Dr Sarah Watkinson

Research interests

Cellular and physiological mechanisms of lignocellulose depolymerisation by basidiomycete fungi. Soil fungi and ecosystem function.


Genomic methods provide a new way of investigating the cellular machinery of basidiomycete wood decay fungi. I am currently collaborating with Drs K Burton and D. Eastwood at Warwick University, and the international team annotating the whole genome sequence of Serpula lacrymans, which was completed at the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute in July 2009. Genes of particular interest are those associated with brown rot decay of wood.  We are also interested in using the genome to explore the nutrient sensing and signalling implicit in the highly coordinated metabolism and development of mycelial networks of wood decaying basidiomycetes.

The contribution of such mycelial networks to essential ecosystem processes is widely underestimated. Fungal networks concentrate and spatially reallocate plant nutrients and thereby play a key role in plant growth and the terrestrial carbon cycle. Dr Mark Fricker's invention of Photon Counting Scintillation Imaging has demonstrated the rapidity and sensitivity with which fungal networks can move amino acids. Using this, Dr M Tlalka and I showed that mycelium of Serpula lacrymans 'notices' the appearance of fresh pieces of wood, and quickly rushes its nitrogen reserves to the spot.

The use of a non-toxic nonmetabolised amino acid to interfere with amino acid transport through mycelium is an effective means of arresting the spread of dry rot through buildings. Affected uninhabited buildings suitable for field trials are sought - see consulting website for contact details.

With Drs Nick Brown and David Bass (British Museum, Natural History) I investigate the biodiversity of fungi in soils of different ecosystem types. Lab microcosms are used to explore the effect of realistic levels of soil nitrogen on mycelial network function and development.

Contact details


+44 (0) 1865 275076

Selected Publications

The Fungi, edition 3, S.C.Watkinson, L.Boddy & N.P. Money, Elsevier 2016

Watkinson, S.C. & Eastwood, D.C. (2012). Serpula lacrymans, wood and buildings. Advances in Applied Microbiology 78, 121-149.
Download this chapter as a PDF file

P Bota, E Baines, A Mead, S C Watkinson (2010) Antifungal and wood preservative efficacy of IPBC is enhanced by α - aminoisobutyric acid. IRG/WP 10-30544. Proceedings IRG Annual Meeting 2010. Biarritz, France. International Research Group on Wood Protection, Stockholm.

Watkinson, S.C., Bebber, D., Darrah, P.R., Fricker, M.D., Tlalka,M. & Boddy, L. (2006) The role of wood decay fungi in the carbon and nitrogen dynamics of the forest floor. In: Gadd, G.M. (ed.) Fungi in Biogeochemical Cycles. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Download this chapter as a PDF file.

Carlile, M.J., Watkinson, S.C. & Gooday, G.W. (2001) The Fungi. 2nd Edition Academic Press, London.

Watkinson, S.C. (1999) Metabolism and hyphal differentiation in large basidiomycete colonies. Chapter 6 in The Fungal Colony, eds. Gow, NAR, Gadd,GM & Robson, GJ, Cambridge University Press, pp. 127-157.

Full Publication List (while at this department)

Watkinson, S.C, Eastwood, D.C. (2012) Serpula lacrymans, wood and buildings Advances in Applied Microbiology. 78: pp 121-149.

Bebber, D.P, Watkinson, S.C, Boddy, L, Darrah, P.R. (2011) Simulated nitrogen deposition affects wood decomposition by cord-forming fungi Oecologia. pp 1-8.

Eastwood, D.C, Floudas, D, Binder, M, Majcherczyk, A, Schneider, P, Aerts, A, Asiegbu, F.O, Baker, S.E, Barry, K, Bendiksby, M, Blumentritt, M, Coutinho, P.M, Cullen, D, De, Vries R.P, Gathman, A, Goodell, B, Henrissat, B, Ihrmark, K, Kauserud, H, Kohler, A, LaButti, K, Lapidus, A, Lavin, J.L, Lee, Y.-H, Lindquist, E, Lilly, W, Lucas, S, Morin, E, Murat, C, Oguiza, J.A, Park, J, Pisabarro, A.G, Riley, R, Rosling, A, Salamov, A, Schmidt, O, Schmutz, J, Skrede, I, Stenlid, J, Wiebenga, A, Xie, X, Kues, U, Hibbett, D.S, Hoffmeister, D, Hogberg, N, Martin, F, Grigoriev, I.V, Watkinson, S.C. (2011) The plant cell wall-decomposing machinery underlies the functional diversity of forest fungi Science. 333 (6043): pp 762-765.

Zhuang, X, Tlalka, M, Davies, D.S, Allaway, W.G, Watkinson, S.C, Ashford, A.E. (2009) Spitzenkörper, vacuoles, ring-like structures, and mitochondria of Phanerochaete velutina hyphal tips visualized with carboxy-DFFDA, CMAC and DiOC6(3) Mycological Research. 113 (4): pp 417-431.

