Comparative Fungal Biology

We study the diversity, evolution and ecology of fungi using taxonomy, systematics and molecular approaches.

Small umbrella-like grey fungi Coprinellus disseminatus

Team lead: Dr Ester Gaya

Exploring the diversity and evolution of the world’s fungi.

All life depends on plants, but all plants depend on fungi. With their multiple ecological roles (e.g. as decomposers, symbionts, pathogens), fungi are fundamental to life on Earth. Yet knowledge of fungal biology lags far behind that of plants.

Kew has a strong track record in fungal diversity research and is home to the largest fungarium in the world, holding over 1.25 million fungal specimens. The Comparative Fungal Biology team combines fundamental taxonomic expertise with modern molecular approaches and ecological perspectives. Our research ranges from baseline diversity studies in biodiversity hotspots through to reconstructing the fungal tree of life, with a special emphasis on evolution and ecology of
lifestyles and symbiotic interactions.

We have special expertise in lichens, mycorrhizal fungi and ant-farmed fungi, and use these as model groups to address broader questions related to determinants of diversity, community ecology and global change

Team members

Senior research leader 
Dr Ester Gaya 
Research leaders 
Dr Laura Martinez-Suz 

Early career research fellows
Dr Raquel Pino-Bodas

Research assistants
Dr Rosie Woods

Plants and Fungal Trees of Life Outreach officer
Rich Wright

Darwin Tree of Life Project Manager
Dr Brian Douglas

Honorary research associates 
Prof Martin I Bidartondo 
Dr David Hawksworth 
Dr Jill Kowal 
PhD students 
Ricardo Arraiano-Castilho 
Rowena Hill
Theo Llewellyn