Stephanie Watts-Williams

Dr Stephanie Watts-Williams

Ramsay Fellow

School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

Faculty of Sciences

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, and another on my recent publication in the ISME Journal.

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  • Appointments

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

    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)

2018: The University of Adelaide Women's Research Excellence Award: $5000 to establish collaboration with Adelaide Microscopy.

2018: The A.W. Howard Memorial Trust Inc. Grant-in-aid: $5,000 to conduct an experiment in the Plant Accelerator.

2018: Australasian Mycological Society Research Award: $3000 to support Fellowship research.

2017: Australian Soil and Plant Analysis Council Roger Hill Travel Award: $2000.

2017: University of Adelaide Faculty of Sciences ECR International Conference Travel Scheme: $2000.

2016-2020: Ramsay Fellowship: Salary and start-up grant to support a 4-year independent research project at The University of Adelaide.

2014: Australian Society of Plant Scientists’ R.N. Robertson Travelling Fellowship: $4000.

2013: Australian Soil and Plant Analysis Council and Plant Nutrition Trust Study Travel Award: $2000.

2011-2014: Australian Postgraduate Award, with stipend.

Each year, I act as a mentor for a Foundations in plant Science Small Group Discovery Experience group, usually with a project examining the effect of soil fertilisers and mycorrhizal inoculation on plant growth.

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  • 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
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  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2018 - ongoing Member Australasian Mycological Society Australia
    2016 - ongoing Member Australian Society of Plant Scientists Australia

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