Alicia Knudson

Clark University 

Alicia was awarded an MSA Mentor Travel Award for the 2014 Mycological Society of America Meeting at Michigan State University. She hails from Melrose, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for her undergraduate degree. She is currently in the third year of her PhD in the Department of Biology at Clark University with David Hibbett.

Her current research focuses on phenotypic plasticity in fruiting body morphology of coralloid fungi, specifically the genus Ramaria. In the lab, she also grows and induces the fruiting of Lentinus tigrinus, demonstrating light-induced plasticity of fruiting bodies. Her lab has been investigating fruiting body plasticity from a variety of angles, including basic light experimentation, a survey of Agaricomyces genomes for known photoreceptors and light-induced fruiting genes, and will soon include some transcriptomic work on different fruiting forms with the intention of identifying genes involved in fruiting body development and morphology.

She delivered a talk at the 2014 MSA meeting, entitled “Fruiting body shape in Gomphales and Clarification of Ramaria. Alicia says that some of the best feedback she received from her talk was the simple willingness of other researchers to lend specimens for continuing work on the genus. This project is already in manuscript form and, after publication, the continuation of that work will fall secondary to her L. tigrinus plasticity research. Despite this, she still plans to collect Gomphales species and hopes to resolve more of the phylogeny of that order.
Some of her previous research includes studying the diversity of Ramaria in Minnesota, the molecular phylogeny of Micareaceae (lichen-forming fungi), as well as a study of the moss parasite, Eocronartium muscicola.

What was your favorite part of the 2014 MSA Meeting?

I really enjoy seeing the research of others so probably events like the poster sessions where you have the ability to talk with the researcher.

Wonky Facts:

How did you become a mycologist?

I was a botany major as an undergrad and I took a mycology course where we had to make a fungal collection. I never really stopped collecting after the course was over. So, I just loved the amazing diversity of fungi and my botany background was actually very useful to understanding fungi.

Which professors influenced your research the most, and how?

As a joke, I often blame Dr. Elizabeth Frieders for my interest in mycology. She taught the mycology course I had taken, and offered me the opportunity to do research as an undergrad, which I feel like really influenced my decision to pursue graduate school and work with fungi.

My Master’s advisor, David McLaughlin, really helped me focus my interests on the genus Ramaria and phylogenetics. I am more of an organismal biologist by nature and Dr. McLaughlin gave me the opportunity to have that kind of focus.

My current advisor, David Hibbett, has encouraged me to delve into subject areas that I had never really explored: plasticity and transcriptomics. It allows me to do different kinds of experimentation and learn many new techniques. I think in the end it will help me become a well-rounded researcher.

What is your favorite edible mushroom, and what you like about it?

 This is shocking, but I don’t actually like to eat fungi! I have tried many different edibles but none are very appealing to me. So I end up collecting edibles and just giving them to others.

What is your favorite fungus, and what you like about it?

This is a hard one. Dr. McLaughlin gave me a fever for finding a red colored Ramaria and as of yet I have not found one in the field myself. So Ramaria stuntzii or araiospora, which are both reddish,come to mind. But there are so many beautiful fungi.

Who is your mycology idol?

Dr. Ronald Petersen, he worked on Ramaria for years and produced descriptions and classifications that I rely on all the time.

Do you have any pets?

My family has a border collie named Ivy and a cat named Bergny, both of which live with my parents. Sadly.

How about plants?

Way too many to list!

What are some of your hobbies outside of science?

Sewing and costuming, science fiction and fantasy movies/books/etc., video games, medieval history and weapons, murder mystery movies/books/etc.