Romina Orietta Gazis

Ph.D candidate, University of Maryland

I am a PhD student in the Chaverri’s lab (www.mycology.umd.edu), at the University of Maryland. My research focuses on characterizing the fungal endophytic communities associated with rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis and H. guianensis), in the wild and in areas where they are being planted. The premise of this study is that trees in the wild will harbor endophytic fungi that may have potential for biocontrol against economically important Hevea diseases, such as the South American Leaf Blight (Microcyclus ulei). I use a combination of molecular and morphological techniques to place them within a taxonomic context and to answer ecological questions. In addition, I carry out in-vitro biocontrol assays to tests the potential mycoparasitism ability of selected endophytic strains. I am particularly interested in sapwood endophytes, their diversity, their relationship with their host, and their overall effect on their habitat.

Early in 2011, I spent 3 months at the Lutzoni’s lab (Duke University) working with a novel group of strains that were collected as sapwood endophytes of rubber trees. After sequencing several loci we were able to place this group as a new class within the Ascomycota. This new lineage will be described based on its unique morphological, molecular, and ecological characteristics. Results obtained from this work confirm that there are still many groups of fungi waiting to be discovered, and that potentially many of these unknown groups inhabit trees distributed in remote tropical areas.

I obtained by B.Sc. in Biology (2003) and Lic. in Biology (2004) at Ricardo Palma University (Lima-Peru), and a M.Sc. in Environmental Science at Texas Christian University (Texas, USA). I started my PhD in 2007 and plan to graduate in May, 2012.