Mary Berbee


Academic History

  • B.Sc. Univ. Minnesota (1979);
  • Ph.D. Univ.California, Davis (1987);
  • Postdoctoral, Univ. Tubingen, Germany (1988);
  • Postdoctoral, Univ. California, Davis (1989);
  • Postdoctoral, Univ. California, Berkeley (1990-92).

Contact Information

  • Office Phone: 604-822-3780
  • Office: Rm 3209 Biological
  • Lab Phone: 604 822-2019
  • Lab: Rm 3214 Biological Sciences

Research Interests

Fungi can cause plant diseases, serve as mycorrhizal partners, and decompose litter and woody debris. Berbee lab research is directed towards understanding how fungi evolved and adapted to interdependence with land plants. Berbee lab projects, funded by the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canadia include:

  • Analyzing evolution of the powerful cell wall degrading enzymes that fungi secrete as an adaptation to plant-based nutrition, by using genome sequencing of early-diverging fungi. This research has the potential to reveal novel enzymes for cellulose decomposition with potential for industrial applications.

• Improving estimates of geological ages of fungi by developing evolutionary trees for modern fungi using molecular phylogenetics. Fossils of known ages can then be integrated into phylogenies to date origins of fungal groups. More accurate fungal age estimates benefit the community of fungal molecular biologists by helping to put patterns of gene and genome evolution into the perspective of geological time.  

• Clarifying systematic relationships among mushroom-forming fungi that are important as saprobes or ectomycorrhizal partners of trees. We are finding and describing many new BC species. Recognition of species helps us estimate fungal geographical ranges, habitat requirements and host specificity.

Team Members

Current students

  • Faezeh Aliabadi (MSc Student)
  • Emily Trudeau (MSc Student)

Berbee lab alumni

  • Ludovic LeRenard PhD 2019, now Laboratory Research and Development Technician, Eversio Wellness, Surrey BC.
  • Anna Bazzicalupo PhD 2018, now Research Leader in Fungal Comparative Biology, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, UK.
  • Brandon Landry MSc 2019, now Project Manager, Molecular You, Victoria BC.
  • Jaclyn M. Dee PhD 2018, now Instructor, Department of Botany, UBC, Vancouver BC. 
  • Benjamin Auxier MSc 2017, now PhD student, Wageningen University, Netherlands.
  • Tanay Bose MSc 2013, now Postdoctoral Fellow, Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
  • Wyth Marshall PhD 2009, now Research Scientist, BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, Campbell River BC.

Community Work

Berbee lab members give talks for mushroom clubs including the Vancouver Mycological Society and lead annual mushroom forays on the UBC campus and in regional parks.

Wild mushrooms are soaring in popularity but cooking and eating wild mushrooms carries both risks and pleasures. To reduce the risks, in 2016-2018, the Berbee lab successfully competed for $99,639 funding from a Peter Wall Inst. Wall Solutions Initiative Grant to better characterize our provinces edible and poisonous mushroom species by DNA barcoding, and to make up-to-date information on our mushrooms readily available to mushroom foragers. 

Our website is, and the booklet we published, “Vellinga et al., 2022. Mushrooms Up! Edible and Poisonous Species of Southwest British Columbia and the Coastal Pacific Northwest. Vancouver BC: Beaty Biodiversity Museum” can be purchased at the Beaty Museum gift shop.

This project was a collaboration with mushroom clubs, the Stuntz Foundation, BC Drug and Poison information centre, UBC undergraduates, and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.  

Selected Publications

Invited Review

Berbee, M.L., James, T.Y., Strullu-Derrien, C. 2017. Early Diverging Fungi: Diversity and Impact at the Dawn of Terrestrial Life. Annual Review of Microbiology 71:41-60.

Selected refereed publications

Dee JM, Berbee ML. 2021. Diverse organizations of actin and nuclei underpin the evolution of indeterminate growth in Chytridiomycota and Dikarya. Botany 99(6):303-320.

