Madeline Lueck

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Madeline Lueck is our student spotlight for the month of November! Madeline grew up in East Bay Area, California, and is currently a graduate student at Washington State University, Tri-Cities, working with Dr. Tanya Cheeke.

Tell us about your project!

Have you ever walked into a garden shop and seen those bags of mycorrhizae on the shelf? Well, I am currently researching how those commercial mycorrhizal products and locally adapted AMF influence plant growth in a perennial crop.

Which awards would you like to brag about?

I graduated with honors from Humboldt State University (BS in Botany)

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

I have always wanted to work for a university extension or a state or federal agency in research related to agriculture or forestry, with an emphasis on mycoremediation and mycorestoration as we face shifts in our global climate. My current position as a MSc student has introduced me to the world of teaching and I find that to be incredibly fulfilling, so that may become a path I choose to pursue down the line.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

One of my favorite fungi is Fistulina hepatica aka beefsteak fungus. Not only does its bright red color add ornamentation to the stumps it grows on, but it also makes a wonderful jerky to enjoy during the Fall.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

I am amazed by the diverse world of fungi and the multitude of ecological niches they fill, such as serving as decomposers or mutualists. I am also intrigued by the prevalence of mycophobia in our society – it is my hope that by shedding light the ecological roles of fungi and their important uses to humans, those fears can be turned into fascination.

Who is your mycology role model?

Not so much a single role model, but Bay Area Applied Mycology is a group that has worked to make simple tools used in mycology, such as cultivation techniques and access to labs, available to the public. I think their message and goal is awesome, and their presence in the community while l was living in California was a big influence for why I chose to pursue mycology.

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

After I completed my BS, I worked as a field tech by performing Sudden Oak Death surveys in Northern California. The areas that we worked in were dense with Douglas fir and huckleberry – so dense, that we often had to crawl on our bellies under the huckleberry. While tedious and slow, this belly crawl tactic was the best way to come across those camouflaged Craterellus cornucopioides and C. tubaeformis. Definitely worth the scrapes and ticks!

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

In my free time, I love to explore natural areas through hiking and trail running. I also enjoy screen printing, making crafts, and gardening.

Anything else you’d like to talk about?

I feel so thankful to be able to combine my passions for horticulture and mycology into my research, and I have been very lucky to have the support from some amazing mentors, family, and friends. One of my goals by pursuing biology is make it more accessible to the public through outreach, education, and collaboration. How can we share our knowledge in ways that promote education in mycology beyond the scientific community?

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.

Magnolia Morelli

Magnolia Morelli grew up in Salt Lake City, UT, and is currently doing research at Utah Valley University with Geoffrey Zahn.

Tell us about your project!

I am currently planning a research trip to Costa Rica to study mycophagy within primates. I will be collecting data at La Selva Biological station over the course of a month.

Which awards would you like to brag about?

I have received a National Science Foundation fellowship to attend Utah Valley University which includes full tuition and an annual stipend for travel and research funds.

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

My current plan after graduation is to pursue a PhD program centered around mycology. This will set me up to be a professor at a University where I can work on other research projects.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

It is so difficult to pick just one! If I had to choose I’d say the Rhodotus palmatus. It reminds me of something fantastical. How fungi can be what we typically think of as “mushroom” but it can also be something magic.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

The first fact that got me interested in fungi is that they are more closely related to animals than plants. This blew my mind when I first found out. They are so much more complex than we have yet discovered.

Who is your mycology role model?

My grandpa Peter is my mycology role model. He was the first person to push my desire of adventure. I remember going out into the woods and searching for mushrooms on logs and in caves when I was just a kid.

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

My free time is mostly consumed by studying for my future research. I love reading up on new studies that are happening throughout the world. If I am not reading I am traveling. I travel as much as I can. My ultimate goal is to visit every country in the world. I love discovering new things, places, and cultures.

Nicole Colón-Carrión

Nicole Colón-Carrión grew up in Puerto Rico and is currently doing research at the University of Arizona with Dr. Elizabeth Arnold.

Tell us about your project!

In my dissertation research I seek to understand how climate changes impact plant-fungal associations, with a focus on two main environments: wild tropical forests and agricultural systems. Specifically, my work focuses on (1) understanding how hurricane disturbances affect the diversity and composition of fungal symbionts associated with roots and leaves of tropical forest trees; (2) exploring how fungal symbionts can protect cultivated plants against disease under a rapidly warming climate; and (3) assessing the needs and knowledge of farmers in Puerto Rico regarding the control and management of pests and pathogens in the field in order to customize educational lesson plan that best fit their needs.

