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Research interests

My research centers on the study of fungal biochemistry, physiology and molecular biology. It includes biocontrol by fungi, toxin and enzymes of fungi, and fungi in heritage collections.

Dr Nicklin is academic head of the Mycology lab.

Research areas

  • Indoor air quality and heritage mycology

    Fungi have become a significant issue in indoor air quality, culminating in the publication of WHO guidelines for indoor air quality on dampness and mould in September this year. I have been working with a number of Heritage organizations (including English Heritage and the National Trust) monitoring and advising on the presence and hazard of fungal species in air and on collections. This work has recently led to a grant application for project funding.

    Biocontrol

    Many of the biological activities of fungi are of potential commercial value, for example where fungi can be used as biological control agents of insect pests (with Dr Pasco Avery, Lee Academy). An important new project is an investigation of the potential of biological control of the Rubus sp. that is an invasive weed on the Galapagos Islands (with Jackie St Quinton, PhD student). We are starting a new project on the control of nematodes sp. using fungi ( with Lliana Hastuti PhD student).

    Fungal enzymes

    Current work on the taxonomy of the Sooty Moulds (producers of Chloroperoxidase) may provide us with opportunities to identify new fungal sources of this important enzyme, and provide a starting point for evolution of the enzyme to improve its function and stability.

Research in progress

  • My current research is in applied environmental mycology. There are a number of themes within this subject area.

    I am interested in the relationships between fungi and other organisms. The research group working with me use a wide range of techniques to study these relationships and the analysis of the molecules that may be involved. We work in collaboration with scientists from Brazil, India and China as well as with groups at Rothamsted and the Jodrell Laboratories, Kew. One of our objectives is to understand natural antagonism and to exploit it to provide biological control of pests, weeds and diseases.

    Fungi investigated by our group include Tolypocladium cylindrosporum, (control of non-biting midges on sewage filter beds and control of Aedes albipictus), Paecilomyces fumaro-roseus (control white-fly infestations of Geranium), Metarhizium anisopliae (broad spectrum insect control), and species of Trichoderma (for plant disease control).

    Other projects involve fungal ecology, particluarly studies in biodegradation of natural and xenobiotic substrates, and the relationship between leaf litter composition and tree root colonisation by ectomycorrhizal fungi.

    I have particular expertise in mycology and have acted as a consultant at public enquiries, and have been involved in contract work assessing hazards of fungi from both airborne spores and vapours.

Rubus niveas: invasive weed, Galapagos Islands