Sara Branco is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Montana State University. She completed her PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. Sara was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Paris.
Sara’s primary area of research is the ecology and evolution of fungi with the goal of understanding the ecological factors that generate and maintain fungal diversity. She uses a combination of field, laboratory, and computational approaches to investigate how fungi colonize and persist in the environment. Sara’s studies range biological scales, from ecological communities to genomes and genes, with a particular emphasis on adaptation to hostile environments. She has developed a wide range of studies, including mycorrhizal fungal community diversity in serpentine soils, local adaptation in Suillus brevipes across North America, and another smut chromosome evolution. She currently investigates the genetic basis of fungal heavy metal tolerance and the evolution of fungal thermal adaptation.
Sara’s service to MSA includes being a founding member and Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Councilor for Ecology and Pathology, and member and Chair of the Mentor Student Award Committee.