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Nhu Nguyen


Postdoctoral Associate

Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley

Department of Plant Biology
University of Minnesota
250 Biological Science Center
1445 Gortner Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55108

office: 808 Biological Sciences
lab: 612-625-5438

Curriculum vitae


Research interests

My main interests are the ecology and mechanisms of symbiotic intereactions. These symbiotic interactions may be between fungi-fungi, fungi-plants, or fungi-bacteria. They may also be between fungi-plants-bacteria or fungi-insects-plants. I am also interested in the taxonomy and systematics of fungi, in particular mushrooms and yeasts.

Current projects

Drivers of ectomycorrhizal diversity

There have been multiple bodies of research which suggest that ectomycorrhizal fungi are driven by geographic location, latitudinal gradients, host availability, host phylogenetic diversity, etc. However, these research rely on initial descriptive ecology to formulate the patterns and controlled experimental evidence is lacking. I'm working with my postdoctoral research advisor, Peter Kennedy, to experimentally tease out the drivers of these observed patterns.

Competitive abilties of mycorrhizal fungi

Ectomycorrhizal fungi, like all other living organisms, compete interspecifically and intraspecifically for resources. We are currently working with generalist and specialist fungi, testing their competitive abilities with each other in plate cultures and on host plants. We seek to understand how these competitive interactions translate to symbiont and host advantage.

Long term survival of fungal propagules

How long can fungal propagules (such as spores and other resistant structures) last? Despite the simplicity of the question, the answer is not well known. Annedotal evidence suggest that spores can live for decades, but there is little experimental evidence to support the claim. I have been working with my PhD advisor Tom Bruns, to figure out how long can these spores survive. So far, we found that certain ectomycorrhizal fungal propagules can survive up to 10 years. We still have 89 years left in the experiment.

Taxonomy of mushrooms

I was originally trained as a taxonomist, and even though I do a lot of ecology now, deep down inside I feel a strong urge to categorize and name fungi, especially mushrooms. In order to do the best fungal ecology, the fundamental unit of species should be well categorized and named. Western North America is one of the hotspots for new species and I have been working to iron out taxonomic wrinkles and naming new species as they come to my attention. There are a number of genera on the list, but the genus Suillus is my favorite and focusing on the taxonomy of these mushrooms integrates well with the ecological work that I'm doing with them.


Google Scholar Profile

Arora D, Nguyen NH. 2014. A new species of Russula, subgenus Compactae from California. North American Fungi 9:1-7.

Kennedy P, Nguyen NH, Cohen H, Peay KG. 2014. Missing checkerboards: an absence of competitive signal in Alnus-associated ectomycorrhizal fungal communities. http://PeerJ 2:e686; DOI 10.7717/peerj.686

Justo A, Malysheva E, Bulyonkova T, Vellinga EC, Nguyen NH, Minnis A, Hibbett DS. 2014. Molecular phylogeny and phylogeography of Holarctic species of Pluteus section Pluteus (Agaricales: Pluteaceae), with description of twelve new species. Phytotaxa 180:1-85. DOI:

Nguyen NH, Smith D, Peay KP, Kennedy P. 2014. Parsing ecological signal from noise in next generation amplicon sequencing. New Phytologist in press. DOI: 10.1111/nph.12923.

Ferro ML, Nguyen NH, Tishechkin A, Park J-S, Bayless V, Carlton CE. 2013. Coleoptera collected from rotting fishhook barrel cacti (Ferocactus wislizeni (Engelm.) Britton and Rose), with a review of neartic Coleoptera associated with succulent necrosis. The Coleopterists Bulletin 67:419–44. DOI:

Kõljalg U, Nilsson RH, Abarenkov K., et al. 2013. Towards a unified paradigm for sequence-based identification of Fungi. Molecular Ecology 22: 5271–5277. DOI: 10.1111/mec.12481

Ceja-Navarro JA, Nguyen NH*, Karaoz U, Gross SR, Herman DJ, Andersen GL, Bruns TD, Pett-Ridge J, Blackwell M, Brodie EL. 2013. Compartmentalized microbial composition, oxygen gradients and nitrogen fixation in the gut of Odontotaenius disjunctus. The ISME Journal 2013 Aug 29. DOI:10.1038/ismej.2013.13. *1st and 2nd author contributed equally to this work.

