Photo: Janneke Aylward

© 2016 biological interactions

Postdoc with L.L. Dreyer

Department of Botany and Zoology


biological interactions

Janneke Aylward

I am a mycologist interested in genetics, both at a population and individual level. I research fungal genomes with the aim of relating genome signatures and functional prediction to the ecology of my study species.

I enrolled for a BSc Microbiology degree in 2008 at the University of Pretoria. In my final year, I had the opportunity to be part of the mentorship program of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) and came into contact with many people who inspired my interest in fungi, forestry diseases, and genetics. I pursued an Honours degree in the Microbiology and Plant Pathology department during 2011 and (somewhat unwillingly) left Pretoria in 2012 to follow my husband to Stellenbosch – a move that has been positive in every aspect! I joined the Biological Interactions group in March 2012 as an MSc student and was exposed to the world of fynbos and the (largely) unexplored diversity of native fungi. My fascination with genes and genomes continues to grow and my PhD research enables me to discover more about fynbos fungi at the molecular level.


My background in microbiology and the experience I gained working with fungi during Honours enabled me to join the fungal-plant-insect interactions research of Prof. L.L. Dreyer and Dr. F. Roets at Stellenbosch University. My research focuses on fungi that occur in the seed cones of Protea species and belong to a group known as “ophiostomatoid” fungi. To discover more about how these fungi move between Proteas, my MSc research investigated the population genetics of Knoxdaviesia proteae (one of the ophiostomatoid fungi that occur in Proteas) using microsatellite markers. I am also involved in a similar population study on the other fynbos Knoxdaviesia species – K. capensis. In my PhD, I headed the genome sequencing projects of these two Knoxdaviesia species and the genome data are being analysed to look at their reproduction and investigate substrate use. A part of my PhD will also compare the genomes and substrate use of these fynbos fungi to that of Ceratocystis albifundus – a pathogenic ophiostomatoid fungus native to South Africa.

Current Research

Aylward J, Dreyer LL, Steenkamp ET, Wingfield MJ, Roets F (2014) Development of polymorphic microsatellite markers for the genetic characterisation of Knoxdaviesia proteae (Ascomycota: Microascales) using ISSR-PCR and pyrosequencing. Mycological Progress 13, 439-444.

Aylward J, Dreyer LL, Steenkamp ET, Wingfield MJ, Roets F (2014) Panmixia defines the genetic diversity of a unique arthropod-dispersed fungus specific to Protea flowers. Ecology and Evolution 4, 3444-3455.

Aylward J, Dreyer LL, Steenkamp ET, Wingfield MJ & Roets F (2015) Long-distance dispersal and recolonization of a fire-destroyed niche by a mite-associated fungus. Fungal Biology 119, 245-256.

Aylward, J, Dreyer LL, Steenkamp ET, Wingfield, MJ & Roets F (2015) Knoxdaviesia proteae is not the only Knoxdaviesia-symbiont of Protea repens. IMA Fungus 6, 471-6.

Aylward J, Steenkamp ET, Dreyer LL, Roets F, Wingfield BD & Wingfield MJ (2016) Genome sequences of Knoxdaviesia capensis and K. proteae (Fungi: Ascomycota) from Protea trees in South Africa. Standards in Genomic Sciences 11, 1-7.

Aylward J, Steenkamp ET, Dreyer LL, Roets F, Wingfield MJ & Wingfield BD (2016) Genetic basis for high population diversity in Protea-associated Knoxdaviesia. Fungal Genetics and Biology 96, 47-57.

Aylward J, Dreyer LL, Laas T, Smit L, & Roets F (2017) Knoxdaviesia capensis: dispersal ecology and population genetics of a flower-associated fungus. Fungal Ecology 26, 28-36.

Aylward J, Steenkamp ET, Dreyer LL, Roets F, Wingfield BD & Wingfield, MJ (2017) A plant pathology perspective of fungal genome sequencing. IMA Fungus 8, 1-15. doi: 10.5598/imafungus.2017.08.01.01