Fricker, M.D, Lee, J.A, Bebber, D.P, Tlalka, M, Hynes, J, Darrah, P.R, Watkinson, S.C, Boddy, L. (2008) Imaging complex nutrient dynamics in mycelial networks Journal of Microscopy. 231 (2): pp 317-331.

Fricker, M.D, Tlalka, M, Bebber, D, Takagi, S, Watkinson, S.C, Darrah, P.R. (2008) Corrigendum to "Fourier-based spatial mapping of oscillatory phenomena in fungi" [Fungal Genet. Biol. 44 (2007) 1077-1084] (DOI:10.1016/j.fgb.2007.02.012) Fungal Genetics and Biology. 45 (4): pp 579.

Tlalka, M, Fricker, M, Watkinson, S. (2008) Imaging of long-distance α-aminoisobutyric acid translocation dynamics during resource capture by Serpula lacrymans Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 74 (9): pp 2700-2708.

Tlalka, M, Bebber, D.P, Darrah, P.R, Watkinson, S.C, Fricker, M.D. (2008) Quantifying dynamic resource allocation illuminates foraging strategy in Phanerochaete velutina Fungal Genetics and Biology. 45 (7): pp 1111-1121.

Bass, D, Howe, A, Brown, N, Barton, H, Demidova, M, Michelle, H, Li, L, Sanders, H, Watkinson, S.C, Willcock, S, Richards, T.A. (2007) Yeast forms dominate fungal diversity in the deep oceans Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 274 (1629): pp 3069-3077.

Fricker, M.D, Tlalka, M, Bebber, D, Tagaki, S, Watkinson, S.C, Darrah, P.R. (2007) Fourier-based spatial mapping of oscillatory phenomena in fungi Fungal Genetics and Biology. 44 (11): pp 1077-1084.

Tlalka, M, Bebber, D.P, Darrah, P.R, Watkinson, S.C, Fricker, M.D. (2007) Emergence of self-organised oscillatory domains in fungal mycelia Fungal Genetics and Biology. 44 (11): pp 1085-1095.

Brown, N, Bhagwat, S, Watkinson, S. (2006) Macrofungal diversity in fragmented and disturbed forests of the Western Ghats of India Journal of Applied Ecology. 43 (1): pp 11-17.

Darrah, P.R, Tlalka, M, Ashford, A, Watkinson, S.C, Fricker, M.D. (2006) The vacuole system is a significant intracellular pathway for longitudinal solute transport in basidiomycete fungi Eukaryotic Cell. 5 (7): pp 1111-1125.

Watkinson, S.C, Boddy, L, Burton, K, Darrah, P.R, Eastwood, D, Fricker, M.D, Tlalka, M. (2005) New approaches to investigating the function of mycelial networks Mycologist. 19 (1): pp 11-17.

Tlalka, M, Hensman, D, Darrah, P.R, Watkinson, S.C, Fricker, M.D. (2003) Noncircadian oscillations in amino acid transport have complementary profiles in assimilatory and foraging hyphae of Phanerochaete velutina New Phytologist. 158 (2): pp 325-335 

Tlalka, M, Watkinson, S.C, Darrah, P.R, Fricker, M.D. (2002) Continuous imaging of amino-acid translocation in intact mycelia of Phanerochaete velutina reveals rapid, pulsatile fluxes New Phytologist. 153 (1): pp 173-184.

Watkinson, S.C, Burton, K.S, Wood, D.A. (2001) Characteristics of intracellular peptidase and proteinase activities from the mycelium of a cord-forming wood decay fungus, Serpula lacrymans Mycological Research. 105 (6): pp 698-704.

Wadekar, R.V, North, M.J, Watkinson, S.C. (1995) Proteolytic activities in two wood-decaying basidiomycete fungi, Serpula lacrymans and Coriolus versicolor Microbiology. 141 (7): pp 1575-1583 

Dobson, J, Power, J.M, Singh, J, Watkinson, S.C. (1993) The effectiveness of 2-aminoisobutyric acid as a translocatable fungistatic agent for the remedial treatment of dry rot caused by Serpula lacrymans in buildings International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation. 31 (2): pp 129-141 

Watt, F, Grime, G.W, Brook, A.J, Gadd, G.M, Perry, C.C, Pearce, R.B, Turnau, K, Watkinson, S.C. (1991) Nuclear microscopy of biological specimens Nuclear Inst. and Methods in Physics Research, B. 54: pp 123-143 

Elliott, M.L, Watkinson, S.C. (1989) The effect of α-aminoisobutyric acid on wood decay and wood spoilage fungi International Biodeterioration. 25 (5): pp 355-371