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AMS Grants 2022

The AMS Research Grants

Applications are open and due on 26 July 2024 (5:00 pm AEST)

Here at AMS, we aim to promote the understanding of fungi, and a key component of this aim is to support research activities by Australasian mycologists.

Applications for AMS Research Grants are welcomed from all current financial members of the AMS, especially junior members. The project must be carried out within Australasia and the applicant must be associated with an Australasian research organisation. Successful applicants are asked to present the outcomes of their research at the AMS conference immediately following their award and/or as an AMS virtual seminar. 

Up to two grants will be awarded, each with a maximum value of AU$2000. One of the grants is prioritised for applicants who are junior members (Higher Degree Research students or recent PhD graduates). The second grant will be open to any member, regardless of career stage. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are strongly encouraged to apply.

The grant may be used for expenses directly related to research activities which must commence no later than February 2025. Requests for contributions to large capital items or conference travel will not be considered, nor will applications explicitly targeting a training opportunity. Applications will be judged on (i) scientific merit and (ii) the extent to which the award will enhance output(s) of the awardee’s research program.

Important dates

Grant applications opening:    3 June 2024 
Application deadline:               26 July 2024 at 5.00 pm AEST 
Successful applicants notice: 6 September 2024
Funds available from:               1 October 2024
Research starts no later than: 1 February 2025

For more information, please refer to the AMS Research Grant Information Flyer


Research grant
Grant recipients

Recipients of the AMS Research Grant


Kylie A. Agnew-Francis

The University of Queensland

Exploring the Biodiversity of Australia’s Endemic Hericium Species.


Project Summary

Wood-decay fungi (also known as saprotrophic fungi) are among nature’s most efficient decomposers and nutrient recyclers. Their role as resource gatekeepers and habitat builders makes them essential to the health and survival of forest ecosystems, and particularly in supporting the restoration of rainforest environments. Accordingly, understanding the endemic diversity and distribution of wood-decay fungi is increasingly being recognised as an important marker for developing and monitoring conservation management strategies. In Australia, it is believed that there are between 50,000 – 250,000 species of fungi. Despite their abundance, recorded knowledge concerning endemic species is underdeveloped, to the extent that most species remain undescribed. Little is known as to their biological diversity, ecological importance, toxicity, medicinal properties, or other potential uses. This project will contribute to ongoing work in bridging the significant gap in knowledge surrounding Australian endemic wood-decay fungi by supporting the genetic characterisation of endemic Hericium species. Hericium is a rare genus of white-rot mushroom used in food and traditional medicine and reported to possess a variety of interesting therapeutic properties. In Australia, Hericium (designated H. aff. coralloides) are an endemic to temperate rainforests along the eastern and southern coastal regions, and throughout Tasmania, where they grow exclusively on Nothofagus (myrtle) species. The taxonomy and genetic diversity of Australian Hericium species is currently not well-established, which limits a comprehensive assessment of their biodiversity, distribution, ecological function, and conservation status. In partnership with BioPlatforms Australia (Functional Fungi Initiative), this work will utilise whole genome sequencing to provide essential genetic resources for advancing our understanding of Australian Hericium species at the molecular level. It will underpin ongoing efforts to comprehensively resolve taxonomic relationships of endemic Hericium species and improve our understanding of their ecological function and importance. Twitter: @kylieafrancis

Nicholas Chong

The University of Melbourne

Characterisation of the AbaA-BrlA-WetA module in the emerging model fungus Paecilomyces variotii


Project Summary

Paecilomyces variotii is an emerging model species that is commonly found as an environmental mold. AbaA, BrlA, and WetA make up a set of genes that is highly conserved in fungi that are commonly encountered in the environment, where the genes play fundamental roles in development, as well as other aspects of fungal biology.  However, although the genes are conserved, how they function in specific species differs. This project will characterise these genes in P. variotii, including assessing gene expression, secondary metabolite production, in vitro alterations to various stresses, and electron microscopy. Further, an additional aim is to define the subcellular localisation of WetA, which has not been experimentally proven to date. The proposed strategy is to generate a transgenic strain expressing a functional WetA-Green Fluorescent Protein fusion to determine where WetA is primarily expressed and concentrated. This study will provide insights into the highly conserved AbaA-BrlA-WetA module in fungi broadly, as well as the specific functions in P. variotii, and further define its role in fungal development. Twitter: @nickchong_

