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Kathryn M Jacobson
Research with undergraduate students in my lab focuses primarily (but not exclusively - see "the goat project" below) on various aspects of community structure and population biology of fungi. Four long-term projects are currently ongoing and I welcome student involvement in all: At Grinnell College's research station (CERA) in central Iowa, we have found that morel populations have high levels of genetic diversity (Dalgleish '00 & Jacobson 2005), in contrast to previous findings by other researchers. We have since been exploring aspects of their life history that might account for this fact. Also at CERA, we recently completed the third year of a multi-year project designed to compare macrofungal diversity (species richness and abundance) in upland oak hickory, upland savanna and riparian forests. To date we have discovered that all three habitat types are unexpectedly rich in macrofungal species (particularly decomposers), that relative species abundance changes greatly from year-to-year and that each habitat has a suite of unique species rarely (if ever found) in the adjacent habitats. Students involved in this project have been Pete Cueno (2005), Megan Germer (2007), Dave Honig (2005) Micheala Meckel (2003), Alison Mynsberge (2003), and Madi Salander (2007). The population biology of Welwitschia mirabilis and the seed pathogen, Aspergillis niger, that severely compromises seed survival of the plant remains an additional interest in my lab (Jacobson & Lester 2003, Pekarek & Jacobson 2006). With colleagues in the Netherlands, we are currently examining the origins of the unusually high levels of genetic variation that we have found in the populations of this asexual fungus associated with Namibia's national plant. Finally, as co-Director of CERA, I recently became involved in a long-term restoration project that has virtually nothing to do with fungi. Larissa Mottl (CERA manager) and I are mentoring MAP projects, conducted in this first year (summer 2008) by Curran Johnson '09 and Brian Perbix '09 (and summer interns), that examine the effects of goat browsing on plant species in woodland and prairie habitats. Our goal is to determine whether goats can be effectively deployed as a management tool for removing certain invasive woody species, with minimal detrimental effects to native vegetation communities. My recent work has been supported by NSF, the Iowa Academy of Science, a Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship, and Grinnell College.