Dr Katie Field

Associate Professor
School of Biology

Background: 2016-present BBSRC Translational Fellow, University of Leeds; 2015-2017 UAF in plant soil processes, University of Leeds; 2009-2015 Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Sheffield; 2009 PhD, University of Sheffield; 2005 BSc. (Hons) Plant Sciences, University of Durham

Contact: Manton 9.01, +44(0) 113 34 32849, email address for  

You can read more about Dr Field's interests here:

Plant-fungal symbioses and their applications in sustainable agriculture

Today, it is estimated that more than 80% of land plants, representing over 90% of plant families, form nutritional symbioses with soil-dwelling fungi. These associations are known as ‘mycorrhiza’, or ‘mycorrhiza-like’ in plants without roots. Through these associations, plants assimilate fungal-acquired mineral nutrients from beyond root depletion zones. In return, plants supply their fungal partners with carbohydrates fixed from atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.

Many key crop species have been shown to be able to form mutualistic symbioses with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. This is leading to the development of novel approaches in crop breeding and agricultural practices, encouraging the formation of mycorrhizal associations and utilisation of previously plant-inaccessible phosphorus pools. Fundamental research on various wild plant species has shown that the efficiency by which plant-fixed carbon is exchanged for fungal-acquired nutrients is affected by environmental perturbation, such as CO2 concentration. By using combined ecophysiology, metabolomics and isotope tracer techniques, our research aims to expand our understanding of crop-mycorrhiza-environment interactions with important applications in sustainable agriculture.

Evolutionary ecophysiology

How did the biotic and abiotic environments interact to drive plant evolution and the development of the terrestrial biosphere?

This key question underpins my research into the interactions between ancient land plant lineages and symbiotic soil fungi.  Plant-fungal symbioses date back to when plants first colonized Earth’s landmasses more than 475 million years ago.

Through the Palaeozoic, CO2 concentrations declined dramatically. This was largely being driven by, and provides the backdrop for, diversification of the terrestrial flora with plants increasing in number, stature, morphological complexity and demand for inorganic carbon. Fossil and molecular evidence suggest that the earliest plants to emerge onto the land were likely similar to modern-day liverworts. As such, these tiny plants provide an excellent opportunity for us to understand how mycorrhiza-like associations in the earliest plants may have facilitated plant domination of the terrestrial biosphere. Recent findings show that the earliest plants may not have associated with mycorrhizal fungi of the Glomeromycota as has been hitherto assumed, instead fungi of the Mucoromycotina may well have been key players in plant terrestrialization.

We are only just starting to understand the diversity, structure and physiological function of the relationships between early branching lineages of land plants and their symbiotic fungi. We aim to shed new light on the role fungal symbionts may have played in the development of Earth’s ecosystems.

Follow @katiefield4 and @field_lab_UoL for updates!


Current Projects

Philip Leverhulme Prize in Biological Sciences 2017, Leverhulme Trust (2018-2021)

Rank Prize Funds New Lecturer Award 2016

Interactions between crops, arbuscular mycorrhizas and CO2BBSRC (2016-2021)

Shifting symbiotic scenrios at the dawn of land plant-fungus associations, NERC (2016-2019)

Ancient land plant-fungal symbioses, Royal Society (2015-2016)


PhD opportunity - January 2018 start

Fully funded PhD studentship available to start in the new year investigating early land plants and their fungal symbionts. Co-supervised by Dr Martin Bidartondo (Imperial College London, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew) and Dr Silvia Pressel (Natural History Museum, London). Please contact k.field@leeds.ac.uk for details.