Which awards would you like to brag about?

I was awarded with the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP), the Dr. Leathers Graduate Student Scholarship from the Arizona Mushroom Society, and with the National Geographic Early Career Award were I received the title of National Geographic Explorer. Currently, I was awarded with the MSA Interchange Ambassador Award to support my two projects, “Micología en Ruedas” and “LatinX mycleium”.

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

My career goal is to return to Puerto Rico as an extension specialist focused on the use development microbe-microbe interactomes into biocontrol strategies to reduce pathogenicity and the use of chemical agents in the landscape. I also aim to continue developing education programs and material that increase science exposure to underrepresented communities.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

If microscopic, Aspergillus niger. It was the first fungus I isolated from rice as an undergraduate researcher. If macroscopic, the basket stinkhorn (Clathrus ruber). I just love it s structure and bright color.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

The diversity of them and the significant roles they plan in ecosystem functioning. Also, I love their structures and colors.

Who is your mycology role model?

I am going to go with two Puerto Rican mycologist for this one. The first is Dr. Sharon Cantrell. Dr. Cantrell became the first Puerto Rican woman to be appointed as president of the Mycological Society of America and have done amazing work in elucidating the diversity of fungi within the tropical forest of Puerto Rico. The second is Dr. Chad Lozada. Dr. Lozada introduced me to the wonderful world of fungi as my research mentor at the University of Puerto Rico Cayey Campus. His passion and mentorship motivated me pursue a graduate degree in the field in order to later training the next generation of Puerto Rican mycologist.

Any great stories from field work?

Always wear bug spray if you are sampling in the tropics!

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

I love to dance (salsa particularly), spent time in the beach, and read.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Along with my Ph.D., I am currently pursuing a certificate in College Teaching from the UA. This certificate provided me with a new appreciation for educational research. The knowledge obtained though this certificate and the eagerness to help underrepresented communities are the reasons I emerge myself in curriculum and educational program development. Something that I wish to continue as a Post-doctoral researcher. If you know of fellowships and grants that support this kind of work, send them my way (ncoloncarrion@email.arizona.edu). Also, for updates and cool pictures about “Micología en Ruedas” and “LatinX mycleium” stay tune to @ncoloncarrion (Twitter) and @thePuertoRicanmycologist (IG).

Terry Torres-Cruz

Terry J Torres Cruz grew up in Costa Rica. She is currently doing research at Penn State-State College with Dr. David Geiser. 

Tell us about your project! 

My thesis project aims to describe a potential new plant-fungal mimicry system and the potential involvement of insects in this interaction.

What awards would you like to brag about?

During my time at Penn State, I have been recognized for my leadership work inside the institution with the “2021 Student Leader Scholarship” and for my efforts to promote intercultural understanding on campus and beyond with the “2020 Ardeth and Norman Frisbey International Graduate Student Award”. I was awarded the “Jose de la Torres Scholarship” and the “Black Research Fund Travel Award” in 2018 by the College of Agricultural Sciences. My department has also supported me through a variety of awards: “James F & Marilyn Tammen Memorial Endowment” in 2020 and 2021, “Leonard J. Francl Memorial Endowment” in 2020, “Larry J. Jordan Memorial Endowment” in 2018, and the “Herbert Cole Jr. Fund” in 2018.

From MSA, I have received the Clark T Rogerson Research Award in 2019 to support a field trip and the Mentor Student Travel Award in the name of James M. Trappe in 2015. When I first came to the US to start my studies in mycology in 2014, I received an award from the “Internship Incentive Fund” by the Costa Rica Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología – Consejo Nacional para Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas and an award from the “International Travel Fund” by the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica that made possible my work at Western Illinois University and opened an array of research and professional opportunities for me.

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

I want to start my own lab in a research institution where I can mentor students and conduct research in the tropics.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

Bifiguratus adelaidae because its description was part of my master’s work and part of the work that led me to the mycology field.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

That even though there is so much research about fungi there is still so much to be discovered. And that the lack of knowledge and abundance of misinformation related to fungi in the general public actually gives US many opportunities to share our love for fungi (and knowledge) with others

Who is your mycology role model?

Drs. Andrea Porras-Alfaro and Priscila Chaverri because representation matters and seeing the amazing work they have done over the years as Costa Rican female mycologists inspires me to pursue my mycological dreams

Any great stories from field work?

A few come to mind that are funny in retrospective but were not so much in the moment, like hearing a jaguar close by and thinking that was it for me or discovering parasites under my skin after a field trip.