Nguyen NH, Landeros F, Garibay-Orijel Roberto, Hansen Karen, Vellinga EC. 2013. The Helvella lacunosa species complex in western North America: cryptic species, misapplied names and parasites. Mycologia 105:1275-1286. DOI: 10.3852/12-391

Nguyen NH, Kerekes JF, Vellinga EC, Bruns TD. 2012. Synonymy of Suillus imitatus, the imitator of two species within the S. caerulescens/ponderosus complex. Mycotaxon 122:389–398. DOI: 10.5248/122.389

Nguyen NH, Hynson NA, Bruns TD. 2012. Stayin’ Alive: survival of mycorrhizal fungal propagules from 6-yr-old forest soil. Fungal Ecology 5:741-746; DOI: 10.1016/j.funeco.2012.05.006

Peay GP, Schubert MG, Nguyen NH, Bruns TD. 2012. Measuring ectomycorrhizal fungal dispersal: macroecological patterns driven by microscopic propagules. Molecular Ecology 21:4122-4136; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05666.x

Nguyen NH, Suh S-O & Blackwell M, 2011. Spathaspora Nguyen, Suh & Blackwell. In: The Yeasts, a taxonomic study, 5th Edition. Eds. Kurtzman, C.P., J. Fell, and T. Boekhout. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Bruns TD, Peay KG, Boynton PJ, Grubisha LC, Hynson NA, Nguyen NH, Rosenstock NP. 2009. Inoculum potential of Rhizopogon spores increases with time over the first four years of a 99-year spore burial experiment. New Phytologist 181:463-470.

M. I. Bidartondo et al. 2008. Preserving Accuracy in GenBank. Science 21 March 2008:1616.

Nguyen NH, Driscoll HE, & Specht CD. 2008. A molecular phylogeny of the wild onions (Allium; Alliaceae) with a focus on the Western North American center of diversity. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 47:1157-1172.

Suh S-O, Nguyen NH & Blackwell M. 2008. Yeasts isolated from plant-associated beetles and other insects: seven novel Candida species near Candida albicans. FEMS Yeast Research 8:88-102.

Nguyen NH, Suh S-O & Blackwell M. 2007. Five novel yeast species associated with Neuroptera and other insects. Mycologia 99:842-858.

Suh S-O, Nguyen NH & Blackwell M. 2006. A yeast clade near Candida kruisii uncovered: nine novel Candida species associated with basidioma-feeding beetles. Mycological Research 110:1379-1394.

Nguyen NH, Suh S-O, Marshall C & Blackwell M. 2006. Morphological and ecological similarities: wood-boring beetles associated with novel xylose-fermenting yeasts, Spathaspora passalidarum gen. nov., sp. nov. and Candida jeffriesii sp. nov. Mycological Research 110:1232-1241.

Nguyen NH, Suh SO, Erbil CK & Blackwell M. 2006. Metschnikowia noctiluminum sp. nov., Metschnikowia corniflorae sp. nov., and Candida chrysomelidae sp. nov., isolated from green lacewings, and beetles. Mycological Research 110: 346-356.

Nardi JB, Bee CM, Miller LA, Nguyen NH, Suh S-O & Blackwell M. 2006. Communities of microbes that inhabit the changing hind gut landscape of a subsocial Beetle. Arthropod Structure and Development 35: 57-68.

Suh S-O, Nguyen NH & Blackwell M. 2005. Nine new Candida species near Candida membranifaciens isolated from insects. Mycological Research 109: 261-265.

Suh S-O, White MM, Nguyen NH & Blackwell M. 2004. The identification of Enteroramus dimorphus: a xylose-fermenting yeast attached to the gut of beetles. Mycologia 96:756-760.