Lawrey Lab


Ecology, systematics and evolution of lichens and lichen-associated fungi


Lichens are among the most remarkable and successful forms of mutualistic symbiosis known. Lichens are associations of fungi and photosynthetic algae or cyanobacteria that develop a vegetative body unique to the symbiosis and not observed in the isolated symbiotic partners. Lichenization is a major nutritional mode in the Kingdom Fungi, with approximately 20% of described fungi forming lichens, including approximately half of the phylum Ascomycota. Many other major groups of fungi associate specifically with lichens. Recent research is beginning to shed new light on the origins and diversity of these fascinating organisms, including the mechanisms of symbiont recognition, degree of specificity, and reasons why lichenization has evolved so commonly in some groups and so rarely in others.

Lichen ecology, systematics and evolution: In our lab we are presently focusing on these topics:

Basidiolichens:  How has lichenization evolved in the Basidiomycota, why is it so rare, and how does it compare to lichenization in the Ascomycota? Details of projects can be viewed here.

Cyanolichens:  How does the evolution of lichens that associate with cyanobacteria differ from that of lichens that associate with green algal photobionts? Details of projects can be viewed here.

Lichen chemical ecology:  What is the adaptive significance of lichen secondary metabolites, compounds unique to the lichen symbiosis and remarkable for the variety of bioactive properties they exhibit? Details of projects can be viewed here.

Lichenicolous fungi:   Many fungi are known to live inside or on the surface of lichens. These obligate lichen-associated fungi are widely distributed phylogenetically among nonlichen groups. How has the lichenicolous habit evolved in fungi? What is their mode of nutrition? Details of projects can be viewed here.

LICHENICOLOUS.NET is an online worldwide checklist of lichenicolous fungi, including all described species and links to all isolated cultures and sequences.

Lichen floristics in Washington, D.C. area: For the past several decades we have also conducted basic lichen floristic studies locally, most of which were designed to monitor regional air quality. The most recent of these studies was conducted for the National Park Service. Objectives, methods and results of this study can be viewed here, as well as references to previous studies and publications.  




Molecular Ecology and Evolution: Microbiome Analysis Center

Teaching and office hours


James D. Lawrey
Department of Biology
Mason University   MSN 3E1
University Drive
Fairfax, Virginia   22030-4444

Phone:  703-993-1059
Fax:  703-993-1046