Monthly Speakers

Next Meeting: April 19, 2018

Speaker: Juniper Harrower

Symbiosis under climate change: Investigating Joshua trees and their mycorrhizal fungi

Working as an ecologist and eco-artist, Juniper studies the complexities of species interactions under climate change. As a PhD student in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz, her research focuses on the interactions between Joshua trees, their soil fungi, and moth pollinators in Joshua Tree National Park. For part of her doctoral work, she uses her ecological science findings to inspire the creation of a unique art form where she manipulates the physical and chemical properties of paint, and also includes elements of the study organisms in her process (Joshua tree fibers, seed oil, and the spines as painting tools). Through this work she aims to better understand the form and function of the organisms she studies as well as to share with others the hidden beauty of these threatened species interactions.

Can you imagine Joshua Tree National Park without any Joshua trees? The iconic tree is under threat from climate change and may be extinct from its namesake park within a human lifetime. The places where they live could become too hot and dry for them or the species that they depend on to survive. Joshua trees have an intricate symbiotic relationship with an unknown community of mycorrhizal fungi. In exchange for plant sugars, these fungi provide the trees greater access to limiting nutrients, and may help fortify them against disease and drought. However, these relationships exist on a spectrum of mutualistic to parasitic outcomes depending on the species involved and where the symbiosis is happening. Her research looks at how the interaction between the trees and fungi may change with climate and other environmental factors and considers how we can best manage for their future survival.
Jennifer further investigates these topics as a multimedia artist - creating animations, an online dating site for Joshua trees, and an experimental painted soil study - to highlight and explore the complexities of these relationships, and to share their incredible beauty.

Past speakers

Recent speakers at our monthly SOMA meetings.
















ÿDr. Bruce Ing, Ph.D., University College, Chester. "The Natural History of Myxomycetes."
  • Dr. Gastón Guzmán, Ph.D., Instituto de Ecología at Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. "Traditions Of Mexican Mushrooms: Edible, Medicinal And Sacred."
  • Scott Bates, University of Arizona. "Southwestern puffballs and earthstars: monography, phylogeny and spore ultrastructure in the Lycoperdaceae and Geastraceae."
  • Dr. Tom Bruns, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley. "Observations on the Natural History of Ectomycorrhizal Fungi."
  • Megan Romberg, University of California, Davis. "Experiments in dyeing with Fusarium."
  • Dr. Donald Kowalski, Ph.D., California State University Chico, emeritus. "California Slime Molds."
  • Dr. Elio Schaechter, Ph.D., San Diego Mycological Society.
  • Gary Lincoff, New York Botanical Garden.
  • 2003