Thomas D. Bruns, Microbiology, UC Berkeley
Tom Bruns
Fungal Ecology and Systematics
Professor, Plant & Microbial Biology
321 Koshland Hall
Berkeley, California 94720-3102
Phone 510.642.7987
Lab Phone 510.643.5483
Fax 510.642.4995

Ph.D.  Botany    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1987
B.S.   Forest Science    University of Minnesota, St. Paul, 1978


Fungal Ecology and Systematics

Most of the work in my lab has focused on the ecology and evolution of mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi form symbiotic associations with plant roots, and this interaction represents one of the most widespread and important mutualisms in terrestrial ecosystems.

Bruns imageOur prior work on mycorrhizal fungi has focused on: 1) the development of molecular tools for the identification of fungi from environmental samples; 2) the characterization of fungal community structure; 3) the effect of plant host and disturbance on fungal community structure; 4) the autecology and population structure of key fungal species; 5) the ecology and evolution of non-photosynthetic, epiparasitic plants and their fungal hosts; and 6) landscape level patterns of spore dispersal and tree recruitment.

Current Projects

Current projects in the lab (as of June 2011) include: 1) populations genomics of key ectomycorrhizal species associated with pine (NSF dimensions grant); 2) an investigation of sources and dynamics of fungal communities in the indoor environment (Sloan Foundation); 3) beta-diversity patterns of saprobic fungi associated with energy crops, Miscanthus and sugarcane (EBI). The population genomics project is part of a larger survey of ectomycorrhizal fungi in pine forest across North America.   This work is being done in collaboration with John Taylor (this department), Kabir Peay (Univ. Minn.), and Rytas Vilgalys (Duke Univ.)    All three projects use high throughput sequence analysis and informatics approaches.

The lab is also working to catalogue and voucher the macrofungi of Pt. Reyes National Seashore and Yosemite National park. This work is a collaborative project with trained members of the general public especially members of the Bay Area Mycological Society, the Mycological Society of San Francisco, the Sonoma Mycological Association, and Mycologists from San Francisco State, and UC Davis.


Peay, K. G., P. G. Kennedy, and T. D. Bruns. 2011. Rethinking ectomycorrhizal succession: are root density and hyphal exploration types drivers of spatial and temporal zonation? Fungal ecology (in press).

Amend, A., K. A. Seifert, R. Samson, T. D. Bruns. 2010. Indoor Fungal Assemblages are Geographically Patterned and More Diverse in Temperate Zones than the Tropics. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sc. 107(31): 13748-13753

Kabir G. Peay, Matteo Garbelotto and Thomas D. Bruns. 2010. Evidence of dispersal limitation in soil microorganisms: Isolation reduces species richness on mycorrhizal tree islands. Ecology 91: 3631-3640.

N.A. Hynson and T.D. Bruns. 2009. Evidence of a myco-heterotroph in the plant family Ericaceae that lacks mycorrhizal specificity. Proc. Roy. Acad. Sc. B 276:4053-4059

Kennedy P. G., Bergemann, S. E., Hortal, S., and T. D. Bruns. 2007. Determining the outcome of field-based competition between two Rhizopogon species using real-time PCR. Molecular Ecology 16(4): 881–890. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03191.x.

Tom Bruns. 2006. Evolutionary biology: A kingdom revised. Nature 443: 758-761. doi:10.1038/443758a

Antonio Izzo, Diem Thi Nguyen and Thomas D. Bruns. 2006. Spatial structure and richness of ectomycorrhizal fungi colonizing bioassay seedlings from resistant propagules in a Sierra Nevada forest: comparisons using two hosts that exhibit different seedling establishment patterns. Mycologia 98(3): 374–383.

T. A. Rusca, P. G. Kennedy and T. D. Bruns. 2006. The effect of different pine hosts on the sampling of Rhizopogon spore banks in five Eastern Sierra Nevada forests. New Phytologist 170(3): 551-560

Izzo, A.D., M. Canright, and T.D. Bruns. 2006. The effects of heat treatments on ectomycorrhizal resistant propagules and their ability to colonize bioassay seedlings. Mycological Research 110(2): 196-202

Lilleskov, E. A. and T. D. Bruns. 2005. Spore dispersal of a resupinate ectomycorrhizal fungus, Tomentella sublilacina, via soil food webs. Mycologia 97(4): 762-769

Bidartondo, M.I. and Bruns, T.D. 2005. On the origins of extreme mycorrhizal specificity in the Monotropoideae (Ericaceae): performance trade-offs during seed germination and seedling development. Molecular Ecology 14: 1549–1560.

Rasmus Kjøller & Thomas D. Bruns. 2003. Rhizopogon spore bank communities within and among California pine forests. Mycologia 95: 603-613.

Martin I. Bidartondo, Dirk Redecker, Isabelle Hijrl, Andres Wiemken, Thomas D. Bruns, Laura Dominguez, Alicia Sersic, Jonathan R. Leake and David J. Read. 2002. Epiparasitic plants specialized on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Nature 419: 389-392.

Horton, Thomas R. & Bruns, Thomas D. 2001. The molecular revolution in ectomycorrhizal ecology: peeking into the black-box. Molecular Ecology 10 (8): 1855-1871.

Awards, Courses

Honors and awards
W.H. Weston Award for Teaching Excellence - Mycological Society of America - 2007
Fellow - California Academy of Sciences - 2003
Fellow - Mycological Society of America - 2002
Haydn P. Reinecker Distinguished Professorship in Forest Genetics - College of Natural Resources - 1999
Alexopolous Prize - Mycological Society of America - 1994
Fellow - American Association for the Advancement of Science - 1990

Recent Teaching
110L - Laboratory for Biology of Fungi
110 - Biology of Fungi  Course site
113 - California Mushrooms  Course site
199 - Supervised Independent Study
220F - Microbial Ecology
299 - Individual Research