Dr Jill Kowal

Dr Jill Kowal

Research Assistant, NERC

Department: Life Sciences
Division: LS Algae, Fungi and Plants Division
Phone: +44 (207) 942 5276

Specialisms

plant-fungal interactions; bryophytes; liverworts; plant culture; vegetation ecology; restoration ecology; mycorrhizal symbiosis

Summary

My research focuses on mutually beneficial interactions between plants and fungi. By studying early land plants and their fungal symbionts both in culture and natural microcosms, I aim to better understand the evolutionary origin and function of these plant-fungus mutualisms. This work is supported by a NERC-funded research grant, ''Shifting symbiotic scenarios at the dawn of land plant-fungus associations”. The potential application of these functional and nutritional exchanges for both restoration ecology and agricultural innovations are just beginning to unfold. Exciting questions lay before us to discuss, test and collaborate both in the laboratory and real world settings. My PhD research focused on heathland vegetation restoration techniques. Specifically, I tested the use of liverworts as an inoculum for heathland restoration. Some liverworts associate with the same mycorrhizal fungus as Ericaceae plants, the dominant plant family of heathlands. Results: Nursery experiments simulating real world environmental conditions yielded significant results supporting the use of liverworts as a 'biological fertilizer' and a tool for restoration, particularly in wet ecological systems where liverworts are prevalent. The follow-up field studies also point to some benefits of pre-treatment with liverworts, but further testing is required. I am keen to test this further in other habitats and plant-liverwort-fungus combinations.

Qualifications

Degrees

PhD, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom, 2011 - 2016

MSc, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom, 2009 - 2010

MSc, New York University, United States, 1991 - 1992

BBA, University of Wisconsin - Madison, United States, 1984 - 1988

BSc, University of Wisconsin - Madison, United States, 1984 - 1988

Grants

Shifting Symbiotic Scenarios at the Dawn of Land-Plant-Fungus Associations
Role: Principal investigatorField K
Co-investigator: Pressel S
Funding: NERC
Total value £420,292 (to Museum £138,535.51)
Dates: 2016 - 2019

Committees

Member, Board of Directors, Jerusalem Botanical Garden, Jerusalem Botanical Garden, Israel, 2010 - on going.

Memberships

Member, British Mycological Society, 2017 - on going.

Member, British Bryological Society, 2014 - on going.

British Ecological Society, 2013 - on going.

Events

Conference Attendance

Invited speaker, British Ecological Society, (Conference),

Poster presentation, The Rhynie Chert – our earliest terrestrial ecosystem revisited., (Symposium),

Poster presentation, British Ecological Society, (Conference),

Invited speaker, British Ecological Society, (Conference),

Publications

Hoysted GA, Kowal J, Jacob A, Rimington WR, Duckett JG, Pressel S, Orchard S, Ryan MH, Field KJ, Bidartondo MI (2017) A mycorrhizal revolution.. Current opinion in plant biology, 44 : 1 - 6. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2017.12.004

Kowal J, Pressel S, Duckett JG, Bidartondo MI, Field KJ (2018) From rhizoids to roots? Experimental evidence of mutualism between liverworts and ascomycete fungi. Annals of Botany, 121 (2) : 221 - 227. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcx126

Kowal J, Duckett J, Jacob A, Rimington W, Bidartondo M, Field K, Schornack S, Pressel S (2017) Lycopodiella inundata: insights into plant-fungal associations in early vascular plants. Presented at The Rhynie Chert – our earliest terrestrial ecosystem revisited.

Kowal J, Pressel S, Duckett J, Bidartondo M (2016) A new tool for habitat restoration: liverworts and their mycorrhiza-like fungal partners. Presented at British Ecological Society Annual Meeting.

