Dr Stephanie Watts-Williams

Stephanie Watts-Williams
Ramsay Fellow
Sciences Office
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, 1-12.
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.
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 Scopus2 WoS2 Europe PMC1
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 Scopus5 WoS2 Europe PMC2
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 Scopus10 WoS12
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 Scopus11 WoS9 Europe PMC6
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 Scopus20 WoS16
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 Scopus19 WoS19
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 Scopus25 WoS23
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 Scopus30 WoS32

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
2017 Co-Supervisor The Impact of Microbial Diversity on Field Pea Nodule Function 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 Plant -Microbe Interactions and Their Implications for Soil Nutrient Cycling and Plant Nutrition 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