Dr. Emma Gilmartin

Emma GilmartinI am a first year PhD student researching fungal community development in tree heartwood and the relationship with other organisms. I’m supervised by Lynne Boddy, Hefin Jones and Dan Eastwood with funding partners Cardiff University, Natural England, The Crown Estate and City of London.

Fungal decay in the interior of tree trunks and large branches, termed heart-rot, is a natural process that is ecologically essential for a range of organisms, including rare invertebrates and fungi. We know relatively little about heart-rot: how fungi enter and establish, how communities change through time, and how this affects patterns and speed of decay.

With a particular focus on beech (Fagus sylvatica), I have begun to explore fungal community composition using traditional culture methods and next generation sequencing of trees at various decay stages. Later, I will investigate the basic ecology of the fungi involved through species interaction and wood decay experiments. Ultimately, in collaboration with the project partners, we would like to induce heart-rot by inoculation with suitable fungi into undecayed trees. Some beech stands in the south of England are significant on a European level yet have declining numbers of hollow trees.

Prior to starting this project I received a BSc in Biology from the University of Sheffield (2011) and MSc in Conservation and Land Management from Bangor University (2012). I have a broad interest in plant and fungal ecology at different scales and I’m an active field mycologist who enjoys species identification and natural history. Most recently I worked for the National Trust for Scotland through the TCV Natural Talent scheme, where I conducted fungi and plant surveys across the Scottish uplands.