Smithsonian Voices

From the Smithsonian Museums

Erin R. Spear

Erin R. Spear is a Staff Scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, where she leads a Simons-Foundation-funded research program that intersects disease ecology (who gets sick from what, where, and why), mycology (the study of fungi), and community ecology (how different species and the environment interact to shape a community). Previously, she received a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Utah. She conducted her dissertation research in Panama as a STRI Short-Term and Predoctoral Fellow. She continued exploring how pathogenic fungi influence plant communities and, in turn, how plants influence fungal communities in California and Panama as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University and at STRI.

My Life Coach, the Forest

While we often think negatively of plant diseases in the context of agriculture, in a natural forest, disease-causing fungi (fungal pathogens) can promote overall health and diversity.