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

I spend a really big part of my free time doing volunteer/leadership work through different organizations and committees. I also enjoy being a mentor to female students in STEM and participate in different mentorship opportunities. After all that there is little free time left, but I enjoy traveling to new places, being outdoors, singing, and watching TV series.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

If you want to know more about my work, please visit my website: terrytorrescruz.com Also, I have a small community science project where I ask people doing work in northern South America to report observations of the system I am working with for my main PhD project (see info on my website).

Carolina Piña-Páez

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Carolina Piña Páez grew up in Hermosillo, Sonora, México. She is currently doing research on the Madrean Sky Islands of Arizona and Mexico. Her advisor is Joey Spatafora. 

Tell us about your project! 

My project combines fieldwork and laboratory experiments to unravel past climate change cycles’ effects on Rhizopogon and their hosts (Pinaceae) in the Madrean Sky Islands of the Southwestern US and Northwestern Mexico. Specifically, I’m studying how Rhizopogon salebrosus has migrated with its hosts and how isolation and environment is shaping its evolutionary trajectory.

What awards would you like to brag about?

I’ve been fortunate to have received scholarships from multiple mushroom societies from North America:

  • 2019 Ben Woo Scholarship – Puget Sound Mycological Society
  • 2019 Anita Summers award – Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University
  • 2018 Oregon Mycological Society award
  • 2018 Sonoma County Mycological Association scholarship
  • 2016-2020 CONACYT scholarship recipient for PhD studies
  • 2013 Henry Pavelek Memorial Scholarship – North American Truffling Society

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

My ultimate career goal is to become a professor at a university. I’d love to teach classes in combination with research and fieldwork.  Probably the next step for me is a postdoc position. I’m particularly interested in how recombination impacts genetic diversity.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

It has to be a truffle! Rhizopogon is the closest to my heart, as it was my first truffle but also it’s the protagonist of my PhD project. Rhizopogon salebrosus sporocarps feed a lot of small mammals in the forest, as well as playing a crucial role in seedling establishment after disturbance (like the fires that the West Coast is experiencing right now).

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

Their ability to survive and acquire food from many different sources. Just think about all the different trophic modes present in the Kingdom Fungi! 

Who is your mycology role model?

Jim Trappe

Any great stories from field work?

In 2018, we were in Mexico sampling truffles and collecting soil for greenhouse experiments.  Tláloc was generous, and we had a great year collecting with more than 200 Rhizopogon specimens found. We isolated some cultures in the airbnb, and the soil samples were triple-bagged— as indicated by the USDA—we had a transportation permit, everything was seemingly in order.  The original plan was that Aldo Saldaña, my friend and collaborator, would take us to the airport in Tucson. When we were crossing the border in Nogales, AZ, there was something wrong with the permit…they said that the samples needed to be sent to El Paso, TX, where they could potentially be destroyed!  I asked if there was a possibility that Aldo could take the samples back to México, buying some time, so we could fulfill the requirement that was missing (a heads up email to the border patrol 22 days prior the border crossing). They allowed Aldo to take the samples back, and problem 1 was resolved! Then, we had to figure out how to get to the airport, since our ride was now going back to Mexico with our samples. We walked to the closest gas station in the pouring rain and we experienced the fury of the monsoon. Finally,  we were able to book a shuttle back to Tucson. Once safe at home in Oregon, I sent the infamous email to the US Customs & Border Patrol Agriculture Specialist. Then a return trip a month later meant that I was able to cross the samples without issue.

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

Cooking is one of my biggest passions, I also enjoy beadwork and to learn new weaving techniques.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’m actively looking for a Post doc position, if you’re looking for a new postdoc, send me an email: pinapaec@oregonstate.edu.

Kirsten Gotting

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Kirsten Gotting is from Portland, Oregon. She is doing her PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her current advisor is Cameron Currie.

Tell us about your project!

I’m really interested in evolution and diversification, and how symbiosis plays a role in these processes. The system I work on is the fungus-growing ant-microbe symbiosis. More specifically, I work on the specialized mycoparasite Escovopsis, which consumes the fungus that the ants cultivate. One of the cool things about fungus-growing ants is that they have been growing fungus for 55 million years, which for perspective was around when the dinosaurs went extinct. We don’t know when Escovopsis specialized on the fungus-growing ant cultivar, but we do know that it parasitizes almost every type of fungus-growing ant agriculture and there are specific species of Escovopsis that infect the different agricultures. I’m excited to learn more about the evolution of this parasite and how it has adapted and differentiated across ant agriculture.

