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Dr Stephanie Watts-Williams

Stephanie Watts-Williams
Ramsay Fellow
School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
Faculty of Sciences

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Dr Stephanie Watts-Williams

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD (as Co-Supervisor) — email supervisor to discuss availability.

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)


Year Citation
2018 Svenningsen, N., Watts-Williams, S., Joner, E., Battini, F., Efthymiou, A., Cruz-Paredes, C., . . . Jakobsen, I. (2018). Suppression of the activity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi by the soil microbiota. ISME Journal, 12(5), 1296-1307.
DOI Scopus6 WoS5 Europe PMC4
2018 Watts-Williams, S., Cavagnaro, T., & Tyerman, S. (2018). Variable effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal inoculation on physiological and molecular measures of root and stomatal conductance of diverse Medicago truncatula accessions. Plant Cell and Environment.
2018 Watts-Williams, S., & Cavagnaro, T. (2018). Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi increase grain zinc concentration and modify the expression of root ZIP transporter genes in a modern barley (Hordeum vulgare) cultivar. Plant Science, 274, 163-170.
DOI Scopus1
2018 Watts-Williams, S., Andrew Smith, F., & Jakobsen, I. (2018). Soil phosphorus availability is a driver of the responses of maize (Zea mays) to elevated CO₂ concentration and arbuscular mycorrhizal colonisation. Symbiosis, Online, 1-10.
2017 Watts-Williams, S., Cavagnaro, T., & Tyerman, S. (2017). The dual benefit of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi under soil zinc deficiency and toxicity: linking plant physiology and gene expression. Plant and Soil, 420(1-2), 375-388.
DOI Scopus2 WoS1
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.
DOI Scopus10 WoS6 Europe PMC3
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.
DOI Scopus6 WoS4 Europe PMC3
2015 Watts-Williams, S., Smith, F., McLaughlin, M., Patti, A., & Cavagnaro, T. (2015). How important is the mycorrhizal pathway for plant Zn uptake?. Plant and Soil, 390(1-2), 157-166.
DOI Scopus14 WoS13
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.
DOI Scopus14 WoS11 Europe PMC8
2014 Watts-Williams, S., & Cavagnaro, T. (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.
DOI Scopus23 WoS18
2014 Watts-Williams, S., Turney, T., Patti, A., & Cavagnaro, T. (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.
DOI Scopus26 WoS23
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.
DOI Scopus31 WoS26
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.
DOI Scopus38 WoS37 Europe PMC13

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.

Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
2018 Co-Supervisor Investigating the Natural Variation in Root Morphology, Root Exudation and Abiotic Stress Resistance among Species of the Plantago Genus Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Melanie Nicole Ford
2017 Co-Supervisor The Effects of Arbuscular Mycorrhizas on the Growth and Nutrition of Food Crops Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Binh Thi Thanh Tran
2017 Co-Supervisor Mycorrhigas in Urban Agricultural Systems Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Matthias Johannes Salomon
2017 Co-Supervisor The Role of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi in Nutrient Leaching Under Salinity and Water Stress Conditions Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Cuc Thi Kim Tran
2017 Co-Supervisor Optimising Phosphate Supply to Plants by Adjusting the Mixture of Inorganic P Fertilizer and Organic Amendments, and Roles for Arbuscular Mycorrhizas Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Thi Thanh Hue Ngo
Ramsay Fellow
Plant Research Centre, floor 2
Room Number
2 38
Org Unit
Plant Science