In Plain English: Rytas Vilgalys
“It’s a good time to be a mycologist,” says Rytas Vilgalys. Rytas began by learning the edible and inedible mushrooms at his Muka’s (grandmother’s) side. He’s never stopped, first studying the DNA of fungi to discover how species evolved and their relationships and differences. Current genomic techniques analyze the entire genetic makeup of species and particularly how different genes coordinate with one another. “It’s a quantum leap,” Rytas says, allowing his lab to study communities of different fungi living in the soil of pine and cottonwood forests: how they live, eat, reproduce, communicate, cooperate and compete with each other and even with plants. Every aspect of the natural history of fungi is open to scrutiny in the Vilgalys Lab, where it’s all fungi all the time.