What are your career goals/plans?

I came for my PhD because I really want to be a group leader some day. I love everything about basic research and can’t imagine a better job! My second choice would be some sort of data analysis project manager; data analysis and visualization is one of my favorite things on the job.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

This is so hard for me, so I’m going to name a couple. First off, the flagellated fungi that live in cow guts. I just find them absolutely fascinating, especially since when I think of flagellated fungi, chytrids and dead amphibians mostly come to mind. But the idea of having a mutualist with similar morphology in ruminant guts dispels that image for me and brings up a bunch of questions: How did they get there? How did they survive in early ruminant guts? How have they adapted to that environment?

I also am also obsessed with rust fungi; the complexity of their developmental life histories amazes me in so many ways. They create so many unique structures and have so many hosts, what’s not to love? There’s also a ton of cedar apple rust on all of the apple trees in Madison right now (early September), and while the telia are beautiful, the shape of them low-key triggers my gag reflex.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

Definitely soy sauce. But also how little we know about them. There are so many species to discover, life histories to unravel, and interactions to manipulate that I could study them for twenty lifetimes and still have more questions. I also get really inspired by the range of research that people do with fungi, it seems like they are the perfect models for so many things how could you not want to dive in!

Who is your mycology role model?

This one’s super easy for me: Anne Pringle! I’ve never told her this, but when I was in undergrad, my Ecology professor Bitty Roy showed us a video of Anne doing her multi-year experimental survey on gravestone lichens. I remember thinking to myself, “Gosh it would be so cool to get to be like her some day!” and now I get to learn from Anne because she is on my committee! I’m so grateful that Bitty showcased women scientists in her classes. I got to reconnect with Bitty through the MSA because we were both at the meeting in 2019. I honestly never saw myself getting to the place in my life where I would get to do a PhD, so having these “full circle” moments with people I admire brings me more joy than anything else.

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

Some of the fungus growing ants that we study live underground, so you have to dig an approximately two foot hole to find their nests. On my first field trip in Georgia, we were on our last day of digging ants and were trying to get as many colonies as we could. Currie lab postdoc Hongjie always “hit nest” first, but this time I was barely half way through digging my hole when he called out that he had gotten one. I couldn’t believe how fast he had finished! It felt like the further I dug, the harder it was getting for me. I asked him to come help me dig, and when he did, he exclaimed “This is like digging a rock!” Fortunately, teamwork got us to the ants by alternating digging until we got the nest. I later I come to find that the soil in the rest of the area was very soft in comparison, almost like sand, and I was kicking myself for picking a spot with really dense soil to start off with.

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

I read year round and in the winter I crochet while watching trash television. My favorite book I read this year was “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula Leguin, it’s the first book in a while that I feel strongly compelled to read again. Ursula built up the story and alien culture in such an interesting way that actually made me want to experience the cold dark planet, which would normally terrify me mostly because I don’t like the cold. In the summer, I like to get outside, but this summer has been challenging. Luckily, I found a new passion in SUP! In Madison we are fortunate enough to be within a couple miles of three lakes, so it makes for the perfect setting for pandemic era socializing.

Anything else you’d like to talk about?

One thing that I am really interested in is the history of genetics and specifically how it has harmed marginalized groups. I am getting my PhD through the Genetics Training Program at UW Madison, and one thing that struck me in my required course work was that there wasn’t any mention of eugenics or eugenics perpetrators, who are often the same people who contributed to foundational genetics principles. I had the same kind of feeling throughout my undergraduate coursework. This knowledge gap in many genetics classes really frustrated me. I felt like the whole curriculum that I had partaken in over the years ignored the socio-political impacts of how eugenics was a large start of genetics research in the US and shaped a lot of governmental policy. I knew that there had to be other students out there that were frustrated by the lack of acknowledgement of how much harm this field can have, and that it may have pushed those students away from science and genetics.

When the civil rights protests began this summer, I felt incredibly motivated to try to make a change in my department. I got in touch with faculty in the department and suggested that there could be an entire class on how genetics has shaped policy that harms marginalized groups and that these topics should be in every class. I’m really happy to say that the faculty fully supported the idea and are now integrating these topics into their coursework, whether it be naming perpetrators in the field, or including case studies where genetics directly harmed marginalized groups. In addition, a peer and I put together a reading group with a focus on scientific accountability where we highlight specific instances where genetics has done harm, or how we can improve our genetics pedagogy to be more inclusive. So far, it’s been a really great space where faculty and students have gathered to talk about these topics. I’m really excited to see where it goes in the next year. Thus far, we’ve already started a focus group to dig up information about how our genetics department connected to eugenics in the early 1900’s. I can’t wait to see what else comes from it and hope that departments at other universities adopt similar integrations of historical perspectives into their coursework. I’m not sure what the long lasting impact of this will be, but I hope that it helps serves as a start to greater change.

