Primrose Boynton

Assistant Professor of Biology






Mars Center for Science and Technology 2136

(508) 286-3951


I am a microbiologist with a special interest in fungal ecology and evolution. The diverse microbial communities that surround us fascinate me, and I love thinking about how microbes respond to their changing environments over time. I focus my research on the yeasts, which are the large group of diverse single-celled fungi. Some yeasts, such as the yeasts that make bread and alcoholic beverages, are very familiar, but the world is full of many other kinds of yeasts. These microbes live in almost any imaginable habitat, and are a great way to explore how microbes evolve, and how they interact with their natural world. I love bringing my passion for microbiology to students, and I love challenging them to think about how they interact with microbes in their daily lives.


Ph.D., Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 2006-2012

B.S., Genetics and Plant Biology, University of California, Berkeley, 1998 – 2002

Research Interests

Single-celled fungi are everywhere! These fungi, called “yeasts,” are famous for their role in food and beverages, but yeasts are an extremely diverse group of fungi that can be found in forests, oceans, the human body, and many other ecosystems. However, even though scientists have found them in nearly every place on Earth, we don’t understand what they’re doing. Even questions as simple as “what do yeasts eat in nature?” and “how do yeasts interact with other living things?” don’t really have answers.

Two yeast cells with buds attached. The cells are large and round, and the buds are smaller round circles attached to the larger round circles.
This yeast was found by students working with soil in Wheaton Woods.

I am researching model populations and communities of yeasts in soils, on plants, and in beverages. I especially want to know how yeasts rely on other living things, including plants, humans, and other fungi, to get what they need to grow and survive. I also want to know how they evolve and how they contribute to the ecosystems they live in. What would happen if there were no yeasts on Earth? What makes single-celled fungi special, and how is their ecology different from multicellular fungi?

Teaching Interests

I want to help students to develop their relationship with the natural world around them. I teach courses in the Biology department, and my favorite courses to teach focus on microorganisms. I help students explore their own biological interests through hands-on activities, course projects, and class discussions. What questions do you want to answer about nature? Let’s find the answers together!

Courses I teach at Wheaton:
  • Introductory Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Microbial evolution
  • Senior seminar in Biology
  • Research experience in Biology


Mozzachiodi S, Bai FY, Baldrian P, Bell G, Boundy‐Mills K, Buzzini P, …, Boynton, P (2022) Yeasts from temperate forests. Yeast 39:4-24. https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3699

Boynton PJ, Wloch-Salamon D, Landermann D, Stukenbrock EH (2021) Forest Saccharomyces paradoxus are robust to seasonal biotic and abiotic changes. Ecology and Evolution 11:6604-6619. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.7515

Ono J, Greig D, Boynton PJ (2020) Defining and disrupting species boundaries in Saccharomyces. Annual Review of Microbiology 74:477-495. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-micro-021320-014036

Boynton PJ, Peterson CN, Pringle A (2019) Superior dispersal ability can lead to persistent ecological dominance throughout succession. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 85:e02421-18. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.02421-18

Boynton PJ (2019) The ecology of killer yeasts: Interference competition in natural habitats. Yeast 36:473-485. https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3398

Boynton PJ, Kowallik V, Landermann, D, Stukenbrock EH (2019) Quantifying the efficiency and biases of forest Saccharomyces sampling strategies. Yeast 36:657-668. https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3435

Boynton PJ, Janzen T, Greig D (2018) Modeling the contributions of chromosome segregation errors and aneuploidy to Saccharomyces hybrid sterility. Yeast 35:85-98. https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3282

Kraemer SA, Boynton PJ (2017) Evidence for microbial local adaptation in nature. Molecular Ecology 26:1860-1876. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.13958

Boynton PJ, Stelkens R, Kowallik V, Greig D (2017) Measuring microbial fitness in a field reciprocal transplant experiment. Molecular Ecology Resources 17:370-380. https://doi.org/10.1111/1755-0998.12562

Boynton PJ, Greig D (2016) Species richness influences wine ecosystem function through a dominant species. Fungal Ecology 22:61-72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.funeco.2016.04.008

Boynton PJ, Greig D (2016) Fungal diversity and ecosystem function data from wine fermentation vats and microcosms. Data in Brief 8:225-229. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dib.2016.05.038

Gruber H, Wessels W, Boynton P, Xu J, Wohlgemuth S, Leeuwenburgh C, Qi W, Austad SN, Schaible R, Philipp EE (2015) Age-related cellular changes in the long-lived bivalve A. islandica. Age 37:90. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-015-9831-8

Boynton PJ, Greig D (2014) The ecology and evolution of non-domesticated Saccharomyces species. Yeast 31:449-462. https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3040

Bruns TD, Peay KG, Boynton PJ, Grubisha LC, Hynson NA, Nguyen NH, Rosenstock NP (2009) Inoculum potential of Rhizopogon spores increases with time over the first 4 yr of a 99-yr spore burial experiment. New Phytologist 181:463-470. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02652.x

Student Projects

Maddie Lambert explains her independent project on fungal diversity in Wheaton Woods on Wheaton’s Academic Festival blog!

Melane Goncalves and Meghan Reed explain their summer 2021 yeast research on Wheaton’s Academic Festival blog!

Student research on yeasts was featured in the September 3, 2021 issue of Wheaton News!

Photo of a fungus growing in a petri dish. The fungus takes up nearly the entire dish, and has grown in orange and beige rings outward from a central point
Photo of a Wheaton Woods fungus taken by Maddie Lambert