Hi Biotweeps! I’m Aileen, and I’m just entering the 2nd year of my PhD at the University of Birmingham funded under the NERC DREAM CDT. Prior to my PhD, I studied for an MSci in Human Biology, also at the University of Birmingham. During my degree, I realised that microbiology was my real passion, and actually, I was more interested in environmental microbes than microbes in humans! My interest is primarily in fungi: notoriously under-loved and under-studied. So prepare yourselves for a week of me waxing lyrical about the wonderful world of fungi…
My research is on temperate forest fungi and how these fungi are affected by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the air. Due to climate change, we can expect that carbon dioxide concentrations in the air will continue to rise for a number of years, and it is really important to understand how forests will response to this changing planet.
I work at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) Free Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) experiment. At our Mill Haft site in Staffordshire we have a unique set up, with 30m high towers forming rings around areas of the forest. These towers spray out extra carbon dioxide into areas of the forest, mimicking what carbon dioxide concentrations we will have in the air in about 2070.
This is an amazing experiment which offers a large number of researchers (including me!) an incredible resource to study how forest ecosystems are affected by climate change. Fungi are really important in forest ecosystems in particular, playing roles in: decomposition, as pathogens (diseases) on plants and in humans, and even on plant roots delivering extra nutrients to plants. Fungi can have a significant impact on the forest ecosystem, so in order to understand how the forest as a whole responds to carbon dioxide, we need to understand how the fungi respond.
Outside of my mushroom-bothering day job, I love to cycle and explore the wonderful countryside we have in the West Midlands! I also work part-time for the Brilliant Club, an organisation which places doctoral researchers and post-docs in schools to deliver university-style tutorials to students from ages 8-18. The aim is to not give the students an experience of studying in university style, on a subject outside of the curriculum- with the end goal of increasing entry of students from under-represented backgrounds into top universities.
I look forward to chatting to you on Twitter this week!