Sharing a little about my roots ...

Hello, my name is Kelsey. As you may have already guessed based on the title of my website, I am interested in the belowground happenings of our planet. I will admit, it's a risky title, and some of you may have accidentally found yourselves here after doing a google search for maps of London's abandoned underground cave systems. Nevertheless, while I've got your attention, I’d like to share some information about myself that you will undoubtably find interesting!

I am a first year PhD student at the University of Chicago Illinois (UIC). I’m working with my advisor Dr. Luke McCormack in the Root Biology Lab at The Morton Arboretum, and Dr. Miquel Gonzalez-Meler in the Stable Isotope Lab at UIC. When I’m not studying, sitting in some unclaimed office space eating hard-boiled eggs, taking walks to prevent my body from deteriorating, and engaging in other typical graduate student activities, I’m conducting research on mycorrhizal fungi at the arboretum, or teaching a biology lab at UIC.

Myself (human) and Kora (dog). I'm using Kora as bait for web engagement! Kora consented to her likeness being used in this post.

Why Research? why fungi?

Do your friends and relatives commonly tell you that you ask an annoying amount of questions? Are you perpetually dissatisfied with google's nondescript answers to your critically important questions? How many times in the past week have you found yourself in a deep reddit-hole inquiring about the cause of the brown spots in your sweet potatoes or the history of nut tree cultivation in North America? If the answers to those questions are "yes," "yes," and "many," then you should devote your life to research! Full disclosure, this test means nothing. Plenty of non-annoying people pursue careers in research, and many reddit users decide to chase more lucrative paths like dumpster diving or terrarium design. This was all a cheeky way for me to explain how I ended up here, which I don't really have an explanation for! My research interests, on the other hand, are a little easier to explain.

In the beginning of 2022 I joined the Root Biology Lab at The Morton Arboretum (Lisle, IL) as an intern. Prior to my position in the Root Lab, I was broadly interested in tree biology and agroforestry research, but before I could make a clean escape, team Root Lab pulled me belowground. They buried me alive, if you will. Okay, I will stop with the theatrics. What I'm trying to say is: I became invested in the research Luke, Marvin, Newton (and now many more), were doing in the lab. I came to appreciate the complexity of belowground systems, and I was given the opportunity to hop onto a new project (est. 2023) called MycoPhen. Mycophen is focusing on mycorrhizal phenology and how mycorrhizal communities are changing throughout the seasons. From there, it was love at first sample, and I honed in on a particular group of fungi called ectomycorrhizal fungi as a research subject. That's all for now!

All thoughts and opinions shared here are my own.