cancer and childhood stunting. Human mycotoxin exposure can be determined both indirectly using a combination of chemical analysis of foodstuffs and food consumption data. Indirect determination of exposure uses mycotoxin biomarkers, mycotoxin biotransformation products, in biological fluids, such as urine or blood. In recent years many efforts have been put in the development of ultra-sensitive multi-mycotoxin LC-MS/MS methods for analysis of mycotoxin exposure biomarkers in urine and blood.
Mitigation of mycotoxins in the food system requires concerted action and efforts from researchers from different fields of mycotoxicology, as well as stakeholders from food industry, civil societies and governments. Building capacity in low- and middle-income countries to assess local risk timely and develop interventions and policies is crucial.
MYTOX-SOUTH (http://mytoxsouth.org) is an intercontinental, multi-disciplinary partnership for mitigation of mycotoxins. MYTOX-SOUTH builds human and infrastructural capacity by training of partners in low- and middle-income countries. It stimulates excellence and fills the gap between research and the development through co-creation and awareness raising. MYTOX-SOUTH fosters an environment for a fruitful public-private partnership to create a sustainable network.
Biography: Prof Dr Sarah De Saeger is head of the Centre of Excellence in Mycotoxicology and Public Health at Ghent University, Belgium. She is coordinator of the international thematic network MYTOX-SOUTH.
As a full professor she is teaching all food-related courses in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
The laboratory focuses on following research lines: mycotoxins and human health, mycotoxin detection methods, metabolomics and untargeted analysis, and exposomics. Many research proposals are running and funded by the EU H2020 programme, HERCULES, FWO, FOD, BELSPO, BOF, VLIR-UOS, B&M Gates Foundation.
Research results are published in more than 360 A1 peer reviewed papers (h-index 47).
She was an expert in EFSA CONTAM working groups in the period 2011-2018 and she is a member of the Scientific Committee (SciCom) of the Belgian Federal Agency for Food Chain Safety since 2015. In June 2015 she established the Joint Laboratory of Mycotoxin Research of the Ghent University-Shanghai Jiao Tong University-Chinese Academy of Sciences (Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences). In 2015 she was awarded the Ghent University Prometheus Award for research.
Speaker: Prof Eva H. Stukenbrock, Max Planck Fellow and professor at Kiel University, Germany
Title: Interspecific hybridization in fungal grass pathogens shape genome-wide variation
Date: 26 November 2020 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Genome analyses have revealed a profound role of hybridization and introgression in the evolution of many eukaryote lineages, including fungi. The impact of recurrent introgression on fungal evolution however remains elusive. Here, we analyzed signatures of introgression along the genome of the fungal wheat pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici. We applied a comparative population genomics approach, including genome data from five Zymoseptoria species, to characterize the distribution and composition of introgressed regions representing segments with an exceptional haplotype pattern. These regions are found throughout the genome, comprising five percent of the total genome and overlapping with > 1000 predicted genes. We performed window-based phylogenetic analyses along the genome to distinguish regions which have a monophyletic or non-monophyletic origin with Z. tritici sequences. A majority of non-monophyletic windows overlap with the highly variable regions suggesting that these originate from introgression. We verified that incongruent gene genealogies do not result from incomplete lineage sorting (ILS) by comparing the observed and expected length distribution of haplotype blocks resulting from ILS. Although protein-coding genes are not enriched in these regions, we identify 18 that encode putative virulence determinants. Moreover, we find an enrichment of transposable elements (TEs) in these regions implying that hybridization may contribute to the horizontal spread of TEs. We detected a similar pattern in the closely related species Zymoseptoria ardabiliae, suggesting that hybridization is widespread among these closely related grass pathogens. Overall, our results demonstrate a significant impact of recurrent hybridization on overall genome evolution of this important wheat pathogen.
Biography: The research of Eva Stukenbrock focuses on the ecological interactions and co-evolution of fungi associated with plants. Since her PhD at the ETH in Zurich, she has used the plant pathogenic fungus Zymoseptoria tritici as a model to study pathogen evolution. During her post doc at Aarhus University, Denmark she worked with Prof. Mikkel Schierup to apply whole genome coalescence analyses to infer the speciation history of Z. tritici and related Zymoseptoria species. In 2010, she was appointed group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, Germany, and since 2014 she is Max Planck Fellow and professor at Kiel University. Her group integrates computational biology with experimental and molecular approaches to study mechanisms of host specialization of plant pathogens.
Speaker: Dr Robert Waterhouse, Assistant Professor and SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics Group Leader at the Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Title: Evolutionary genomics of arthropods impacting plant health
Date: 29 October 2020 Time: 14:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: As the most successful terrestrial animals, arthropods demonstrate countless evolutionary adaptations exploiting many ecological niches, making them ideal for investigating how the evolution of functional genomic elements gives rise to the splendour of animal biology. This diversity makes insects and other arthropods fascinating to study, as models for processes like ageing and sociality, and also because of their roles in human, livestock, and crop health as disease vectors, in agriculture as pests, pollinators, or biological control agents, and more generally in ecology and environmental conservation. I aim to present real-world examples from my own research projects of what we can learn from genomics about how interactions with plants have shaped the evolution of arthropods such as bumblebees, beetles, sawflies, stink bugs, thrips, milkweed bugs, moths, and mites.
Biography: Born in eSwatini and growing up on a cattle farm in the lowveld miles from the nearest paved road, it is perhaps hardly surprising that I developed an interest in the natural world around me. Although there were always plenty of larger creatures to distract me, the incredible variety and sheer numbers of different insects could not be ignored – especially when they insisted on coming inside and making themselves at home. Now living in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva, I study insect genomes, their encoded genes, and how they have evolved – especially those of my childhood tormentors, the disease-carrying mosquitoes!
Speaker for September/October, 2020
Speaker: Prof Katherine Denby, University of York, UK
Title: A systems approach to disease resistance against necrotrophic fungal pathogens
Date: 1 October 2020 Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Abstract: Plant responses to biotic stress involve large-scale transcriptional reprogramming. We are using transcriptional information to speed up the identification, and exploitation, of g