Kathryn Jacobson
Curriculum Vitae

Kathryn M Jacobson


I am a fungal biologist and I teach in the Biology Department at Grinnell College. Faculty members teach BIO 150 - Introduction to Biological Inquiry on subject matter of our choosing, because our course goals are to expose students to learning by doing experimental science. My BIO 150 section is entitled "The effects of climate change on organisms". I also regularly teach BIO 252 – Evolution & Ecology, and BIO 325 – Fungal Biology. I occasionally teach ENV 195 – Environmental Challenges & Responses, Namib Ecology, Restoration Ecology, and Conservation. My recent Tutorial sections (TUT 100) have explored communication about global change, and the human- and soil-microbiomes.

My research interests in fungal biology are broad. With student and alumni collaborators, my work examines how fungi interact with other organisms to perform essential ecological functions. Our ultimate goal is to understand fungal response to changing climatic drivers, such as temperature and moisture. We use cultured-based and molecular tools to address community- and population-level questions, focusing on fungi that are mycorrhizae, endophytes, plant pathogens and litter saprophytes. Our most recent work examines physiological traits that facilitate saprophyte responses to non-rainfall moisture (e.g. fog, dew, high humidity, and snow). We have worked in the Namib Desert (Namibia), Chihuahuan Desert (New Mexico) and at Grinnell’s field station: CERA. "Grass-Fungal Symbiotic Relationships in the Namib Sand Seais a recent story about our research written by Vishva Nalamalapu’20, Content Specialist Fellow in the Office of Communications.

In addition to advising Biology majors, I also advise students pursuing the Global Development Studies concentration because of my interests in sustainable resource management, particularly in arid regions of Africa. I also serve on the Advisory Board for the Center for Prairie Studies, because of my interests in local environmental and social sustainability.

Education and Degrees

Ph.D. 1992, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Post-Doc. 1993 -1995, Desert Research Foundation of Namibia

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