Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interesting Xylariaceae Found

During a collection event in June 2009, I came across a very interesting resupinate fungus.  The fruiting body was spreading across the barkless surface of a large downed tree.  I had seen many resupinate fruiting structures during my two years of research, however the gray center and white colored margin of this fungus caught my eyes from nearly ten meters away.  Upon closer examination, this fungus appeared to be in a state of active growth.  Later, this observation would be confirmed with images and descriptions of the lifecycle of this fungus provided through multiple resources.  You might be asking yourself what fungus I have been mentioning.  Kretzschmaria sp. cf. deusta  (Hoffm.) P.M.D. Martin is the proposed name for this collected specimen.  This species of fungus is common, but is often overlooked once the dark black stroma gives it's substrate a burnt appearance.  The fungus causes rot of trees and is often located at the base of infected trees.  Infected trees become quite brittle and should be monitored as they are prone to structural failure with little to no warning.  The upper right image was taken during the immature or actively growing state of this fungus.  The second image allows one to see the mature fruiting structure with the embedded perithecia creating a pimpling of the stroma surface.  A stereoscopic image of the stroma in cross section showcases the perithecia and the asci found within them.  A wet mount was prepared from tissues extracted from the opened perithecia and spores exhibiting classic Xylariaceae characteristics were observed.  The final image clearly shows the narrow, dark-brown to black spores.  The spore size was 32x8 micrometers with a smooth texture and central germ split.    DNA from the collected specimen will be extracted and amplified using PCR.  The PCR product will then be sequenced and this ITS sequence will be entered into a BLAST search to aid in its identification.  Keep an eye open for this very interesting fungus during your next hike through the forest.  Click on the title of this post to view other images of this fungus!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sled Riding With Daughter

The new year brought fresh snow and chilly temperatures to central Pennsylvania.  This combination was perfect for one of our family's favorite winter activities; sled riding.  In previous years our daughter was too young to enjoy this activity, but now that she is 2.5 years old, she has shown an interest.  Her first real sled riding experience took place in Youngstown, Ohio during our visit to my in-laws.  We bundled my daughter Kaia in layers of clothing and placed her on a plastic saucer sled at the top of a small hill.  This was the same hill that my wife used to sled ride down when she was a youngster.  It brought back great memories when my wife saw her daughter sliding down that hill.  Kaia seemed to really enjoy the ride as she would yell, "whoa" or "whee" the entire duration of the trip from the top of the hill to the base.  Once our family had returned to Pennsylvania, Kaia asked to go sled riding.  We borrowed a sled from our neighbor and headed to a local park.  By this time, the sun had melted the snow covering the top of a small hill located within the park down the street from our home.  This in no way deterred us from having a great time watching Kaia enjoy herself.  After an hour of toting her to the top of the small hill, pushing her down the slope, and pulling her on the sled as I ran around in the powdery snow,  it was time to go home.  We warmed up with some warm beverages and found that it was quite easy for all of us to sleep that evening. 

**We hope that you will share this winter season with your loved ones.**

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy New Year !

Hey folks.  Great to be back in the lab running PCR on my fungal samples and sending them off for sequencing.  I have picked a few interesting specimens from the collection to sequence at first, then will move on to the more common species and genera.  A few of the selected specimens may yet to be described in Pennsylvania and the thought of documenting novel species is exciting.  There is a species within the order Xylariales that is most common in Europe and has rarely been documented in the United States.  Teasing out the data for the past 2 years of collection from my research site will surely be interesting and I am optimistic that the DNA sequences will greatly aid in their identification.  For now I am concentrating on perfecting my techniques in the lab and ability to edit ITS sequence data for submission to GenBank.  Due to the heavy workload this fall, I will most likely be posting results on a weekly basis.  Still, please stop back and provide comments and suggestions.  Have a great year and hope you enjoy the new blog will most likely change as the months progress.