The Wake Endophyte Legacy Lab (also known as the WELL, headed by Professor of Biology Brian Tague) took a scientific road trip to Wake Forest’s Old Campus on a hot day this August. The Lab is interested in fungal endophytes – fungi that live asymptomatically within the tissues of plants – from the leaves of magnolia trees growing on the WFU campus.
Ethan Perellis (WFU ’17) received a Wake Forest Research Fellowship in the summer of 2016 to ask “How different are the foliar endophytes in two neighboring magnolia trees?” Ethan was assisted by two independent study students conducting research in the Tague lab for the summer: Clayton Wunderlich (WFU ‘18) and Michael Hanamirian (WFU ‘17).
The WELL concentrates its efforts on two mature magnolia trees behind Winston Hall, home of the Biology Department. Ethan and the others are still analyzing the data, but it appears the endophyte communities are more different between the neighboring magnolias than we had expected.
As many Deacons know, some of the magnolias on the WFU campus are direct descendants of magnolias on the old Wake Forest College campus in Wake Forest, NC (now the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary). For an end of the summer scientific road trip, the WELL headed east to the Old Campus. Leaves from several of the most majestic of the Magnolias on the main green of the Old Campus – near Binkley Chapel – were harvested and analyzed the following day back in Winston Hall.
Ethan and the others are still looking at the data on the Old Campus magnolia leaves, but in this case the endophyte communities appear to be more similar than would be expected for magnolias located a hundred miles apart! Of course, like good scientists, the student researchers are NOT making unwarranted assumptions. THey do not know if the magnolias we sample behind Winston Hall are the direct descendants of those we sampled on the old campus. Ethan and other lab members hope to look more closely at the historical record to answer that question. There are also relatively easy scientific methods to ask about relatedness between individual trees that the WELL may pursue.
Although it was a very productive summer of science, Ethan, Clay and Michael were a little disappointed that they did not get a chance to sample a hot dog at the original Shorty’s. So the WELL is planning a return trip to the Old Campus in the fall for hot dogs, magnolia leaves, and, of course, more endophytes.