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Curiouser and Curiouser
Linda Kohn, meanwhile, is delving deeper into the question of speciation and reproductive isolation. Although trained as a field biologist, she is using a new genetic sequencing method to compare the genomes of normal yeast to those that have adapted to high-salt or low-glucose conditions. She and her fellow researchers have determined the “speciation genes,” discovering which mutations clash and which convey an adaptive boost in the hybrid offspring of the different strains of yeast.
What’s surprising, Kohn says, is that not all of the evolved yeast have the same mutations. Some adapted to the toxic environment by altering their cell walls, while others changed the cellular pumps that remove unwanted molecules from the yeast. “This is all more complicated than simply one gene,” she explains. It offers new evidence that speciation is a complex and genome-wide event.
Which, of course, raises more questions. That’s not a problem for Kohn—or for Reiss: Curiosity fuels them both.
“Doing research is incredibly gratifying,” Reiss says. “People in science love what they are doing. When we get an answer we haven’t anticipated, we have to understand why.”
Kohn agrees. “Science is an art,” she says. “And creativity is key. I have the freedom to wake up in the morning and think ‘What am I going to do today, and how am I going to do it?’”
Yet another question for Kohn to answer, but that’s why she chose mycology. We have a lot to learn from mushrooms.