Morehead professor part of $1 million in research grants


MOREHEAD, Ky. (MSU Public Affairs) – Morehead State University professors Dr. Jen

Jen O’Keefe
Matthew Pound

O’Keefe, professor of geology and science education, and Dr. Matthew Pound, senior lecturer in geography and environmental science at Northumbria University, were awarded collaborative research grants through the National Science Foundation Directorate for Geoscience and the Natural Environment Research Council in the amounts of $646,855 and £299,947 ($376,988), respectively, for their  three-year project, “NSF/Geo-NERC: Fungi in a Warmer World.”

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This joint endeavor between O’Keefe, Pound and their collaborators Dr. Sophie Warny of the Center for Excellence in Palynology (CENEX) at Louisiana State University, and Dr. Noelia Nuñez Otaño, CONICET researcher at the Laboratory of Plains Geology (FCyT-UADER) in Diamante, Argentina, will provide foundational information on global fungal distribution patterns before, during, and after a warmer-than-present period of geologic time, known as the Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO).

The data will be used to model fungal community and ecosystem responses to changing environments. A team comprising of Morehead State undergraduates, a CENEX graduate student, post-doctoral researchers at MSU and NU, and the investigators will be assembled, thus linking small rural universities with flagship research institutions through student research and tiered mentoring opportunities.

“I’m delighted to have this opportunity to showcase the talents of MSU’s undergraduates while studying a vital piece of the global change puzzle: how will fungi, both foundation and the bane of much of our food chain, react to changing conditions,” O’Keefe said. “Our research students, to be recruited from geology and biology, will be integral parts of all stages of the project, and will have the opportunity to conduct science on a global level. We know our students are amazing – it’s time the rest of the world does.”