The Microbiology Society, together with the British Mycological Society, is delighted to announce Dr Ester Gaya of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, as winner of the 2023 Tony Trinci Award.
Dr Gaya will give her award presentation, Symbiotic Interactions, at the British Mycological Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting, which will be held from 12-14 September 2023 in Newcastle.
Dr Ester Gaya discovered her passion for fungi during her undergraduate and PhD studies at the University of Barcelona, Spain, where she produced monographic work on a widespread genus of lichens (Caloplaca and allied taxa). She further developed her skills in evolutionary biology and phylogenetic methods during postdoctoral positions at Duke University, USA, and led efforts to reconstruct comprehensive phylogenies of one of the most diverse groups of lichenised fungi, the Teloschistales. In doing so, she explored how their orange pigments may have led to an evolutionary radiation. This discovery has led to her team’s current research on the evolution of these secondary metabolites and their role in adaptation to extreme habitats. Since her move to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, she has expanded her interests in fungal diversity and evolution to encompass almost all major groups of fungi. Her team has been involved in baseline biodiversity work, such as the contribution to the Catalogue of fungi of Colombia and the exploration of the diversity of seed endophytes in the Millennium Seed Bank collections, as well as research on the evolution of symbiotic interactions and lifestyles using the genus Fusarium as a case study. Dr Gaya’s team has transitioned into phylogenomics and comparative genomics approaches and is currently leading the fungal component of Kew’s PAFTOL programme (Plant and Fungal Trees of Life) where they are particularly focusing on the phylum Ascomycota and exploring the use of historical collections to fill in the gaps of the fungal tree of life. Her team also leads the fungal component of the Darwin Tree of Life (DToL), which aims to genome-sequence all eukaryotic diversity in the UK.
Dr Gaya said of the award: “I am extremely honoured and humbled to receive this award. Even if it was just to forage for, and eat them, I have been interested in fungi from an early age. Their diversity of shapes, colours, ecological strategies have never ceased amazing me, and I try to share my passion whenever I can. I hope this award helps amplifying the relevance of fungi to a broader audience. Although I have been always interested in understanding the evolution of symbiosis through the lens of lichens, the recent endeavour of reconstructing a more complete fungal tree of life has provided an opportunity to wander amongst other fungal lifestyles and fascinating groups. The fact that the research of my team on the evolution of Fusarium is remotely linked to Tony Trinci’s interests fills me with excitement. We are still discovering new species of Fusarium and other groups of fungi even in unexpected places such as the stored seeds of the Millenium Seed Bank. And who knows, the next generation of Quorn fungi, antibiotics, biofuels or critical fungi for our threatened ecosystems might be awaiting in unanticipated habitats! I’d like to share the honour of this award with my fabulous Comparative Fungal Biology team at Kew.”
President of the British Mycological Society, Professor Janet Quinn said: “This joint Award from the British Mycological Society and the Microbiology Society recognises Tony Trinci’s enormous contribution to mycological research and Dr Gaya’s innovative research on the diversity and evolution of a vast range of fungi makes her an excellent and deserving winner of this Award.”
President of the Microbiology Society, Professor Del Besra FRS said: “Dr Gaya’s brilliant work on the evolution of Fusarium reflects why we created the Tony Trinci Award with the British Mycological Society, which celebrates outstanding mycology and investigative work. I am delighted the Award has gone to such a deserving winner.”
The British Mycological Society and Microbiology Society Tony Trinci Award is presented annually to celebrate excellent mycology.
The British Mycological Society was founded 125 years ago to promote the scientific study of fungi and has since grown to be one of the major mycological societies in the world. The Society is committed to promoting cutting-edge scientific research, fungal conservation and species recording and the provision of educational resources. As a charity and membership body, the Society is open to all who are interested in supporting, promoting and studying the diverse and fascinating fungal kingdom.
The Microbiology Society is a membership charity for scientists interested in microbes, their effects and their practical uses. It has a worldwide membership based in universities, industry, hospitals, research institutes, schools and other organisations. Our members have a unique depth and breadth of knowledge about the discipline. The Society’s role is to help unlock and harness the potential of that knowledge.
Read more about Ester's research here: www.kew.org/science/our-science/people/ester-gaya