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Aaron Brace

Edith Cowan University, Western Australia

How the soil fungal communities of Banksia woodlands respond to changing fire regimes


Project Summary

The impacts of changing fire regimes on native plant communities are more often viewed through a macroorganism focused lense, with less attention paid to microorganisms. This is despite their importance and how they interact with above ground biota. Soil fungi play instrumental roles in ecosystem function, yet in many ecosystems little is known about how soil fungi interact with plants to influence their survival and persistence. Fire-associated changes to above-ground biodiversity are well studied and often substantial with impacts likely of similar magnitude for soil fungal communities with implications for regeneration, recruitment, and ecosystem stability in fragile, high diversity ecosystems. This project aims to understand how soil fungi in Banksia woodlands around Perth, WA respond to fire in the first ~15 months following fires of varying severity and type. Insights will help to identify effects of fire severity and timing informing application of tools such as prescribed burning Twitter: @AaronBrace

Allison Mertin

University of Melbourne, Victoria

Understanding the diversity, biology and biogeography of Native Australian Seed Fungi for improving restoration and ex-situ conservation outcomes


Project Summary

This project will increase our knowledge of the unexplored diversity of fungal endophytes of native Australian plants. We will contribute to increasing our understanding of seed fungal endophyte biology and raise awareness of the unknown microbial diversity within native Australian seeds and their potential role in ecosystem function and plant survival, with applications to restoration and ex situ conservation. Specifically, through investigating biogeographical patterns we will increase our understanding of fungal endophyte dispersal methods and environmental factors that shape the seed ‘mycobiome’. Knowledge of seed mycobiomes from multiple co-occurring host species, will facilitate a better model of host ‘specificity’ for key seed fungal species. I will combine mycobiome identity (obtained from internal transcribed spacer (ITS) metabarcoding) with plant growth promotion potential (PGPP) phenotypes of isolated fungal strains to better understand the potential function of seed endophytes for Australian native plants. This project will promote the conservation of seed fungi by identifying fungal diversity in seed from field sites and comparing this diversity with that in seed from seed banks. A synthesized knowledge of seed microbiota will accelerate discovery and help future practices promoting the presence of important seed microorganisms for plant health and productivity. Twitter: @AllisonMertin

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Congratulations to our 2020 AMS Research Award recipients


The executive committee approved the awarding of three Research Awards for 2020:

  • Elaine Davison, Research Associate, Curtin University, Project title: “Amanita umbrinella and its relatives”.

  • Leanne Greenwood, PhD Candidate, Charles Sturt University. Project title: “How does fire effect arid fungal communities?”

  • Rebecca Jane Webb, PhD candidate, James Cook University. Project title: “Glutathione biosynthesis in the amphibian fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis”.

Amelia-Grace Boxshall

University of Melbourne, Victoria

Investigation of toxicity within southern Australian members of the mushroom genus Agaricus L. in a phylogenetic context.

Project Summary

Amelia-Grace is a student at the University of Melbourne. Her masters project unites the University of Melbourne, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, and Deakin University, through supervision by Drs Joanne Birch, Teresa Lebel and Damien Callahan. Amelia-Grace’s project is the first to investigate the morphological diversity, evolutionary relationships, and chemical toxicity variation of yellow-staining Agaricus species in Australia.

