Sara Branco
John Taylor and Tom Bruns Labs
Lab Phone: 

Curriculum Vitae

I am an evolutionary biologist interested in understanding the diversity of life. I focus on fungi and work to unveil the mechanisms involved in shaping their diversity in nature. I see communities and populations as part of a continuum and integrate these different biological levels of organization to achieve a broader understanding of diversity. I aim at clarifying the patterns and processes shaping fungal diversity, from adaptation and speciation to community assembly.


- 2010 - Ph.D. Evolutionary Biology. University of Chicago, USA. Advisors: Gregory Mueller and Richard Ree.

- 2001 - Undergraduate degree (Licenciatura) in Biology. University of Lisbon. Portugal.

Professional Experience

- 2011 - present. Postdoctoral researcher. University of California, Berkeley, USA.

- 2010-2011. Postdoctoral researcher. Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F), Frankfurt, Germany.

- 2001-2004. Mycologist. Parque Natural de Montesinho. Bragança. Portugal. 


Suillus brevipesI am currently developing studies in three different areas:

- Population differentiation in Suillus brevipes across North America

Spatial patterns of soil fungal diversity

Adaptation of ectomycorrhizal fungi to serpentine soils 

Selected Awards and Honors

2015 - Presentation award. 28th Fungal Genetics Conference. Asilomar, CA, USA.

2014 – Forest Fungal Ecology Postdoctoral Award. Mycological Society of America.

2010 - Scientist of the month. Association for Women in Science.

2008 - Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant. National Science Foundation.

2008 - Best Presentation Prize. 21st New Phytologist Symposium. The Ecology of Ectomycorrhizal Fungi. Montpellier, France.

2004-2005 – Luso/American Foundation/Fulbright in the US for Portuguese citizens. Fulbright Commission. Portugal.

2003 - Best Young Mycologist Award. XIV Congress of European Mycologists. Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine.



Google Scholar Citations

Waring, B., Adams, R.I., Branco, S., Powers, J. In press. Nitrogen cycling and soil communities along gradients of forest composition and age in regenerating tropical dry forests. New Phytologist

Nguyen, N.H., Song, Z., Bates, S.T., Branco, S., Tedersoo, L., Menke, J., Schilling, J., Kennedy, P.  In press. FungGuild: an open annotation database for parsing high-throughput fungal molecular data by ecological guild. Fungal Ecology.

Taylor, J.W., Hann-Soden, C., Branco, S., Sylvain, I., Ellison, C. In press. Clonal reproduction in fungi. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Branco, S., Gladieux, P., Ellison, C., C., Kuo, A., LaButii, K., Lipzen, A., Grigoriev, I.V., Liao. H.-L., Vilgalys, R., Peay, K. G., Taylor, J. W., Bruns, T. D. In press. Genetic isolation between two recently diverged populations of a symbiotic fungus. Molecular Ecology.

Liao, H.-L., Chen Y., Bruns, T.D., Peay, K.G., Taylor, J.W., Branco, S., Talbot, J.M., Vilgalys, R. 2014. Metatranscriptomic analysis of ectomycorrhizal roots reveal genes associated with Piloderma-Pinus symbiosis: new methodologies for assessing gene expression in situ. Environmental Microbiology. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.12619

Schechter, S., Branco, S. 2014. The ecology and evolution of mycorrhizal fungi in extreme soils. In Rajakaruna, N., Boyd, R., Harris, T. (eds). Plant Ecology and Evolution in Harsh Environments.

Talbot, J.M., Bruns, T.D., Taylor, J.W., Smith, D.P., Branco, S., Glassman, S.I., Erlandson, S., Vilgalys, R., Liao, H.-L., Smith, M., Peay, K. G. 2014. Endemism and functional convergence across the North American soil mycobiome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 111:6341-6346.

