May 2017

Edward Barge is from Bozeman, Montana. Ed received a BS in biology, and MS in plant science under Dr. Cathy Cripps at Montana State University, in Bozeman. His Master’s BARGEthesis focused on systematics and biogeography of Lactarius in the Rocky Mountain alpine zone (above treeline). This project allowed Ed to do field work in some beautiful high alpine habitats and learn molecular techniques. He recognized 7 species, one of them new, variously associated with dwarf and shrubby willows and birch, and he showed that most of the species are in fact broadly, intercontinentally distributed in arctic-alpine and in some cases also subalpine areas in the northern hemisphere – a pattern we are seeing with many boreal/arctic-alpine fungi. As a Master’s student Ed received two Montana Institute on Ecosystems awards that helped fund his research and trip to the 2014 MSA meeting in Lansing, MI.

Ed is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University working under Dr. Posy Busby, where my mycology has gone from the macro to the micro. He is studying foliar fungal endophyte community structure, population genetics and function in relation to geography, environment and disease within the black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) system.

What are your career goals? What are your plans for after your PhD?

Becoming a professor with a lab would be great, but who knows, maybe I’ll end up living in the woods. Whatever the case may be, I plan to keep doing research and fighting for science and mycology!

What is your favorite mushroom/fungus, and what do you like about it?

That is a tough question. Although I get sick of seeing it during the right time of year, I think a beautiful mushroom is Gomphidius subroseus with its nice rosy cap, decurrent gills, and slime veil. Also interesting that it parasitizes Suillus lakei mycelium.

What is your favorite fact about fungi?

In general, I am just inspired by the sheer diversity of fungi, the many environments they inhabit and the things (unknown and known) they do for us and the world. Recently I have been especially intrigued by horizontal gene transfer and the consequences this might have on host specificity, mutualism, pathogenicity, and fungal evolution and ecology in general.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories about field or lab work?

Doing field work in the Rocky Mountains has led to many interesting experiences. I had a run in with a bear while collecting Lactarius and all I could think to do was pull out my pocket knife and just stand there frozen – luckily the bear wasn’t too interested in me. Once I forgot hiking boots on a fairly lengthy field excursion and had to duct tape flip flops to my feet, which actually worked surprisingly well. Possibly the scariest field experience I’ve had was driving down a very remote jeep road in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado in a soccer mom car. It turned out to be A LOT worse and longer than we were expecting. On the map it looked like it would take about an hour, but it ended taking five. At times I thought we were going to have to abandon the car and hike out. But alas, at the bottom we ran into the largest fruiting of porcini I have ever seen.

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

Mushroom hunting, drawing, listening to music, fly fishing, running, backpacking, camping, cooking.

 

Eric Morrison grew up in Claremont, New Hampshire, which has the peculiar distinction of being NH’s smallest city. Eric earned a B.S. Environmental Conservation with a focus in Conservation Biology from the University of New Hampshire, May 2009. He also holds MORRISONa M.S. Microbiologyfrom University of New Hampshire. His thesis research was published in Morrison EW, Frey SD, Sadowsky JJ, van Diepen LTA, Thomas WK, Pringle A. 2016. Chronic nitrogen additions fundamentally restructure the soil fungal community in a temperate forest. Fungal Ecology, 23: 48-57. Eric is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Earth and Environmental Science at the University of New Hampshire, working with Serita Frey.

Eric’s research site is at the Harvard Forest LTER in central Massachusetts, there are two long-term experiments where forest soil was heated 5°C or fertilized with N over the course of ten to twenty years. He used these manipulations to predict how leaf litter decomposition and fungal communities of litter might change in the future. He is also measuring growth and respiration rates and performing whole-genome sequencing of various species of fungi isolated from Harvard Forest to understand how temperature affects the efficiency of fungal growth (i.e. the balance between biomass and CO2 production) and whether there are predictable genomic controls on fungal growth efficiency.

How did you become a mycologist?

It kind of happened by accident. In undergrad my first love was evolutionary biology. I became really interested in microbiology after taking a class in microbial ecology and evolution with Vaughn Cooper (now at the University of Pittsburgh) who, as an alum of Richard Lenski’s lab, is an expert in experimental evolution. At the same time, I knew I wanted to work in a field that could impact the environment in positive ways, and was inspired by some of the PhD students in Serita Frey’s lab at UNH studying how soils and soil microbes regulate and interact with climate. It turns out that fungi are the natural intersection of all these interests – they have amazing biology in their own right, but are also hugely important for regulating ecosystem dynamics, especially in forests.

Who is your mycology role model?

I have to say Anne Pringle. I’ve worked with her throughout my MS and PhD career, and I’m always inspired by her passion for clear, charismatic communication about fungi.

What is your favorite mushroom/fungus, and what do you like about it?

Russula vinacea was something of an obsession for me while I was working on my MS degree. It turns out to have an interesting response to N fertilization, has a visually pleasing dusty wine-purple color, and was a bit tricky to identify because of misidentification/conflation with R. atropurpurea in species descriptions and GenBank.

What is your favorite fact about fungi?

I think my favorite thing about fungi is that there are so many that haven’t been described. It’s daunting to think about the challenges this poses for understanding the ecology and the functioning of communities, but at the same time there is this mysterious world of potential just waiting to be explored.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories about field work?

Rural Massachusetts is a pretty tame place to work so I haven’t experienced any dramatic animal encounters, but I have had some funny human-related interactions during fieldwork. We measure soil C stocks in our lab by coring soil with a gas-powered posthole digger fitted with an auger corer. It’s pretty unwieldy and requires two people to run, but we can often drill through pieces of granite and other obstacles that would otherwise make getting accurate measurements difficult. Several years ago I was working with a research scientist in our lab to sample for a group of visiting scientists. While we ran the auger, three professors laid directly next to the plots we were working in chatting and periodically putting small bits of soil in their mouths to get “soil texture by mouth-feel” measurements! No hard feelings obviously, but it was pretty funny and kind of felt like a soil science-Monty Python skit.

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

In my free time I try to keep up my musical skills by practicing (drums primarily) and listening to music. I also love cooking while listening to political podcasts – to the point where my partner tells me I might have a podcast problem.