One species of yellow-staining mushroom, Agaricus xanthodermus- which contains the poisonous chemical phenol- is responsible for 89% of the poisonings by deliberate ingestion reported to the Victorian Poisons Information Centre. However, anecdotal evidence dating back to the original description of the species by Genevier indicates variation in the toxicity of this species: sometimes consumption of this species results in gastrointestinal irritation and sometimes it doesn’t. The precise cause for the variation in toxicity is unknown but may be related to factors such as developmental stage, part of the mushroom consumed, habitat, or genetic variation in the form of cryptic species. To add to the mushrooming mystery, it has never been determined whether the Australian species currently known as A. xanthodermus is the same as the original, Northern Hemisphere species. In fact, the extensive morphological and habitat diversity of Australian individuals indicate the species name Agaricus xanthodermus may be misapplied to a number of distinct, yellow-staining species.

Amelia-Grace is using a combination of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and high throughput amplicon sequencing. She is developing a phylogeny of Agaricus in southern Australia and is identifying factors to predict which yellow-staining Agaricus are likely to contain a high concentration of poisonous phenol and are therefore more likely to result in poisoning symptoms if consumed.

Using her AMS Research Grant, Amelia-Grace has made collections for both chemical and genetic analysis from under-collected locations across Victoria, including samples from areas of native vegetation. She’s also been able to expand sampling of herbarium specimens and increase the number of regions to be used for phylogenetic reconstruction. This has allowed Amelia-Grace to increase the taxonomic coverage of her project and capture as much of the toxicity variation present across Victoria as possible.

Cecilia Li,  Fungal Pathogenesis Group,  Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at Westmead Institute for Medical Research

Investigating the role of the inositol polyphosphate kinase signalling pathway in fungal metabolism

Project Summary

Cecilia Li is a student at the University of Sydney, based at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research. She is currently in the final year of her PhD. She is supervised by Julie Djordjevic, Sophie Lev, and Tania Sorrell. Her project aims to investigate molecular mechanisms of Cryptococcus neoformans pathogenesis. C. neoformans initially infects the lungs and disseminates to the central nervous system (CNS), causing fatal meningoencephalitis. Up to one million cases of cryptococcal meningitis and around 600,000 deaths have been reported annually in AIDS patients alone. For C. neoformans to survive and replicate in the lungs, and disseminate to the CNS, it must adapt its metabolism to suit nutrient availability in the lung, an environment depleted of glucose.


Cecilia’s PhD studies have led to the identification and characterisation of a novel signalling pathway in C. neoformans. This pathway consists of a series of sequentially acting inositol polyphosphate kinases (IPKs: Arg1, Ipk1 and Kcs1) that convert IP3 to PP-IP5 (IP7). Cecilia’s work has established that mice infected with the IPK gene deletion mutants (which all lack PP-IP5) have lower infection burdens in the lung compared to wild type. This is due to their inability to metabolise non-glucose carbon sources. Thus, these IPK mutants fail to disseminate to the CNS. Other preliminary data suggest that mitochondrial function is compromised in the IPK mutant set, and that glycolysis is up-regulated.


Using her AMS research grant award, Cecilia has explored the role of the IPK pathway in cellular metabolism and energy production in real-time by using the Seahorse XFe24 Extracellular Flux Analyzer. Given that the instrument has never been used with non-adherent yeast cells before, Cecilia has had to optimise the attachment of cryptococcal cells, and also optimise the concentration of inhibitors needed to test metabolic flux. She is still working on optimising the concentration of one inhibitor by using an alternative substance.


Cecilia will then be in a position to identify differences in the metabolic function of IPK strains compared with the virulent wild-type strain, which could in turn provide answers to why the mutants are less virulent. This information could offer insight into how the inositol polyphosphate kinase signalling pathway regulates cellular metabolism and fungal virulence.

