Forest Research’s principal pathologist, Dr Joan Webber is a key player in a new consortium of researchers awarded £2.4M of fast-track research funding from BBSRC and DEFRA for a two-year project to gather an in-depth understanding of the ash dieback fungus and provide genetic clues about some ash trees’ natural resistance to attack. Computer models will also be built to develop monitoring plans of the distribution and spread of the fungus as well as chart how the disease might progress. This knowledge will help to fight the fungus and replace lost trees with those able to survive.

The Nornex consortium (named for the three Norns who tend the ash tree of life Yggdrasil in Norse mythology) brings together tree health and forestry specialists with scientists working with state-of-the-art genetic sequencing, biological data and imaging technologies to investigate the molecular and cellular basis of interactions between the fungus and ash trees. Data from the project will be uploaded to an open-access website. This crowd-sourced, data-sharing approach will share the genetic data to exploit the expertise of plant and fungal research communities internationally.