PhD opportunities (October 2018 start)

Please follow the links below for more information and to apply:

Impact of plant-microbial symbioses on global biogeochemical cycling and climate through Earth's history Funded studentship

Structure and function of soil microbial communities in contrasting biomes at the Eden Project, Cornwall (NERC DTP)

Mycorrhizal fungal production of (semi)volatile metabolites as a tool to enhance beneficial inoculum in sustainable control of agricultural pests (BBSRC DTP)

Contact k.field@leeds.ac.uk for further details on any of the above projects


MSc. by Research

Masters by Research degree projects in plant-rhizosphere interactions, arbuscular mycorrhizal function and responses to environmental change, use of mycorrhizas in sustainable agriculture and plant evolution are available to start in October 2018. Please contact k.field@leeds.ac.uk to discuss your interests.



Faculty Research and Innovation

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal physiology, climate change, sustainable agriculture, plant evolution

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Plant-rhizosphere interactions
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal functioning and responses to environmental change
  • Use of mycorrhizas in sustainable agriculture
  • Plant evolutionary ecophysiology

See also:

Modules taught

BLGY1005 - Tutorials (Joint Honours)
BLGY1300 - Coastal and Upland Habitats Field Course
BLGY3133 - Advanced Topics in Ecology
BLGY3345 - Biology Integrated Research Projects
BLGY3395 - Advanced Research Skills and Experience
BLGY3396 - Research Literature Review

Dr Grace Hoysted  (Research Fellow in early plant fungal symbioses)

Mrs Beverley Merry  (Research Technician)

Miss Daria Pastok  (Research Technician )

Dr Thomas Thirkell  (Research Fellow in Translational Plant Biology )


Jumana Akhtar (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Michael Charters (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Ashleigh Elliott (Primary supervisor) 34% FTE
Besiana Sinanaj (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Katie Schulz (Co-supervisor) 50% FTE

Hoysted GA, Kowal J, Jacob A, Rimington WR, Duckett JG, Pressel S, Orchard S, Ryan MH, Field KJ, Bidartondo MI A mycorrhizal revolution Current Opinion in Plant Biology 44 1-6, 2018
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Akhtar J, Galloway AF, Nikolopoulos G, Field KJ, Knox P A quantitative method for the high throughput screening for the soil adhesion properties of plant and microbial polysaccharides and exudates Plant and Soil 428 57-65, 2018
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Field KJ, Pressel S Unity in diversity: structural and functional insights into the ancient partnerships between plants and fungi New phytologist, 2018
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Kowal J, Pressel S, Duckett JG, Bidartondo MI, Field KJ From rhizoids to roots? Experimental evidence of mutualism between liverworts and ascomycete fungi Annals Of Botany 121 221-227, 2018
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Galloway AF, Pedersen MJ, Merry B, Marcus SE, Blacker J, Benning LG, Field KJ, Knox JP Xyloglucan is released by plants and promotes soil particle aggregation. The New Phytologist 217 1128-1136, 2018
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Mills BJW, Batterman SA, Field KJ Nutrient acquisition by symbiotic fungi governs Palaeozoic climate transition. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences 373, 2018
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Hoysted GA, Lilley CJ, Field KJ, Dickinson M, Hartley SE, Urwin PE A plant-feeding nematode indirectly increases the fitness of an aphid Frontiers in Plant Science 8, 2017
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Thirkell TJ, Charters MD, Elliott AJ, Sait SM, Field KJ Are mycorrhizal fungi our sustainable saviours? Considerations for achieving food security Journal of Ecology 105 921-929, 2017
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Field K Katie J. Field - Profile New Phytologist 212 836-837, 2016

