Dr Alistair McTaggart

Research Fellow

Centre for Horticultural Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation


Alistair has studied fungal genetics and evolution for over a decade. His latest research is on toxic, edible and psychoactive mushrooms in Australia.

Alistair has started research on magic mushrooms in Australia. He will test hypotheses that Psilocybe subaeruginosa is endemic and P. cubensis is naturalised in Australia. He will determine whether there is variation in the genes that produce psilocybin in native mushrooms, and build a collection of living cultures for future medical research. His research aims are to determine how many species of psychoactive fungi occur in Australia, which ones are native, and whether there is sexual reproduction among populations. A long-term outcome of this research is to establish a living, research collection of psychoactive mushrooms.

Alistair has a background in plant pathology and is interested in anything related to genomics, sexual reproduction, clonal reproduction, population genetics, life cycles, and taxonomy of fungi. Alistair completed fellowships on molecular barcoding, phylogenetics, and phylogenomics of rust fungi at the University of Pretoria (South Africa), Louisiana State University (USA), and the University of Queensland. He is experienced in plant and fungal systematics, plant disease surveys, molecular biology, and bioinformatics.

Research Interests

  • Magic mushrooms
    We have started the first, legal collection of psychoactive mushrooms in Australia. We aim to resolve how many species of magic mushroom occur in Australia, show which taxa are endemic, determine whether there is variation in the pathways to produce psilocybin, and safeguard the genetic diversity of Psilocybe for future medical research.
  • Genomics of rust fungi
    We have sequenced genomes of six native species of rust fungi in Australia, including some evolutionary interesting taxa (Araucariomyces fragiforme and Skierka agallochae). These genomes are a starting point to study reproduction and evolution of life cycles across the Pucciniales. All are welcome to the raw and assembled sequence data.

Research Impacts

Alistair aims to provide new knowledge on the uses of Australian fungi, specifically whether they are edible, toxic or contain biologically active compounds.

Alistair's research on plant pathogens has implications for biosecurity, particularly in knowledge gained of the plant pathogens that are present in Australia and knowledge of which pathogens to keep out. He has helped develop publicly available keys for identification of plant pathogens, for example, the Rust Fungi of Australia Lucid Key and Smut Fungi of Australia. His post doctoral research in South Africa had direct benefits to the forestry industry, through development of resistance screening protocols and epidemiological studies to aid in management of rust fungi. Alistair has answered long-standing biological questions on the origin of rust fungi and their reproduction, and has provided an innovative solution for genomics of rust fungi using single-cell sequencing to assemble the largest known fungal genome of myrtle rust. Alistair is inspired by the organisms he works on and takes any opportunity to be creative through his scientific artwork.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Queensland University of Technology
  • Master of Science, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Education, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Science, The University of Queensland


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  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • (2022) Doctor Philosophy

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Featured Publications

Book Chapter

  • Aime, M. Catherine, McTaggart, Alistair R., Mondo, Stephen J. and Duplessis, Sebastien (2017). Phylogenetics and phylogenomics of rust fungi. Fungal phylogenetics and phylogenomics. (pp. 267-307) edited by Jeffrey P. Townsend and Zheng Wang. Cambridge, MA., United States: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/bs.adgen.2017.09.011

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Tran, Nga T. , McTaggart, Alistair , Teo, Ai Chin , Persley, Denis , Thomas, John and Geering, Andrew (2022). Distribution and genetic diversity of sugarcane mosaic virus in turf grasses in Australia. Australasian Plant Virology Workshop, Melbourne, Australia, 5-7 December 2022.

  • Tran, N. T., McTaggart, A. R., Drenth, A., Shivas, R. G., Loch, D. S. and Geering, A. D. W. (2019). Biology and epidemiology of smut (Ustilago cynodontis) in couch grass. Australasian Plant Pathology Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 25-28 November 2019.

  • Tran, N. T., McTaggart, A. R., Drenth, A., Shivas, R. G., Loch, D. S. and Geering, A. D. W. (2019). Distribution of Ustilago cynodontis within couch grass plants. TropAg Conference, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, 11-13 November 2019.

  • Mctaggart, A. R., Doungsa-Ard, C., Geering, A., Aime, M. C. and Shivas, R. G. (2013). The systematics of Endoraecium in Australia. 2013 APS-MSA Joint Meeting, Austin, U.S.A., August 10–14, 2013. St. Paul, United States: American Phytopathological Society. doi: 10.1094/PHYTO-103-6-S2.1

Other Outputs

  • Hereward, James, Rizal, Leela Maya, Brookes, Dean and McTaggart, Alistair (2022). Entomopathogenic Fungi Genomics data. The University of Queensland. (Dataset) doi: 10.48610/a40deda

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision