Austin Frewert is a native of Otsego County, NY and is currently a MS student at Washington State University, working in the lab of Dr. Tanya Cheeke.

His research focuses on investigating the efficacy of mycorrhizal fungi and biochar to restore plant communities on abandoned mine sites. His goal is to determine if co-amending highly degraded mine soil with mycorrhizal fungi and biochar will produce synergistic plant responses. Austin is incorporating both, arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal fungi into his experiments by using native soil inoculum from intact reference sites. He looks forward to contributing to the growing body of knowledge of mycorrhizal ecology and ecological restoration. Austin recently received the WSU 2019 Betty Higinbotham Award. Austin is currently searching for a doctorate program that will allow him to pursue a career as a research scientist with a state or federal agency.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

I am partial to the Boletales, so I’d have to say Suillus spraguei. It’s mycorrhizal, and specific to the five-needle pines. It produces a beautiful fruit body and reminds me of my home in upstate N.Y.

Who is your mycology role model?

I’d have to say Dr. Thomas Horton, who turned me on to mycorrhizal ecology and provided me with many great experiences and opportunities as an undergraduate. I would not have the passion for science and the skillset that I do now if it were not for him.

Any great stories from field work?

While working in Sequoia National Park this past summer I was walking through a large open meadow and came within a split second from stepping on an impressively large rattlesnake. My heart sank into my boots and I slowly backed away.  I like to think my habit of scanning the ground for mushrooms is what saved me.

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

Biking, hiking, gardening, binging true crime podcasts, playing saxophone, haiku

Anything else we should know about you?

I am always looking to have a good chat about ecology and future collaborations. After my master’s I want to include fungal genetics and scanning electron microscopy into my doctoral research and bring new approaches to ecological restorations. I look forward to becoming more involved in MSA in 2019