cathy cripps

Cathy Cripps

Professor, PhD from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Office: 309 Plant BioScience Building
Lab: 109 Plant BioScience Building

Office Phone: 406-994-5226
Lab Phone: 406-994-7621

Fax: 406-994-7600


Our lab examines basic and applied aspects of higher fungi, particularly in extreme environments such as the alpine life zone and high-elevation forests. Currently we are focused on the ectomycorrhizal fungi associated with whitebark pine and the biodiversity of alpine fungi in the Rocky Mountains. Whitebark pine forests are in serious decline in the West due to blister rust and mountain pine beetles. We are currently discovering the native mycorrhizal fungi associated with this 5-needle pine and examining the benefits of inoculating seedlings with these native mycorrhizal fungi.

The arctic-alpine biome covers 10% of the earth’s land, and is considered to be at great risk from global warming and disturbance. This includes all land within the Arctic Circle and the true alpine above treeline on high mountain tops. Fungi in this extreme climate must withstand freezing temperatures, high UV light, a short growing season, and persistent desiccating winds. Fungi are a crucial ecological link in these inhospitable climes. Plants depend on alpine mycorrhizal root fungi for survival. Saprophytic fungi somehow manage to complete the work of decomposition and recycling of nutrients into the soil despite the extreme conditions. To date we have catalogued over 200 species of alpine agarics, primarily species of Inocybe, Cortinarius, Entoloma, Galerina, Russlula, and Lactarius. In addition, we are examining the mycorrhizal fungi with dwarf Salix andDryas, and adaptations of alpine fungi with broad-ranging implications for cold-tolerance in plants.


Graduate Students and Lab Researchers

  • Dr. Todd Osmundson, M.Sc. 2004. Morphological and molecular systematics of Rocky Mountains alpine Laccaria. Associate Professor University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse  
  •  Christopher Mahoney. M.Sc. 2005. Effects of native ectomycorrhizal fungi on aspen seedlings in greenhouse studies: inoculation methods, fertilizer regimes, and plant uptake of selected elements in smelter-impacted soils.  Montana Soil Conservation Service.
  • Kate Mohatt. M.Sc. 2006. Ectomycorrhizal fungi of whitebark pine in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  Prince William Sound Zone Ecologist, USFS Glacier Ranger District, Girdwood, Alaska. Coordinator for Girdwood Mushroom Fungus Fair.
  • Paul E Trusty. M.Sc. 2009. Impact of severe fire on the ectomycorrhizal fungi of whitebark pine seedlings. NSF GK-12 Fellowship. Senior Park Ranger, Allegheny County Parks, PA.
  • Erin Lonergan. M.Sc. 2012. Currently working on Monitoring of whitebark pine seedlings inoculated with native ectomycorrhizal fungi. Botanist, USDA Forest Service, Klamath National Forest.
  • Dr. Joo-Young Cha. Post Doc 2003-2004 from Hokkaido University, Japan. Snowbank Fungi. Professor.
  • Dr. Eva Grimme. Post Doc 2008-2009 from Montana State University. Inoculation of whitebark pine seedlings. Currently MSU Plant Diagnostic Lab.
  • Dr. Bob Antibus. Sabbatical 2009-2010 from Bluffton University, Ohio. Physiology of the native ectomycorrhizal fungi from whitebark pine limber pine forests in Montana.  Retired.
  • Marlee Jenkins, M.Sc. 2016. Whitebark pine restoration using ectomycorrhizal fungi. USDA Agricultural Research, Nevada.
  • Ed Barge, M.Sc. 2015: Molecular and morphological systematics of the ectomycorrhizal genus Lactarius in the Rocky Mountain Alpine zone. Ph.D. program at Oregon State.
  • Chance Noffsinger, M. Sc. (current) Morphological and molecular systematics of Rocky Mountains alpine Russula.
  • Sarah Klingsporn, undergraduate researcher. 
  • Leslie Eddington, undergraduate researcher.
  • Olivia Anderson, undergraduate researcher.