Executive Board 2020-2021 Nominations

Hi everyone!

The current board would like to introduce you to the nominees for the 2020-2021 Student Section Board. Look out for elections soon! 🙂

Chair – Robert Powers (University of Michigan)

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I am a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan working in Tim James’ lab. My research is primarily focused on understanding the genetic, epigenetic and gene regulatory mechanisms during mating and heterokaryosis in the mushroom-forming members of the Agaricomycotina. Prior to my PhD studies, I received my Master’s degree from the University of Michigan, also in Tim James’ lab, studying both sexual selection and biogeography in the Coprinellus disseminatus species complexMy passion for mycology bloomed later in life – my undergraduate training was in computer science and ethnomusicology. I worked for ten years in the information technology sector in San Francisco before deciding that my true calling was mycology. I served previously as secretary followed by Vice-Chair of the MSA Student Section, and am transitioning to the Chair position because the Society and the Student Section were instrumental in helping me transition into mycology, and I would like to help bring my enthusiasm and passion for fungi to other students as well. My previous experience on an executive board was as a member of the Tech-Underground technology co-operative, a group that provides technology services to non-profit, community, and arts groups – a co-operative of which I was also a founding member.  

 

Vice Chair – Tania Kurbessoian (University of California, Riverside)

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My previous experience in school or organization affiliated volunteering has been occurring for the past 8 years. As an undergraduate and Masters student at Cal State Northridge I’ve worked with the local chapter of ASM (on my campus was called MSA too, Microbiology Students Association) as the Secretary, Treasurer then President for 4 years (2012-2016). I’ve organized, planned and executed many microbiology related events (Beer Brewing, Wine Making, Networking, CLS). For the past 5 years I have also been involved with my local mycological organization (Los Angeles Mycological Society- LAMS), setting up events at the OC Fair and the Natural History Museums to better engage with everyday folk and to get them interested in fungi! Coming to UC Riverside I began involving myself in the local Micro- GSA (Graduate Student Association) as an outreach coordinator, Vice President and now President. I was the Social Outreach coordinator at another organization called AWIS (Association for Women in Science), and am now the Co-President.- where we are interested in fostering stronger bonds for women in all parts of science, connecting them to proper mentors who can take them to the right places, and just being an overall support system for women in science. For 2019-2020 I was the Communications Chair and loved my experience working with the folks in this organization and would love to continue to do so. I believe organizations like yours only helps enrich the experience of being an early scientist and helps garner other skills that may not be available as just a student. Currently I am in the Stajich lab, studying the role of melanized fungi in biological crust systems through Microbiology, Computational Biology and Mycological techniques. Follow me on @BlackYeastUnleashed on Instagram and @BYUnleashed on Twitter for updates!My previous experience in school or organization affiliated volunteering has been occurring for the past 8 years. As an undergraduate and Masters student at Cal State Northridge I’ve worked with the local chapter of ASM (on my campus was called MSA too, Microbiology Students Association) as the Secretary, Treasurer then President for 4 years (2012-2016). I’ve organized, planned and executed many microbiology related events (Beer Brewing, Wine Making, Networking, CLS). For the past 5 years I have also been involved with my local mycological organization (Los Angeles Mycological Society- LAMS), setting up events at the OC Fair and the Natural History Museums to better engage with everyday folk and to get them interested in fungi! Coming to UC Riverside I began involving myself in the local Micro- GSA (Graduate Student Association) as an outreach coordinator, Vice President and now President. I was the Social Outreach coordinator at another organization called AWIS (Association for Women in Science), and am now the Co-President.- where we are interested in fostering stronger bonds for women in all parts of science, connecting them to proper mentors who can take them to the right places, and just being an overall support system for women in science. For 2019-2020 I was the Communications Chair and loved my experience working with the folks in this organization and would love to continue to do so. I believe organizations like yours only helps enrich the experience of being an early scientist and helps garner other skills that may not be available as just a student. Currently I am in the Stajich lab, studying the role of melanized fungi in biological crust systems through Microbiology, Computational Biology and Mycological techniques. Follow me on @BlackYeastUnleashed on Instagram and @BYUnleashed on Twitter for updates!

