Dr Alistair McTaggart

Dr Alistair McTaggart

South Africa

University of Pretoria

Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute

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Work and Research

My research interests are focused on the evolution of fungi. I have largely studied rust and smut fungi, which are important plant pathogens of biosecurity concern. My PhD research on fungal systematics was published in three papers. To date, my contributions to the field of evolution of rust fungi as a postdoctoral researcher have generated 10 first author publications and eight co-author publications. My overall contribution to the study of fungi and plant pathology is evidenced by 34 publications in the last five years. Significant discoveries to the field include the evolutionary age of rust fungi, which showed host jumps were prevalent in the evolution of rust fungi and has implications for studies on evolution and invasion biology of fungi.

Fields Of Expertise

Fungi Evolution

Research Profiles

My vision for the future of research at UP and how I will contribute to this development

I believe that UP will drive advancements in my area of research on the evolution of rust fungi. There is a pool of talent currently present in the university that has advanced research in bioinformatics, evidenced by the recently published genome of Eucalyptus in Nature. This breakthrough, and others made at my current institute, the Forestry Agriculture and Biotechnology Institute, shows that UP leads research on genomics, plant pathogens and tree health, which are important fields of study for food security. High impact publications in popular scientific journals are the result of collaboration between scientists with different skills that answer big-picture questions. I feel that great, scientific outputs will be from the combined efforts of people across different disciplines. For example, questions on evolution should be addressed at multiple levels by bioinformaticians, chemists, molecular biologists and statisticians. The role of a university is to provide a place for scientists from different disciplines to meet and collaborate. One of my contributions to the development of scientific research at UP is to make connections that allow for intra-university collaboration. My further contributions are training future scientists in my areas of expertise, and forming collaborations with experts internationally.