Date of Award

Summer 8-20-2020

Semester of Degree

August

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Environmental and Forest Biology

Department

Environmental and Forest Biology

Major Professor

Alex Weir

Steering Committee Member

Dr. Melissa Fierke

Steering Committee Member

Dr. Tom Horton

Abstract

Collectively, this dissertation explores taxonomy, biodiversity studies, natural history collections, ecology, and theory. The first chapter is focused on the genus Prolixandromyces, in which 4 new species are described, representing the first records of this genus in South America. The genus is emended and a key to the genus is provided. The second chapter is focused on the genus Laboulbenia, in which four new species are described on a new host family, Gerridae (Heteroptera) or water striders. The third chapter also includes the description of 4 new species of Laboulbenia on Heteroptera, and targets significant gaps in the literature on Heteroptera associated Laboulbeniales. By utilizing the entomological collection at the American Museum of Natural History, this chapter explores host utilization patterns in the group and tracks insect infection rate at the family level. These three chapters all emphasize the scientific value of maintaining our natural heritage in accessible, research oriented biological collections. The fourth chapter is a field-based ecological pilot study focused on exploring how Laboulbeniales and their insect hosts are impacted by urbanization at two lakes in central Florida. Using the historical records of Laboulbeniales diversity from 1897 of mycologist Roland Thaxter, a comparison is drawn to modern (2018) diversity. A rapid biodiversity assessment was conducted on insects and fungi at a protected area and a developed area in 2018 and the results are compared. This study highlights the potential relevance of Laboulbeniales as environmental health indicators and a proposal for future directions is included in the appendix. Lastly, the fifth chapter approaches the field of mycology through a theoretical framework rooted in queer and feminist theories, as well as philosophy of science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. This chapter is relevant as it challenges, pushes, and explores central tenets of institutional science and functions to socially and historically situate current research dilemmas in mycology. By excavating and laying bare ingrained, systemic biases in scientific institutions, this chapter seeks to disarm fallacious assertions of ―purity‖ in science. Additionally, this work reiterates themes introduced in the preceding chapters, such as the value of taxonomy and biodiversity studies, the importance of biological collections, and the urgent need for expanded and imaginative conservation practices in the age of climate change.

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