The Fungi Beneath Our Feet


Wed., Sep. 29, 2021, 7:00 PM-8:00 PM

Adult - Beginner, Adult - Intermediate, Adult - Advanced

$10 per member, $25 per nonmember

Mushrooms and other sporocarps are great and certainly worth celebrating during National Mushroom Month, but they are a short stage in the fungal life cycle. 

Much of a fungus’s life is spent belowground as hyphae. Hyphae are filamentous (or thread-like) structures with an average size of only 4-6 micrometers in diameter. Because they are so small and difficult to separate from soil, scientists have had to find ways to study fungi in situ. Thankfully, we have DNA sequencing! Join us for this presentation to hear about how Holden scientists use DNA sequencing to study the diversity of fungi belowground in our very own forests.

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Sarah Kyker, PhD

Sarah Kyker, PhD

Research Associate at Holden Forests and Gardens, microbial ecologist who studies fungal diversity in soil

I am a microbial ecologist interested in the influence of human-induced and natural environmental changes on microbial communities. Because microorganisms are small in size, they are environmentally sensitive. Despite their small size, microorganisms can have a large impact on the overall health of a habitat due to their role in ecosystem processes. Consequently, environmental changes that alter microbial communities can have a large effect on the overall health of the habitat. My research focuses on deciduous forest soils, which harbor a tremendous diversity of microorganisms. For example, just a teaspoon of uncontaminated soil is estimated to contain millions of microbial species and billions of individual microbial cells. I primarily study bacteria and fungi, as these groups make up a large portion of the microbial diversity in soil. I use molecular techniques to study the community composition of microorganisms and functional genes possessed by microorganisms. The goal of my research is to help elucidate the importance of environmental changes to the health of a habitat or an ecosystem when these changes affect the smallest inhabitants.

Learn more about me

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