Dr Stephanie Watts-Williams

Stephanie Watts-Williams
Ramsay Fellow
Sciences Office
Faculty of Sciences

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Dr Stephanie Watts-Williams

I enjoy conducting research on the plant-fungal symbiosis known as arbuscular mycorrhizas, especially investigating how they can improve plant zinc and phosphorus nutrition on nutrient-depleted soils. I am particularly interested in the potential agricultural applications of arbuscular mycorrhizas, and use important crops as model species in my research.

I am currently a independent Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Adelaide.

My current research at The University of Adelaide and the Waite Research Institute involves understanding how the mycorrhizal pathway of Zn uptake functions – a problem I began working on during my PhD. Although we have a fundamental understanding of how plants acquire phosphate (Pi) via symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi, very little research has been conducted to uncover the mechanisms (genes, transporters) that underlie the transport of Zn from fungi to plant, presumably across the peri-arbuscular membrane. We have shown through radioisotope tracking that plants can acquire Zn via the mycorrhizal pathway (see below), so the next step will be to uncover the genes that regulate this process. To do this, I am using barley as a model plant species, due to its relevance to Australian agriculture. In some experiments I also use Medicago truncatula, an important pasture legume in Australia. I work in collaboration with, and am housed within the labs and greenhouses of: A/Prof Tim Cavagnaro – a soil ecologist, and Prof Steve Tyerman – a plant physiologist.

Here is a recent article on the research I am undertaking to discover the molecular mechanisms behind plant Zn uptake via the mycorrhizal pathway.


Date Position Institution name
2016 Ramsay Fellow University of Adelaide, Adelaide
2015 - 2016 Postdoctoral Research Associate Cornell University, Ithaca


Date Institution name Country Title
2011 - 2014 Monash University, Melbourne Australia Doctor of Philosophy
2007 - 2011 Monash University, Melbourne Australia Bachelor of Environmental Science (Hons)


Date Citation
2016 Jakobsen,I, Smith,S, Smith,F, Watts-Williams,S, Clausen,S, Grønlund,M, 2016, Plant growth responses to elevated atmospheric CO2 are increased by phosphorus sufficiency but not by arbuscular mycorrhizas, Journal of Experimental Botany, 67, 21, 6173-6186 10.1093/jxb/erw383
2015 Watts-Williams,S, Jakobsen,I, Cavagnaro,T, Grønlund,M, 2015, Local and distal effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal colonization on direct pathway Pi uptake and root growth in medicago truncatula, Journal of Experimental Botany, 66, 13, 4061-4073 10.1093/jxb/erv202
2015 Watts-Williams,S, Cavagnaro,T, 2015, Using mycorrhiza-defective mutant genotypes of non-legume plant species to study the formation and functioning of arbuscular mycorrhiza: a review, Mycorrhiza, 25, 8, 587-597 10.1007/s00572-015-0639-2
2015 Watts-Williams,SJ, Smith,FA, McLaughlin,MJ, Patti,AF, Cavagnaro,TR, 2015, How important is the mycorrhizal pathway for plant Zn uptake?, Plant and Soil, 390, 1-2, 157-166 10.1007/s11104-014-2374-4
2014 Watts-Williams,SJ, Cavagnaro,TR, 2014, Nutrient interactions and arbuscular mycorrhizas: a meta-analysis of a mycorrhiza-defective mutant and wild-type tomato genotype pair, Plant and Soil, 384, 1-2, 79-92 10.1007/s11104-014-2140-7
2014 Watts-Williams,SJ, Turney,TW, Patti,AF, Cavagnaro,TR, 2014, Uptake of zinc and phosphorus by plants is affected by zinc fertiliser material and arbuscular mycorrhizas, Plant and Soil, 376, 1-2, 165-175 10.1007/s11104-013-1967-7
2013 Watts-Williams,S, Patti,A, Cavagnaro,T, 2013, Arbuscular mycorrhizas are beneficial under both deficient and toxic soil zinc conditions, Plant and Soil, 371, 1-2, 299-312 10.1007/s11104-013-1670-8
2012 Watts-Williams,S, Cavagnaro,T, 2012, Arbuscular mycorrhizas modify tomato responses to soil zinc and phosphorus addition, Biology and Fertility of Soils, 48, 3, 285-294 10.1007/s00374-011-0621-x

I am currently (Semester 1, 2017) a mentor for a Foundations in plant Science Small Group Discovery Experience group that is examining the effect of soil phosphorus fertiliser and lime addition on the growth of barley.

Ramsay Fellow
Plant Research Centre
Room Number
2 38
Org Unit
Plant Science