Interested in joining the lab? Please email

Current members

Justine Karst - Associate Professor

Justine is a mycorrhizal ecologist who does much of her research in the boreal forest. Her interests include mycorrhizal ecology,  disturbance, and restoration ecology. She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Ecology.

ALES Teacher of the Year 2019, ENCS Professor of the Year 2020



James Franklin - PhD candidate

James is a PhD student interested in plant-fungal interactions. After completing his BSc at the University of Victoria, he worked as a lab technician at Wildlife Genetics International. He then returned to school and completed an MSc at the University of Guelph, where he studied the tripartite symbiosis between plants, mycorrhizal fungi, and rhizobium bacteria. He is currently studying if plant-mycorrhizal associations change across soils that differ in oil sand concentration and screening for fungi specialized to occur in oil sands. His next goal will be to inoculate seedlings with fungi isolated from different origins to determine if the mutualistic benefits these fungi provide their host differ based on where the fungi were isolated from. James is co-supervised by  Pedro M. Antunes.

Elena Schaefer - MSc student

Elena is interested in the mycorrhizal ecology of cottonwoods across the U.S. southwest. As an undergraduate, she focused her senior thesis on the genetic mapping of the mycorrhizal communities throughout common garden sites. Her research will take place in the Colorado Plateau region. She will measure the root exudation of cottonwoods inoculated with two functional groups of mycorrhizae. Elena will be co-supervised by Cathrine Gehring at Northern Arizona University.


Ana I. Bermúdez-Contreras - PhD student

Ana is interested in restoration ecology and plant-fungal interactions, and particularly keen in the fungal ecology of finding out who is who and what is it doing. Ana completed her BSc in Biology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City and then spent some time as an environmental impact intern. She moved back to her hometown in La Paz, Mexico and participated in some NGOs dedicated to environmental education and natural resource management of the area, and with that in mind, went to the University of Melbourne in Australia to do a MSc in environmental sciences. Ana was supervised by Dr. Cristina Aponte to research mycorrhizal fungi in the context of riparian ecosystem conservation through revegetation.  After that she returned to UNAM to do a research stay at the lab of Dr. Camille Truong where she did field work looking for root-associated fungi in neotropical plants and looked into the fungal communities of an AM plant species and an ECM plant species along a disturbance gradient.


Laura Newstead - MSc student



Nicole Lau - MSc student

Nicole is a MSc student interested in mycorrhizal ecology in forest ecosystems. Originally from Vancouver, she completed her BSc through the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia. Her research will take place in boreal forests across west-central Alberta, where she will be looking at how mountain pine beetle disturbances that shift mycorrhizal communities impact soil carbon stocks.


Rykkar Jackson - undergrad student

Rykkar is a 4th-year student working towards a BSc in Conservation Biology. During his undergraduate career, he has developed an interest in vegetation ecology and recently conducted an independent research project under the supervision of Dr. Scott Nielsen to determine the effect of different oil-sands disturbance types on tree and shrub structure in Alberta’s boreal forest. Rykkar is currently the summer field assistant to Nicole Lau and hopes to begin graduate school in 2023.