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Merissa Strawsine

MSc Candidate, University of Otago

Merissa Strawsine is a Masters student at the University of Otago. She received her BSc from Michigan State University where she researched triacylglycerol metabolism in Arabidopsis leaves. Following years of research, she explored her love of the outdoors by pursuing a career as a park ranger with the US National Park Service. Through working in the parks, she discovered her passion for native plant restoration and conservation, which lead her to pursue a MSc. Her current research focuses on examining how fungal diversity on mānuka roots is associated with beech seedling establishment in New Zealand.

Does Mānuka Facilitate Nothofagus Colonization?

Tues 10 Nov, 13:45 – 14:05

Southern beech (Nothofagus) trees are an iconic Southern Hemisphere canopy species and are of particular interest as a restoration species in New Zealand. One poorly understood aspect of their ecology that can limit restoration success is the role that symbiotic fungi play in beech growth and survival. It is possible that beech establishment could be facilitated by sharing ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi with the dual-mycorrhizal pioneer species mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium). To investigate if beech seedlings are able to use mycorrhizal fungi present in mānuka forests, a glasshouse experiment was conducted to identify and quantify ectomycorrhizal communities through eDNA analysis. Seedings were inoculated with the top layer of soil (duff) from beneath mature mānuka and beech communities. Both mānuka and beech seedlings were grown in sterilized and unsterilized duff from both mature communities in a factorial design, where unsterilized treatments were expected to contain fungi associated with the respective mature community. Hyphal ingrowth bags were buried in pots to sample eDNA and fungi was identified using Illumina MiSeq sequencing and the UNITE database. We are assessing the diversity of EM fungi and its affect on growth for each treatment to determine whether beech seedlings can utilize the mycorrhizal fungi present in mānuka forests. These results will contribute to improving restoration approaches by exploiting natural facilitation services provided by mānuka during beech re-colonization.

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