Award Number1946445
Funding AgencyNational Science Foundation
Effective Date2020-02-01
Expiration Date2023-01-31
Funding Amount$603,581


Pezizales are a diverse group of fungi that includes highly prized morel and truffle species, as well as many species of cup fungi. Pezizales are diverse in form and function, and this group includes species that grow in partnership with plants roots, saprotrophs that decay dead organic matter, and pathogens that cause plant diseases. These fungi are also an important seasonal food for forest animals, and some species contribute to both subsistence and commercial economies. However, Pezizales are understudied, and their genealogical relationships remain unresolved. The objective of this research is to use DNA sequence and morphological evidence to construct a genealogy for these fungi. This genealogy will then be used to better understand how fungal genomes influence fruiting body form (cup fungi versus morels versus truffles); how different nutritional strategies evolved within fungal groups; and to understand how these fungi intimately interact with bacteria, plants, and animals in their environment. This research will foster new international collaborations between Israeli and US fungal biologists, and field collection trips and scientific workshops will facilitate collaboration and outreach with citizen scientists to develop community resources and obtain fresh specimens of rare or regionally distributed species. This project will lead to many new species being described, will provide a better understanding of morel and truffle biology, and will generate new resources for cultivation and breeding of economically important species of fungi.

This research will produce the first robust and comprehensive genome-based phylogeny for Pezizales. This will be accomplished by generating a combination of high-quality reference genomes and low coverage genomes from a representative subset of the cup and truffle forms across the Pezizales. Together with isotopic, genomic and microbiome data generated from Pezizales, this research will (1) leverage broad sampling efforts and citizen science to reconstruct a genome-based phylogeny of the Pezizales; (2) generate DNA barcodes from type specimens and other authentic materials to document diversity and stabilize taxonomy; and (3) improve understanding of the microbiome contribution to Pezizales trophic ecology.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.