Rowena Hill

Rowena Hill

Profile Display Name:
Rowena Hill
E-mail Address:
Start Year

2018 (Cohort 5)

Research interests:
Hobbies and interests:

PhD Project
PhD Title
The evolution of plant-associated lifestyles in the Ascomycota and their effectors
Research Theme
Evolution and Adaptation
Primary Supervisor

Richard Buggs

Primary Institution
Secondary Supervisor

Ester Gaya

Secondary Institution
Royal Botanic Gardens, KEW

The Ascomycota form the largest phylum in the fungal kingdom and show a wide diversity of lifestyles, some involving beneficial or harmful associations with plants. Genomic methods can provide insight into the genetic determinants of these lifestyles. Understanding evolutionary transitions between fungal endophytes – species which live asymptomatically in plant tissues – and fungal plant pathogens is of major significance in economic and ecological issues relating to plant health.

To describe the evolutionary origins of the endophytic and plant pathogenic strategies, a robust genomic phylogeny of the Ascomycota is needed with comprehensive taxon sampling. By reconstructing lifestyles and host preferences across ancestral nodes of the phylogeny, the patterns of evolutionary transitions between plant-associated species will be revealed. This framework will also enable us to test hypotheses about how effector gene families have evolved in independent plant-associated lineages. Effectors, fungal secreted proteins known to play a role in pathogenesis, have been extensively studied in the context of plant-fungal pathogenic interactions. The role of effector genes in the context of fungal endophytes could shed light on the level of functional equivalence between plant pathogens and endophytes.

Policy Impact
Background Reading
Alan Buddie (CABI) website:


Conferences and Workshops
  • Kew Science Festival

Social Links
University Departmental Website:
Personal Website:

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