Louis Bernier, Département des sciences du bois et de la forêt
My interest in the study of tree-fungus interactions goes back many years. For my undergraduate 4th year Honors thesis at Université Laval, I carried out a research project on fungi involved in ectomycorrhizal root symbioses that are important for the survival and growth of trees. After this promising start, however, I quickly gave in to the “dark force” of fungi and started studying pathogens. During my Master’s studies at the University of Toronto, I developed biochemical markers that facilitated identification of Ophiostoma ulmi and O. novo-ulmi, the causal agents of the highly destructive Dutch elm disease. I kept working on O. novo-ulmi during my Ph.D. studies. It was then that I realized that fungal genetics was fun. Thanks to a FQRNT scholarship, I did postdoctoral work on the molecular biology of the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae at the University of Bath. Upon joining the Forest and Wood Sciences Department at Université Laval, where I am now Full Professor, I developed a research program in forest pathology that draws increasingly on genomic approaches and tools.
My research group, which belongs to both IBIS and the Centre for Forest Research (CFR), studies fungal pathogens of trees. The identification and characterization of genes contributing to pathogenicity and fitness in the Dutch elm disease fungus Ophiostoma novo-ulmi is a major component of our research. We are pursuing work on the molecular basis of yeast-mycelium dimorphism in O. novo-ulmi, in order to verify a possible role for this trait in pathogenesis. Our investigations of O. novo-ulmi have benefited from long-term support from NSERC and are also part of the BioSAFE large-scale applied research project in genomics.
Another component of our research focuses on the structure and dynamics of natural populations of fungal pathogens of trees. Over the years, we have studied several species that attack conifers or hardwoods. More recent studies have been directed towards fungal pathogens of poplars used in short rotation forestry.
We are also conducting work on fungi causing tree diseases that are not (or only poorly) documented. In this case, we are focusing on diseases of trees from Gabon and Cameroon.