Sarah Sapsford, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia

The biotic and abiotic factors predisposing marri (Corymbia calophylla) to canker disease (Quambalaria coyrecup) in the southwest of Western Australia

Project Summary

Sarah is currently completing her PhD in forest pathology at Murdoch University. Her project focuses on the factors that are causing the decline of marri (Corymbia calophylla) trees in Western Australia (WA). The decline of this species has devastating effects on wildlife habitats as well as the economy: marri are an important food source and nesting location for the endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) and are also one of the major honey plants in southwest WA which beekeepers are heavily dependent on. A canker caused by the fungus Quambalaria coyrecup, believed to be endemic to WA, has devastated many marri stands in the southwest of WA. It has been observed that incidences of Q. coyrecup are much greater in areas affected by anthropogenic activities such as parks, small remnants, peri-urban areas, cleared land used for farming and/or grazing and roadsides. It is possible that a combination of factors are predisposing marri to canker disease. For example, remnant stands of marri trees on road edges that border cleared land (usually a farm) have extremely high incidences of canker. However, across the road (on the opposite road edge) where there is a forest block, the incidence of canker dramatically decreases and reaches 0% incidence on trees that are at least 20 m away from the road edge. Predisposing factors leading to the decline of marri may include the use of pesticides and herbicides on these road edges (either by local council spraying road edges or run-off from adjacent farmland), soil pathogens such as Phytophthora spp., and changes in climate. These factors can have detrimental effects on concentrations of nutrients in the soil, soil composition, soil pH and, most importantly, microbial communities in the soil.

Susan Nuske, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland.

Mammal dispersal of ectomycorrhizal fungal spores 

Project Summary

Susan Nuske is currently completing her PhD in Ecology at James Cook University, Cairns. Her project investigates the dispersal of ectomycorrhizal fungi by Australian mammals. Ectomycorrhizal fungi are an important group of soil fungi that associate with plant roots. In this association the fungi mine hard-to-access nutrients from the soil and transport them to the plant. In exchange the plants give sugars to the fungi. This association benefits both plants and fungi and the ecology of these two organisms are tightly linked.

Susan’s main interest lies in the third players in this interaction; the Australian mammals that consume and disperse the spores of ectomycorrhizal fungi. While wind-dispersed mushrooms are the best known ectomycorrhizal fungi, Australia is also home to a large diversity of below-ground fruiting fungi (truffle-like species), most of which are ectomycorrhizal. These truffle-like species rely on animals to dig-up, consume and disperse their spores. A literature review Susan has performed found that at least 53 Australian mammal species consume fungi. Although we can infer that mammals are important for maintaining ectomycorrhizal diversity, we only have a limited understanding of the extent of this interaction because knowledge of ectomycorrhizal fungal communities within Australia is very limited. By examining the whole ectomycorrhizal community and comparing this to the fungal species consumed by mammals, Susan is investigating whether mammals disperse a significant proportion of the ectomycorrhizal fungal community.

The most notable of these fungal-dispersers are bettongs and potoroos that specialise in consuming truffle-like fungi. Unfortunately, the distribution of these species has reduced significantly since European arrival, including the endangered Northern Bettong. The loss of Australia’s mammal abundance and diversity may have consequences for their functional roles as spore dispersers and overall ecosystem functioning. However, the ubiquity of mammal mycophagy across remaining mammal populations is not well known. Additionally, we do not have a clear understanding of the importance of specialist fungal-dispersers (bettongs and potoroos) over the dispersal roles of the many generalist fungal consumers (mammals like bush rats and swamp wallabies that consume fungi but do not rely on it in their diet). Susan will address these knowledge gaps by examining the fungal diet of the Northern Bettong and comparing this to other mammals within the same range. This will allow us to better understand whether modern mammal populations are important for maintaining functioning ectomycorrhizal forests.



Before delving into the mycology world, Susan’s biological interest was sparked by working with animals on a high school hobby farm. She started out majoring in Zoology for her Bachelor of Science (University of Queensland), but quickly became fascinated with the role animals play in interacting with and shaping their environment. Hence, Ecology became her main focus. Susan also could see the potential using genetic techniques for answering ecological questions and gained genetic skills in a 3rd year intensive course and research project working on parentage of Antechinus. In 2010 she completed an Honours year at UQ working on a non-invasive genetic technique for estimating population size for the endangered Bridled Nailtail Wallaby. After working as a research assistant, travelling and volunteering, Susan decided to start a PhD. 

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