Landry B, Whitton J, Bazzicalupo AL, Ceska O, Berbee ML. 2021. Phylogenetic analysis of the distribution of deadly amatoxins among the little brown mushrooms of the genus Galerina. Plos One 16(2) e0246575.

Le Renard L, Stockey RA, Upchurch GR, Berbee ML. 2021a. Cretaceous fungal scutella from the Lower Potomac Group Zone 1: Stomatothyrium placocentrum gen. et sp. nov., a dothideomycete colonizer of conifer stomata. International Journal of Plant Sciences 182(8):712-729.

Le Renard L, Stockey RA, Upchurch GR, Berbee ML. 2021b. Bleximothyrium ostiolatum gen. et sp. nov. a unique fossil fly-speck fungus (Dothideomycetes) from the Lower Cretaceous Potomac Group, lower Zone of Virginia USA. American Journal of Botany 108(1):129-144.

Berbee ML, Strullu-Derrien C, Delaux P-M, Strother PK, Kenrick P, Selosse M-A, Taylor JW. 2020. Genomic and fossil windows into the secret lives of the most ancient fungi. Nature Reviews Microbiology 18(12):717-730.

Le Renard L, Firmino AL, Pereira OL, Stockey RA, Berbee ML. 2020a. Character evolution of modern fly-speck fungi and implications for interpreting thyriothecial fossils. American Journal of Botany 107(7):1021-1040.

Le Renard L, Stockey RA, Upchurch G, Berbee ML. 2020b. A new epiphyllous fly-speck fungus from the Early Cretaceous Potomac Group of Virginia (125-112 Ma): Protographum luttrellii, gen. et sp. nov. Mycologia 112(3):504-518.

Auxier B, Dee J, Berbee ML, Momany M. 2019. Diversity of opisthokont septin proteins reveals structural constraints and conserved motifs. BMC Evolutionary Biology 19(1):4.

Bazzicalupo AL, Whitton J, Berbee ML. 2019. Over the hills, but how far away? Estimates of mushroom geographic range extents. Journal of Biogeography 46(7):1547-1557.

Dee JM, Landry BR, Berbee ML. 2019. Actin guides filamentous rhizoid growth and morphogenesis in the zoosporic fungus Chytriomyces hyalinus. Mycologia 111(6):904-918.

Strullu-Derrien C, Spencer ART, Goral T, Dee J, Honegger R, Kenrick P, Longcore JE, Berbee ML. 2018. New insights into the evolutionary history of Fungi from a 407 Ma Blastocladiomycota fossil showing a complex hyphal thallus. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 373(1739).

Bazzicalupo A, Berch S, Callan B, Ceska O, Kroeger P, Li R, McIntyre L, Miao V, Stanwick R, Trudell S et al. . 2017a. White paper on strategies to reduce risks and expand appreciation of foraged wild mushrooms. McIlvainea 26.

Bazzicalupo AL, Buyck B, Saar I, Vauras J, Carmean D, Berbee ML. 2017b. Troubles with mycorrhizal mushroom identification where morphological differentiation lags behind barcode sequence divergence. Taxon 66(4):791-810.

Auxier B, Bazzicalupo A, Betz E, Dee JM, Le Renard L, Roushdy MM, Schwartz C, Berbee M. 2016. No place among the living: phylogenetic considerations place the Palaeozoic fossil T. protuberans in Fungi but not in Dikarya. A comment on M. Smith (2016). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 182(4):723-728.

Berbee ML, Wong EYY, Tsui CKM. 2016. Phylogenetic evidence places the coralloid jelly fungus Tremellodendropsis tuberosa (Tremellodendropsidales) among early diverging Agaricomycetes. Mycological Progress 15(9):939-946.

Spatafora JW, Chang Y, Benny GL, Lazarus K, Smith ME, Berbee ML, Bonito G, Corradi N, Grigoriev I, Gryganskyi A et al. . 2016a. A phylum-level classification of zygomycete fungi based on genome-scale data. Mycologia 108(5):1028-1046.