Dr Maj Padamsee

PhD Plant Biological Science

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Director - JGS


I am the Director of the Joint Graduate School for Biodiversity and Biosecurity and am employed by both Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research and the University of Auckland. I am the Curator of the New Zealand Fungarium (PDD) Te Kohinga Hekaheka o Aotearoa at Manaaki Whenua. At the University of Auckland I supervise graduate students within the School of Biological Sciences.

Research | Current

Myrtle Rust Research

I am the programme leader of Beyond Myrtle Rust: towards Ecosystem Resilience, which is a five-year collaborative research programme into the behaviour, ecology and impacts of the disease in New Zealand. The programme will run to 2023 and involves  researchers and iwi from across Aotearoa. Beyond myrtle rust has four interlinking research areas: pathogen dynamics; ecosystem impacts; novel mitigation techniques; kaitiakitanga & Māori-led solutions. Within the programme I co-lead the research area that investigates the broad-scale impacts of Austropuccinia psidii on ecosystem functions. Once A. psidii establishes at a site, it will likely have impacts beyond host plant disease and death. For example, other microorganisms (e.g. bacteria and fungi) are likely to be impacted. Some microorganisms may reduce in abundance while others may increase, and this in turn can have impacts on plant health. It is important to understand whether plants with certain features (traits), such as large vs small leaves, are likely to be impacted differently. Combined, changes in plant features and the microbial community could lead to changes in ecosystem functions, such as water fluxes into and out of the ecosystem, carbon storage in soils, and nutrient movements through landscapes. We aim to develop a holistic understanding of the pathogen, host, and ecosystem changes, which will enable the best possible management approaches to be developed. This research project will use several study sites in the North Island.

Systematics of Rust Fungi

I use multi-locus phylogenetics to study the evolution of New Zealand rust fungi (Pucciniales, Pucciniomycotina, Basidiomycota). The Pucciniales contain many economically important plant pathogens, which are intensively studied. However rusts that affect wild plants rarely receive the same attention, even though as obligate biotrophs they can play a key role in influencing the evolution of their host plants. New Zealand has approximately 250 species of rust fungi of which half are believed to be endemic. The paucity of endemic species makes it a tractable system within which to study the biogeographic distributions of rusts, species delimitation, and host specializations. I use molecular and morphological data to clarify rust fungal species concepts.

Fungal Ecology of Kauri forests

I am investigating the possible impacts of an exotic pathogen on fungal community assemblages in kauri (Agathis australis, Araucariaceae) forests. Kauri dieback was first diagnosed in the 1970s but the causal agent, Phytophthora agathidicida, has only recently has been found. I am interested in how the fungal community, specifically the litter fungi and the endophytes, will change with the spread of this disease and finally, the death of associated kauri trees.

Mushroom Systematics

I used molecular phylogenetic analyses as well as morphology to address generic limits of the little brown mushroom genus Psathyrella (Psathyrellaceae) and related groups for my doctoral thesis research. I explored the evolution of several morphological characters in this family such as gill auto-digestion, basidiospore characteristics, and cystidial (modified sterile gill cells) features (Padamsee et al. 2008. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol.). Using transmission electron microscopy I studied cystidia of two closely related Psathyrella species (Padamsee et al. 2008. Botany). My study of Psathyrellaceae continues with a closer look at Psathyrella in New Zealand.

Teaching | Current

BIOSC 396 Terrestrial Ecology

BIOSC 324 Plant Pathology and Symbiosis

Postgraduate supervision

Vivian Han (MSc): Metagenomic characterisation of AMF and other mycorrhizal communities associated with healthy versus diseased Agathis australis (kauri) roots.

Megan Tan (MSc): Growth Responses of Kauri (Agathis australis) To Inoculations with Different Mycorrhizae

Ki Taurangi Bradford (MSc): Inoculating Agathis australis with fungal endophytes to test the viability of a potential biological control agent for Phytophthora agathidicida

Janine Cunningham (MSc): From land to sea: an assessment of global fungal diversity and description

Tane Geldard-Lorenz (MSc): Predicting Susceptibility to Myrtle Rust (Austropuccinia psidii) Using Plant Traits

Hoa Nguyen (PhD): Impacts of myrtle rust on plant, soil and ecosystem functions

Areas of expertise

Mycology, Plant Pathology, Evolution, Systematics, Biosecurity, Biogeography

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Padamsee, M., & McKenzie, E. H. C. (2019). Pucciniastrum minimum is the causal agent of rust on blueberries in New Zealand. AUSTRALASIAN PLANT DISEASE NOTES, 14 (1)10.1007/s13314-019-0358-1
  • Fernandez-Lopez, J., Teresa Telleria, M., Duenas, M., Wilson, A. W., Padamsee, M., Buchanan, P. K., ... Martin, M. P. (2019). Addressing the diversity of Xylodon raduloides complex through integrative taxonomy. IMA FUNGUS, 1010.1186/s43008-019-0010-x
  • Aime, M. C., Castlebury, L. A., Abbasi, M., Begerow, D., Berndt, R., Kirschner, R., ... Scholler, M. (2018). Competing sexual and asexual generic names in Pucciniomycotina and Ustilaginomycotina ( Basidiomycota ) and recommendations for use. IMA Fungus, 9 (1), 75-89. 10.5598/imafungus.2018.09.01.06
  • Padamsee, M., & McKenzie, E. H. C. (2017). The intriguing and convoluted life of a heteroecious rust fungus in New Zealand. Plant Pathology, 66 (8), 1248-1257. 10.1111/ppa.12672
  • Crous, P. W., Wingfield, M. J., Burgess, T. I., Hardy, G. E. S. T. J., Barber, P. A., Alvarado, P., ... Moreno, G. (2017). Fungal Planet description sheets: 558-624. Persoonia: Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution of Fungi, 38 (JUNE), 240-384. 10.3767/003158517X698941
  • McLaughlin, D. J., Kumar, T. K. A., Padamsee, M., Toome-Heller, M., Frieders, E. M., & Aime, M. C. (2017). Structural character evolution in Pucciniomycotina: Mitosis, septa, and hyphal branch initiation in two Helicogloea species. Mycologia, 109 (1), 162-181. 10.1080/00275514.2017.1282239
  • Bellgard, S. E., Padamsee, M., Probst, C. M., Lebel, T., & Williams, S. E. (2016). Visualizing the early infection of Agathis australis by Phytophthora agathidicida, using microscopy and fluorescent in situ hybridization. Forest Pathology, 46 (6), 622-631. 10.1111/efp.12280
  • Padamsee, M., Johansen, R. B., Stuckey, S. A., Williams, S. E., Hooker, J. E., Burns, B. R., & Bellgard, S. E. (2016). The arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi colonising roots and root nodules of New Zealand kauri Agathis australis. Fungal Biology, 120 (5), 807-817. 10.1016/j.funbio.2016.01.015
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Bruce Burns

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 102
New Zealand