Field KJ, Davidson SJ, Alghamdi SA, Cameron DD Chapter 21. Magnitude, Dynamics, and Control of the Carbon Flow to Mycorrhizas In Mycorrhizal Mediation of Soil Fertility, Structure, and Carbon Storage, 2016
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Pressel S, Bidartondo MI, Field KJ, Rimington WR, Duckett JG Pteridophyte fungal associations: Current knowledge and future perspectives Journal of Systematics and Evolution 54 666-678, 2016
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Field KJ, Davidson SJ, Alghamdi SA, Cameron DD Magnitude, Dynamics, and Control of the Carbon Flow to Mycorrhizas In Mycorrhizal Mediation of Soil: Fertility, Structure, and Carbon Storage, 2016
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Rimington WR, Pressel S, Field KJ, Strullu-Derrien C, Duckett JG, Bidartondo MI Reappraising the origin of mycorrhizas In Molecular Mycorrhizal Symbiosis, 2016
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Field KJ, Rimington WR, Bidartondo MI, Allinson KE, Beerling DJ, Cameron DD, Duckett JG, Leake JR, Pressel S Functional analysis of liverworts in dual symbiosis with Glomeromycota and Mucoromycotina fungi under a simulated Palaeozoic CO 2 decline ISME Journal 10 1514-1526, 2016
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Field KJ, Pressel S, Duckett JG, Rimington WR, Bidartondo MI Symbiotic options for the conquest of land Trends in Ecology and Evolution 30 477-486, 2015
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Field KJ, Duckett JG, Cameron DD, Pressel S Stomatal density and aperture in non-vascular land plants are non-responsive to above-ambient atmospheric CO2 concentrations ANNALS OF BOTANY 115 915-922, 2015

Lutz S, Anesio AM, Field K, Benning LG Integrated 'Omics', targeted metabolite and single-cell analyses of arctic snow algae functionality and adaptability Frontiers in Microbiology 6, 2015
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Field KJ, Rimington WR, Bidartondo MI, Allinson KE, Beerling DJ, Cameron DD, Duckett JG, Leake JR, Pressel S First evidence of mutualism between ancient plant lineages (Haplomitriopsida liverworts) and Mucoromycotina fungi and its response to simulated Palaeozoic changes in atmospheric CO2 New Phytologist 205 743-756, 2015

Field KJ, Leake JR, Tille S, Allinson KE, Rimington WR, Bidartondo MI, Beerling DJ, Cameron DD From mycoheterotrophy to mutualism: Mycorrhizal specificity and functioning in Ophioglossum vulgatum sporophytes New Phytologist 205 1492-1502, 2015
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Field KJ Mycorrhizal networks in ecosystem structure and functioning Functional Ecology Virtual Issue:, 2014
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Field KJ, George R, Fearn B, Quick WP, Davey MP Best of Both Worlds: Simultaneous High-Light and Shade-Tolerance Adaptations within Individual Leaves of the Living Stone Lithops aucampiae PLoS ONE 8, 2013
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Brunetti C, George RM, Tattini M, Field K, Davey MP Metabolomics in plant environmental physiology Journal of Experimental Botany 64 4011-4020, 2013
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Field KJ, Cameron DD, Leake JR, Tille S, Bidartondo MI, Beerling DJ Contrasting arbuscular mycorrhizal responses of vascular and non-vascular plants to a simulated Palaeozoic CO<inf>2</inf>decline Nature Communications 3, 2012
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Field KJ, Lake JA Environmental metabolomics links genotype to phenotype and predicts genotype abundance in wild plant populations Physiologia Plantarum 142 352-360, 2011
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Lake JA, Field KJ, Davey MP, Beerling DJ, Lomax BH Metabolomic and physiological responses reveal multi-phasic acclimation of Arabidopsis thaliana to chronic UV radiation Plant, Cell and Environment 32 1377-1389, 2009
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Wilson PB, Estavillo GM, Field KJ, Pornsiriwong W, Carroll AJ, Howell KA, Woo NS, Lake JA, Smith SM, Harvey Millar A, Von Caemmerer S, Pogson BJ The nucleotidase/phosphatase SAL1 is a negative regulator of drought tolerance in Arabidopsis Plant Journal 58 299-317, 2009
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Lake JA, Field KJ Does genetic diversity in plants matter? An environmental metabolomic approach Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular&Integrative Physiology 150 S190-S190, 2008

Field KJ Comparative evolutionary physiology of Mucoromycotina and Glomeromycota symbionts in basal land plants