Nicole joined the Bruns lab in September of 2004. On May 10 2007, Nicole successfully passed her PhD qualifying exam and she received her PhD from UC Berkeley in May of 2010.
Starting in August 2011, Nicole will be an Assistant Professor of Plant Community Ecology at the University of Hawaii Manoa, Botany Department.
Nicole's current research interests include invasive mycorrhizal fungi, the evolution of mycoheterotrophic plants, the use of stable isotopes as food-web tracers and mycorrhizal ecology.
Specific Research Projects:
Invasive Mycorrhizal Fungi:
Nicole is currently working on two projects involving the role of ectomycorrhizal fungi in tree invasions. The first is identifying the mycorrhizal symbionts of conifers in the Hawaiian Islands. This project is in collaboration with Professor Kathleen Treseder, Professor Brian Perry & Professor Emeritus Don Hemmes. The second is examining the role of ectomycorrhizal fungi in expanding oak woodlands under a changing climate and increased nitrogen pollution. This later work is in collaboration with the Treseder lab and the microbial research group at University of California Irvine.
Evolution of Mycoheterotrophic Plants:
For her Ph.D research Nicole examined the evolution and ecophysiology of mycoheterotrophy within the tribe Pyroleae (Ericaceae). Currently she is working on a book chapter about the ecophysiology of mycoheterotrophic plants for an upcoming Springer textbook on mycoheterotrophy edited by Dr. Vincent Merckx.
- N.A. Hynson & T.D. Bruns. 2010. Fungal hosts for mycoheterotrophic plants: a nonexclusive, but highly selective club. New Phytologist 185: 598-601.
- N.A. Hynson & T.D. Bruns. 2009. Evidence of a myco-heterotroph in the plant family Ericaceae that lacks mycorrhizal specificity. Proceedings of the Royal Society London Series B: Biological Sciences 276: 4053-4059.
- V. Merckx, M.I. Bidartondo & N.A. Hynson. 2009. Myco-heterotrophy: when fungi host plants. Annals of Botany 104: 1255-1261.
- N.A. Hynson & T.D. Bruns. 2009. Mycorrhizal specialization and its role in the evolution of myco-heterotrophy. Botany and Mycology Joint Society Meeting. Number 38001, Abstract ID: 290.
- D. Jolles & N.A. Hynson. 2007. Local genetic differentiation and mycoheterotrophy in Pyrola picta and Pyrola aphylla (Pyroleae: Monotropoideae: Ericaceae). Botany and Plant Biology Joint Congress Meeting. Number CP51006. Abstract ID: 1806.
Stable isotopes as food-web tracers:
Nicole is interested in developing new applications of stable isotopes and other source-sink tracers to the study of plants and mycorrhizal fungi. For her Ph.D she focused mainly on the use of stable isotopes to examine mycoheterotrophic food-webs. The physiology of mycoheterotrophic plants remained nearly entirely unexplained until the relatively recent application of stable isotope analyses to plant ecology. The analysis of the natural abundance of carbon (13C:12C) and nitrogen (15N:14N) stable isotopes in plants are powerful tools to infer strategies of resource acquisition and metabolic pathways in plants. The stable isotope signatures of mycoheterotrophic plants seem to best fit an isotope food-chain model where the plants’ stable isotope signatures reflect those of their host fungi, their ultimate nutrient source. Generally, the source of a nutrient is left depleted in the heavy isotope compared to its sink. For instance, previous work has shown that fully mycoheterotrophic plants that associate with ectomycorrhizal fungi are significantly enriched in the heavy isotopes of carbon and nitrogen compared to autotrophic understory plants, and they have carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures similar to, or more enriched than ectomycorrhizal fungi. These findings indicate that ectomycorrhizal mycoheterotrophic plants are receiving both carbon and nitrogen through distinct pathways compared to autotrophic ectomycorrhizal plants.
- N.A. Hynson, S. Mambelli, A.S. Amend & T.E. Dawson. 2010. Shady Business: can the δ13C of leaf soluble sugars be used to estimate fungal carbon gains in potentially partially mycoheterotrophic plants under light limitation? (In review at Oecologia)
- N.A. Hynson, K. Preiss, G. Gebauer and T.D. Bruns. 2009. Isotopic evidence of full and partial myco-heterotrophy in the plant tribe Pyroleae (Ericaceae). New Phytologist 182: 719-726.
- N.A. Hynson, K. Preiss and G. Gebauer. 2009. Is it better to give than receive? A stable isotope perspective to orchid-fungal carbon transport in the green orchid species Goodyera repens and G. oblongifolia. New Phytologist 182: 8-11.
- Katja Zimmer, Nicole A. Hynson, Gerhard Gebauer, Edith B. Allen, Michael F. Allen and David J. Read. 2007. Wide geographical and ecological distribution of nitrogen and carbon gains from fungi in pyroloids and monotropoids (Ericaceae) and in orchids. New Phytologist 175: 166175.
The mycorrhizal symbiosis is one of the most ubiquitous and widespread on earth, yet there are still many fundamental questions regarding the ecology and physiology of the fungi involved in this symbiosis that remain unanswered. Nicole’s particular interests in mycorrhizal fungal ecology are gaining a better understanding of the physiology of ectomycorrhizal fungi and the geographic and temporal factors which lead to changes along the symbiotic continuum from mutualism to parasitism among plants and their mycorrhizal associates.
Publications in newletters:
- Thomas D. Bruns, Kabir G. Peay, Primrose J. Boynton, Lisa C. Grubisha, Nicole A. Hynson, Nhu H. Nguyen, Nicholas P. Rosenstock. 2009. Inoculum potential of Rhizopogon spores increases with time over the first 4 yr of a 99-yr spore burial experiment. New Phytologist 181: 463470.
Nicole is enthusiastic about teaching and has been a Graduate Student Instructor for three upper division biology courses at Berkeley: the Diversity of Plants and Fungi, California Mushrooms and Plant Physiological Ecology. For more information please consult her CV or contact her directly via e-mail.
- Nicole Hynson. 2009. MycoDigest: Recruiting a new generation of mycologists: how to engage youth in mycology. Mycena News 60 (06): 1, 7. Reprinted in North American Mycological Association’s newsletter “Mycophile”.