Gary Olds

Gary Olds is currently doing research at the Denver Botanical Gardens with Dr. Andrew Wilson.

Tell us about your project!

My project, “Applying a Modified Metabarcoding Approach for the Sequencing of Macrofungal Specimens,” explores laboratory techniques in taking the efficiency (time, labor, and cost) of environmental DNA sequencing and applying that to the historically slower and more costly methods of sequencing specimens in fungaria.

Which awards would you like to brag about?

Alexander H. and Helen V. Smith Research Award (2021)

What are your career goals/plans for after you’re done with your current position?

I plan to go into biodiversity research and education. I plan to have a career in natural resource conservation and sustainability, especially in connecting communities to nature.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

The genus Claviceps, especially Claviceps purpurea (rye ergot fungus) is a type of fungus that is a disease on cereal grasses such as rye. This fungus is not only a disease of these plants but can cause ergotism in humans when consumed (these are commercial crop-type plants). There is a theory that this fungus, causing ergotism, is the cause of hysteria and hallucinations that resulted in witch trials.

Who is your mycology role model?

Vera Stucky Evenson

Any great stories from field work (funny/interesting/something that stuck out to you)?

My best foray was one at a mushroom fair in which I found my first ever (and pretty big) ruby porcinis (Boletus rubriceps), got to spend time with (and get my books signed by) my mycology role model (Vera Stucky Evenson), and met Dr. Andy Wilson, with whom I built a connection and eventually became his graduate student.

What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

My favorite activity is mountain biking. I enjoy biking through the city and solitude with reading, drawing, coloring, crafting, and creative projects.

Anything else you’d like to talk about?

I am also a zookeeper! In addition to my passion for mushrooms and plants, I love animals and teaching people. I work with an animal ambassador program at an aquarium. This means I provide daily husbandry (care, feeding, training, check-ups) for education animals and also run public programs and behavior demonstrations with these animals. The collection I work with consists of 12 mammals, 6 birds, 9 reptiles, and 2 invertebrates.

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