College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Bala Chaudhary, PhD

Second Advisor

Christie Klimas, PhD

Third Advisor

Jess Vogt, PhD


Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi form an important symbiosis with plants that make these fungi critical for plant health and ecosystem functioning. Although previous studies have shown that AM fungi disperse through the air, few studies have examined which environmental factors may be impacting their dispersal and aerial community composition, especially at large geographical scales. The goal of this study was to determine which environmental factors influenced air-dispersed AM fungal species composition across five different research sites in the Midwest and Western regions of the United States. By collecting dust at three different heights in the air, using modified Wilson and Cooke (MWAC) dust collectors, aerial AM fungal eDNA was extracted. Species were identified and then analyzed by looking at which biotic and abiotic environmental factors explained variations in aerial AM fungal species richness between the five research sites. Data trends showed that sites at higher elevation levels had greater species richness than lower elevation sites. The results suggest that elevation is a predictive environmental variable of AM fungal species richness. This could have important implications for land management as climate change and human activities continue to threaten vulnerable high-elevation ecosystems.

SLP Collection


Included in

Physics Commons