Savannah Gentry

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Savannah Gentry grew up in Port Neches (Texas) and Klamath Falls (Oregon). She is currently doing research at Madison, Wisconsin with Anne Pringle.

Tell us about your project!

I work with fungal pathogens of wildlife and have found that two pathogens responsible for infectious diseases in snakes and lizards (snake fungal disease and yellow fungal disease, respectively) can infect other animals. 

Stemming from the results of that experiment, I’m currently interested in creating a project to identify keratinases (specialized enzymes that degrade keratin) and other degradation enzymes that are activated when the fungi interact with different substrate treatments. In short, I want to understand if these suite of activated enzymes could be pathogenicity factors.

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

My career goal would be to land a position that allows me to continue to do work with fungal pathogens and community-based research dealing with access to education and socioeconomic inequity.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

Cat’s Tongue (Pseudohydnum gelatinosum) because of how they feel and they can be candied – a textured and sugar snack wrapped up in one fungus.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

Two things: 1) how much we don’t know about fungi, even ones that are considered well-studied are constantly revealing new things and 2) their versatility as pathogens, degraders, mutualists, parasites, etc., one fungus can fall into multiple categories at the slightest environmental difference and I find that extraordinary.

Who is your mycology role model?

For me that has never been one person but multiple people whether they are my peers or people that have been in the field for decades, I find speaking with other mycologists inspires me to stay curious about the world. However, if I have to name names, there are few people I’ve met that can identify mushrooms like Alden Dirks can.

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

I’m a big gamer, so in my free time I enjoy both video games and tabletop games. My main hobby is drawing and use that as my main avenue to relieve stress. Check out my instagram @kawaiifungi!

Anything else you’d like to talk about, leave here! (career goals, outreach, science communication, photography, etc).

It’s important that scientists do not separate themselves from the general public or their own communities. In order to stay connected, unite others, and share the wonderful world of mycology, connections are important. So, be active in your community and build those connections; it’s never just about the science.

Alden Dirks

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Alden Dirks is from Coatesville, Pennsylvania. He is currently doing research with Dr. Tim James in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Tell us about your project!

Gyromitrin is an acute toxin and potent carcinogen that is found in some mushrooms, particularly false morel mushrooms (Gyromitra spp.). The product of gyromitrin metabolism, monomethylhydrazine, is infamous for also being a component of rocket fuel, which is as bad for you as it sounds like it would be. You’d think this would be a deterrent to the consumption of false morels. However, in Finland, the highly poisonous Gyromitra esculenta is widely harvested and consumed as a delicacy after first being prepared with a laborious parboiling and washing procedure to rid it of the majority of its gyromitrin. In Michigan there is also a culture of consuming certain false morel species, but these appear to be less toxic than the European species. But are they really? Despite its importance as a mycotoxin, we still don’t know which species produce gyromitrin or how much of it. False morels belong to a taxonomic family sister to that of the true morels (Morchella spp.). True morels should always be cooked thoroughly, in part because they are poisonous to many people when eaten raw, and these symptoms are strikingly similar to those caused by gyromitrin (although less severe). Our aim is to first determine which morel species (both true and false) contain gyromitrin, then find the genes responsible for its synthesis, and finally elucidate its evolutionary origin and history of horizontal gene transfer, if any. Along the way, we hope to formulate a set of best foraging practices for mushroom hunters in Michigan so that people can avoid gyromitrin exposure.

Awards you’d like to brag about?

At the end of my senior year at Swarthmore College, the Biology department awarded me the “Leo M. Leva Memorial Prize”, which recognizes undergraduates whose work shows “exceptional promise for future societal impact”. I strive to live up to this recognition!

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

I feel like infinity lies between me and the end of my current position, but at the end of the universe I might teach mycology and conduct research on fungal taxonomy and biodiversity at a small liberal arts or community college; or have a restorative agroforestry operation where I cultivate truffles, grow mushrooms, and raise sheep or goats; or maybe open a restaurant and a fungus-focused storefront.

What is your favorite fungus and why?