Kowal J, Pressel S, Duckett JG, Bidartondo MI (2016) Liverworts to the rescue: an investigation of their efficacy as mycorrhizal inoculum for vascular plants. Functional Ecology, 30 (6) : 1014 - 1023. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12580

Supervision

Bachelor's equivalent Joint supervisor to Various students
Co supervisor(s): Bidartondo M
BSc Third Year Project - Plant response to ErM fungus
Imperial College London, London, London, United Kingdom

Introduction

Summary

My research focuses on mutually beneficial interactions between plants and fungi. By studying early land plants and their fungal symbionts both in culture and natural microcosms, I aim to better understand the evolutionary origin and function of these plant-fungus mutualisms. This work is supported by a NERC-funded research grant, ''Shifting symbiotic scenarios at the dawn of land plant-fungus associations”. The potential application of these functional and nutritional exchanges for both restoration ecology and agricultural innovations are just beginning to unfold. Exciting questions lay before us to discuss, test and collaborate both in the laboratory and real world settings. My PhD research focused on heathland vegetation restoration techniques. Specifically, I tested the use of liverworts as an inoculum for heathland restoration. Some liverworts associate with the same mycorrhizal fungus as Ericaceae plants, the dominant plant family of heathlands. Results: Nursery experiments simulating real world environmental conditions yielded significant results supporting the use of liverworts as a 'biological fertilizer' and a tool for restoration, particularly in wet ecological systems where liverworts are prevalent. The follow-up field studies also point to some benefits of pre-treatment with liverworts, but further testing is required. I am keen to test this further in other habitats and plant-liverwort-fungus combinations.

Qualifications

Degrees

PhD, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom, 2011 - 2016

MSc, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom, 2009 - 2010

MSc, New York University, United States, 1991 - 1992

BBA, University of Wisconsin - Madison, United States, 1984 - 1988

BSc, University of Wisconsin - Madison, United States, 1984 - 1988

Projects

Grants

Shifting Symbiotic Scenarios at the Dawn of Land-Plant-Fungus Associations
Role: Principal investigatorField K
Co-investigator: Pressel S
Funding: NERC
Total value £420,292 (to Museum £138,535.51)
Dates: 2016 - 2019

Professional activities

Committees

Member, Board of Directors, Jerusalem Botanical Garden, Jerusalem Botanical Garden, Israel, 2010 - on going.

Memberships

Member, British Mycological Society, 2017 - on going.

Member, British Bryological Society, 2014 - on going.

British Ecological Society, 2013 - on going.

Events

Conference Attendance

Invited speaker, British Ecological Society, (Conference),

Poster presentation, The Rhynie Chert – our earliest terrestrial ecosystem revisited., (Symposium),

Poster presentation, British Ecological Society, (Conference),

Invited speaker, British Ecological Society, (Conference),

Publications

Publications

Hoysted GA, Kowal J, Jacob A, Rimington WR, Duckett JG, Pressel S, Orchard S, Ryan MH, Field KJ, Bidartondo MI (2017) A mycorrhizal revolution.. Current opinion in plant biology, 44 : 1 - 6. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2017.12.004

Kowal J, Pressel S, Duckett JG, Bidartondo MI, Field KJ (2018) From rhizoids to roots? Experimental evidence of mutualism between liverworts and ascomycete fungi. Annals of Botany, 121 (2) : 221 - 227. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcx126

Kowal J, Duckett J, Jacob A, Rimington W, Bidartondo M, Field K, Schornack S, Pressel S (2017) Lycopodiella inundata: insights into plant-fungal associations in early vascular plants. Presented at The Rhynie Chert – our earliest terrestrial ecosystem revisited.

Kowal J, Pressel S, Duckett J, Bidartondo M (2016) A new tool for habitat restoration: liverworts and their mycorrhiza-like fungal partners. Presented at British Ecological Society Annual Meeting.

Kowal J, Pressel S, Duckett JG, Bidartondo MI (2016) Liverworts to the rescue: an investigation of their efficacy as mycorrhizal inoculum for vascular plants. Functional Ecology, 30 (6) : 1014 - 1023. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12580

Teaching and students

Supervision

Bachelor's equivalent Joint supervisor to Various students
Co supervisor(s): Bidartondo M
BSc Third Year Project - Plant response to ErM fungus
Imperial College London, London, London, United Kingdom