Behind-the-Scene: Michael Lynch

This week, I am introducing another member of our team! These Behind-The-Scene posts reveal a bit about the people involved with Health Hydroponics. We would like to put names to faces and personalities especially during this time when we are unable to meet local growers in person.

Dr. Michael Lynch is the Director of Bioinformatics at Metagenom Bio Life Science which is the company behind Healthy Hydroponics. He did his Bachelor of Science and Master’s of Science in Plant Sciences at the University of Western Ontario. He then completed his PhD in Biology and his postdoc at the University of Waterloo. He is also a Research Associate at the University of Waterloo and as a sessional instructor has taught many courses, including Bacterial Molecular Genetics, Intro to Applied Microbiology, Introduction to Bioinformatics, and Structural Bioinformatics.

I asked Michael a mix of serious and fun questions and here are his answers.

What is your role in Healthy Hydroponics and what do you do?

I am responsible for the design of the data analysis for each grower’s samples as well as the larger, combined analysis. This combined analysis, where we look at all grower’s microbiomes and associated environmental data, such as temperature and light conditions, will significantly increase our understanding of the microbiome in hydroponic agriculture.

From your perspective, what is the most exciting thing about Healthy Hydroponics?

I am really excited to work with the larger data set that includes a diversity of growers and plant crops. This is a unique and rich data set that will provide considerable insight into the hydroponic microbiome dynamics.

This project also connects us directly with the growers. This really helps us understand what growers need out of this project as well as providing us access to a wealth of knowledge about the hydroponics industry in Canada.

What does your working-from-home desk look like?

Working from home has been challenging at times, but has given me a lot of time with my young kids, which has been really great. My desk has been wherever I can find space and time, either on the couch, at the kitchen table, or at a small desk in the corner of the dining room.

What are your interests/passions outside of work or academia?

I love spending time with family, going for hikes, cycling, reading, and music.

What are your simple pleasures during the pandemic?

Probably walks though the park near our house. Luckily we live near a good stretch of greenspace that we also travel through when walking home from my son’s school (when he’s been able to attend).

What made you interested in studying fungi in your Master’s?

It actually wasn’t a conscious decision. I had worked for Prof. Thorn at Western after my undergrad. I enjoyed working in the lab and transitioned to my M.Sc.

What is the most interesting fungus and why?

A little biased here, but the diversity of fungi is really interesting. I like the vibrant colours in some Mycena species, truffles, and weirder ones like Hydnellum peckii (bleeding tooth fungus). I think the most interesting is Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which alters host behaviour (a type of ant) to complete its life cycle.

File:Mycena interrupta 534503.jpg
A Mycena interrupta fungi found growing at Wombat State Forest, Trentham East, Victoria, Australia. Credit: karode13 from Mushroom Observer.
Ophiocordyceps unilateralis - Wikipedia
Dead ants infected with Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.
Citation: Pontoppidan M-B, Himaman W, Hywel-Jones NL, Boomsma JJ, Hughes DP (2009) Graveyards on the Move: The Spatio-Temporal Distribution of Dead Ophiocordyceps-Infected Ants. PLoS ONE 4(3): e4835. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0004835

What is your favourite genre of music? Any favourite artist or band?

I am a big fan of music in general. Right now my playlist is mostly folk, Americana, blues, and alternative rock. My current playlist consists of Jason Isbell, Billy Strings, Frank Turner, Sean McCann (Great Big Sea), Brian Fallon, The Decemberists, Brandi Carlile, and Serena Ryder.

There are now 25 hours in a day! How do you spend your extra hour?

Probably trying to figure out why the Earth is spinning more slowly. After not being able to solve that (I’m a biologist after all), I would use the extra hour to spend quality time with family.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

This is a hard one. Perhaps some variation of making sure to keep balance in life – be mindful. Making time for everything that’s important.

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