Nilsson, R .H., Hyde, K. D., Pawłowska, J., Ryberg, M., Tedersoo, L., Bjørnsgard, A., Alias, S. A., Alves, A., Anderson, C. L., Antonelli, A., Arnold, A. E., Bahnmann, B., Bahram, M., Bengtsson-Palme, J., Berlin, A., Branco, S., Chomnunti, P., Dissanayake, A., Drenkhan, R., Friberg, H., Frøslev, T, Halwachs, B., Hartmann, M., Henricot, B., Jayawardena, R., Jumpponen, A., Kauserud, H., Koskela, S., Kulik, T., Liimatainen, K., Lindahl, B., Lindner, D., Liu, J.-K., Maharachchikumbura, S., Manamgoda, D., Martinsson, S., Neves, M. A., Niskanen, T., Nylinder, S., Pereira, O. L., Pinho, D. B., Porter, T. M., Queloz, V., Riit, T., Sánchez-García, M., Sousa, F., Stefańczyk, E., Tadych, M., Takamatsu, S., Tian, Q., Udayanga, D., Unterseher, M., Wang, Z., Wikee, S., Yan, J., Larsson, E., Larsson, K.-H., Kõljalg, U., Abarenkov, K. 2014. Improving ITS sequence data for identification of plant pathogenic fungi.Fungal Diversity.

Gladieux, P., Ropars, J., Badouin, H., Branca, A., Aguileta, G., Vienne, D., Vega, R., Branco, S., Giraud, T. 2014. Fungal evolutionary genomics provide insights into the mechanisms of adaptive divergence in eukaryotes. Molecular Ecology 23:753-773 (Invited Review).

Branco, S.,  Bruns, T. D., Singleton, I. 2013. Fungi at a small scale: spatial zonation of fungal assemblages around single trees. PLoS One 8(10):e78295.

Bengtsson-Palme, J., Ryberg, M., Hartmann, M., Branco, S., Wang, Z., Godhe, A., De Wit, P., Sanchez-Garcia, M., Ebersberger, I., Sousa, F., Amend, A., Jumpponen, A., Unterseher, M., Kristiansson, E., Abarenkov, K., Bertrand, Y. J. K., Sanli, K., Eriksson, K. M., Vik, U., Veldre, V., Nilsson, R. H. 2013. Improved software detection and extraction of ITS1 and ITS2 from ribosomal ITS sequences of fungi and other eukaryotes for analysis of environmental sequencing data. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 4:914-919.

Talbot, J. M., Bruns, T. D., Smith, D. P., Branco, S., Glassman, S. I., Erlandson, S., Vilgalys, R., Peay, K. 2012. Independent roles of ectomycorrhizal and saprotrophic communities in soil organic matter decomposition. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 57:282-291.

Branco, S. 2011. Fungal diversity – an overview. In Grillo & Venora (eds) The Dynamic Processes in Biodiversity – Case Studies in Evolution and Spatial Distribution. ISBN 979-953-307-250-9.

Nilsson, R. H., Veldre V., Wang, Z., Eckart, M., Branco, S., Hartmann, M., Quince, C., Godhe, A., Bertrand, Y., Alfredsson, J. F., Larsson, K.-H., Kõljalg, U., Abarenkov K. 2011. A note on the incidence of reverse complementary fungal ITS sequences in the public sequence databases and a software program for their detection and reorientation. Mycoscience, 52 (4):272-282.

Branco, S. 2010. Serpentine soils promote ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity. Molecular Ecology, 19:5566-5576.

Branco, S. & Ree, R. 2010. Serpentine soils do not limit ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity. PLoS ONE 5(7): e11757.

Avis, P., Branco, S, Tang, Y., Mueller, G. 2009. Pooled samples bias community descriptions. Molecular Ecology Resources, 10:135-141.

Branco, S. 2009. Are oaks locally adapted to serpentine soils? Northeastern Naturalist 16 (special issue 5):329-340.

Bidartondo, M, ..., Branco, S., et al.  2008. Preserving accuracy in GenBank. Science 319:1616.

Branco, S. 2002. Inventariação Preliminar de Comunidades Macrofúngicas em Matas da Serra de Sintra. Revista de Biologia, 20:179-190.