Let’s talk about fungi!

My name is Carlos A. Aguilar-Trigueros. I am an ecologist interested in discovering, documenting, and understanding the traits that can predict the function of soil fungi in ecosystems.  By function, I mean the effects of soil fungi in different ecosystem processes, such as plant productivity or mineralization.

My main research focus areas are:

  • Discovering and documenting traits that can predict whether a fungus performs more as a symbiont or more as a saprotroph. While it might sound surprising, there is wide diversity of soil fungi that lie in a gray area between strict symbiosis (a fungus that cannot live without a plant host forming part of its microbiome) or a strict saprotroph (a free-living soil fungus), which is nowadays reflected in researchers’ uncertainty in how to assign a function to fungal species in databases (see a short video on the topic here).
  • Measuring how morphological and physiological traits scale with increases in fungal body size. One of the fascinating aspects about fungi is that they vary from the micrometer to meter scale in total body size (either a single individual growing through time or across species). I am interested in questions such as: How can fungi achieve such variation in size? How do the other key traits, such as respiration and metabolic rate, “adjust” to those increases in body size?
  • Understanding the ecological importance of spore size. This quest is inspired by looking at the variation in spore morphology in the fungal kingdom. I am interested in exploring whether this variation has an “ecological meaning.” For example, do fungal spores with different sizes reflect different ecology?
  • Giving ecological meaning to the “network” traits of fungi.  This topic represents my next move in my research plan. I find it fascinating because recently it has been pointed out that the fungal body can be described as an ever-expanding, non-centralized network. Using the tools already developed to measure network properties from network science, I want to explore whether such traits can help us to better predict the functioning of fungi in ecosystems. Besides, considering the number of systems that are described as networks (from social media to transport), it would be cool if we learn more about our society from fungal networks.

I aim to link all those traits, which are mostly phenotypic, to “-omic” generated data, which characterizes modern microbial ecology. As a first step, I am integrating this information into open-sources database, such as FunToFun (a dynamic functional trait database of fungal functional traits).

A bit of personal history

I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of El Salvador (El Salvador, Central America). After a short internship at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, I moved to Germany to do my PhD on the effects of root infecting fungi on plant community dynamics at the FU-Berlin (you can read more about my path as a scientist in this essay in Science magazine).

Currently, I am a post-doctoral fellow at the group of Matthias Rillig in Berlin, as a member of the Berlin Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research

You can find a list of my publications on Google Scholar

some R code of my projects on github

and additional information on ResearchGate

Contact me at: calgit[at]gmail.com