One of my favorites is Ganoderma applanatum, the artist’s conk – but not because you can draw on it. Rather, this mushroom is host to forked fungus beetles (Bolitotherus cornutus), which can live on the same shelf for about a decade and have a lifespan of up to 20 years (or so I’ve heard). I once had a pet artist’s conk with pet forked fungus beetles. Unfortunately, there are no blogs or help pages on taking care of forked fungus beetles. Needless to say, they didn’t live up to their long lifespan. But I’m confident next time things will go better and we will grow old together.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

The longevity and extent of the humongous fungus, the oldest and largest organism on earth, never ceases to amaze me.

Who is your mycology role model?

Barbara Mosse and Charles McIlvaine

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

I collected a hearty bunch of jelly fungus to eat. Of course, mushrooms are best fried, so that’s what I did to this mushroom. I was soon screaming and running out the kitchen dodging hot bits of oily jelly fungus as the chopped up mushroom began exploding out of the pan! Pro tip: don’t fry jelly fungus.

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

I love to dance salsa and bachata!

Anything else you’d like to share?

I have the lifelong goal of eating 1001 species of mushroom (a one-up on Charles McIlvaine). You can read about my discoveries and eats at my website, aldendirks.com. I also have a soft spot for crust fungi, which are ecologically important as saprotrophs and ectomycorrhizae, but are poorly studied. As a side project, I am developing a website called crustfungi.com that I hope to build into the MushroomExpert of crusts.

Gillian Bergmann

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Gillian Bergmann is from Portland, Oregon. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University in the spring of 2019, and now works as a faculty research assistant (lab technician) for Dr. Posy Busby and Dr. Jared LeBoldus in OSU’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology.

Tell us about your project

I am currently working on characterizing the wood mycobiome of black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) as part of a study on how the wood microbiome to plant genotype and resistance/susceptibility to the pathogen Sphaerulina musiva. So far, the project has been a great learning experience for me in creating a large metabarcode library for high-throughput sequencing. On the side, I am also characterizing the fungal seed endophytes of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) using high-throughput sequencing for comparison against the culture-based characterization I did in my undergraduate thesis.
Awards you would like to brag about

This past summer, I received the MSA Undergraduate Research Award for my poster presentation about my undergraduate thesis at the MSA meeting in Minneapolis! It was my first time presenting at a national conference, so I am honored to have received this award.
What are your career goals/plans for after you are done with your current position?

I have applied for Ph.D. programs in Ecology to start in the fall of 2020. I hope that I’ll be able to conduct my graduate research on seed mycobiome assembly, and the potential roles of seed fungi in plant responses to disturbances compounded by climate change (e.g. wildfire, drought). My long-term goal is to be a professor of fungal ecology, so I’m looking forward to this next step in my training.
What is your favorite fungus and why?

My favorite fungus is Pseudohydnum gelatinosum, also known as the cat’s tongue jelly fungus. I like this fungus because it’s a jelly fungus with tooth- shaped hymenophore, and because it’s jiggly and edible. I’ve tried candying them, as suggested by Arora, and would like to try them in honey and cream next!
What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

I’m sure a lot of mycologists say this, but one of my favorite facts about fungi is that we’ve only documented a small fraction of the world’s total fungal diversity. This shows that we still have so much to learn about/from fungi, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
Who is your mycology role model?

My three role models are Dr. Posy Busby, Dr. Joey Spatafora, and Dr. Ed Barge. They all mentored me at various stages in my undergraduate thesis research, and they’ve inspired me with their passion for mycological research and for fungi in general.
Any great stories from field work?

This past fall, I helped a graduate student in the Busby Lab with field collections across multiple locations in Oregon and Washington. My favorite moment during these collections was when I stopped for lunch in one of our Oregon sites. I sat down amongst the undergrowth on the hill where we were working, and watched some birds flying between the r trees as the clouds cleared to reveal a beautiful view of the surrounding hills. This peaceful moment reminded me that the goal of ecology is to better understand (and even appreciate) the land and its diverse ecosystems, and cemented my desire to do field work in my own graduate research.
What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

I’m an avid cyclist and bike racer, so much of my free time is spent riding my bike. I also enjoy singing with the Jubilate Women’s Choir of Corvallis, baking, reading, hiking, playing board games, and going on mushroom forays or road trips with my boyfriend.
Anything else you would like to share? You can follow me on Instagram at Ingrid_blv426,
where I share my adventures in fungal ecology and cycling. I also have a professional website where I blog about my experiences as an early-career scientist and share research updates. You can check it out at gebergmann.weebly.com.