 

Secretary – KC Cifizzari (Washington State University)

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My name is KC and I’m a Master’s student in Biology at Washington State University in Tri-Cities, WA. My current research is looking at mycorrhizal fungal inoculants and the impact on grapevine growth and nutrient uptake. I have been interested in mycorrhizal fungi for several years and have examined them in the majority of my projects to some capacity. I first joined MSA in 2016 but need to update and renew my student membership. I am interested to expand my myco-horizons to learn more about other types of fungi and research that folks are doing in this field. As an undergraduate at Indiana University I served as secretary for an organization called Grad Queers which served to network and organize LGBTQ graduate students on campus. While in that position I handled monies and kept the group’s leger. I look forward to more opportunities to connect with like-minded folks in different parts of the country and would be happy to serve as secretary for the MSA executive board.

 

Webmaster – Maria-Jose Romero-Jimenez (Oregon State University)

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Hi! My name is María-José Romero-Jiménez and I am finishing my Master’s at Western Illinois University. I am currently doing research at Dr. Andrea Porras-Alfaro Fungal Ecology laboratory characterizing Darksidea species and the effect they have on grasses. This Fall I will start a PhD at Oregon State University at Posy Busby’s lab. I have attended several MSA meetings and always enjoyed the great environment. For the past year I have been the webmaster for the Student Section and liked it! I would like to support and bring more to the society through the webmaster position of the Student Section Website. At WIU I am the vice-president of the Biology Graduate Student Association and we participate in several outreach activities like Biology Day, Discover Western and Girl Scout STEM. If we are aware of a conference, we send emails with deadlines for registrations and abstract submission. I also was a co-chair for the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference this year. As a member of the Fungal Ecology Lab, I co-coordinated the botany section of Harry Potter Summer Camp and helped in other outreach activities. One of the things I like is sharing with everyone our work and the outreach activities we do either on the Facebook page of the lab.

 

Merch Chair – Samantha Lynn Harrow (University of Wisconsin – Madison)

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Lynn is a Ph.D. candidate in the Pringle lab in the Department of Botany at UW-Madison and has a background in synthetic organic chemistry, natural products chemistry, and plant ecology. Her primary interests are centered on the biochemistry and ecology of plant and fungal secondary compounds. Her current research focuses on the population genomics and biosynthetic pathway of toxins in Amanita phalloides. She is using bioinformatics, genomics, and heterologous expression to understand the genetic underpinnings of this system as well as the intraspecific variation of individuals across North America and Europe.

 

Communication Chair – Gillian Bergmann (University of California, Davis)

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Gillian is currently working as a lab technician at Oregon State University, and will be starting as a Ph.D. student in the UC Davis Ecology program this fall to study seed mycobiome assembly. During her bachelor’s degree at Oregon State, Gillian was the OSU Cycling Club media coordinator and the OSU Mycology Club webmaster for several years. In these positions, Gillian shared club updates on their respective websites and social media platforms, acted as club photographer, and worked with club members to gather event photos for dissemination online. She also redesigned the website for the OSU Cycling Club, and set up the OSU Mycology Club website as it’s first media officer. As a lab technician, she assisted in revitalizing the OSU Mycology Club, and is working with Dr. Jessie Uehling to establish social media accounts for the Oregon Mycoflora Project. She also uses her personal website to share her research and experiences as an early career scientist. When she participated in the MSA meeting last year, she was struck by how welcoming and supportive everyone in the student section was. Gillian would like to contribute to supportive community through serving as the communication chair. 

 

Treasurer – Soleil Young (University of Wisconsin – Madison)

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I am currently a second-year graduate student in the Currie lab at UW-Madison, where I study the evolution of the fungal cultivar of leaf-cutting ants. I am particularly interested in how mutualisms shape the dynamics of sexual reproduction in microbial eukaryotes, and the active role that fungal mutualists play in establishment and maintenance of symbioses. The fungi have agency too! I am running for treasurer because I want to get more involved in the MSA student section and contribute to a society that has been welcoming and informative. I did my undergraduate work on bacteria, and only recently transitioned to studying fungi, but many members of MSA have mentored me during this transition. Although I have never served as a treasurer, during my undergraduate at Syracuse University, I was the managing editor of my school’s LGBTQ magazine, The OutCrowd, for three years. I am also currently working on a zine highlighting both historical women in science who have been largely overlooked or had their accomplishments stolen by male counterparts, and current women scientists involved in science communication. 

 

Postdoctoral Representative – Arthur Grupe (University of Colorado, Boulder)

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Hello! I am Arthur Grupe, a Post-Doctoral Scholar at University of Colorado Boulder with Dr. Alisha Quandt. I study host jumping in entomopathogenic fungi. Prior to this, I studied the ecology and systematics of the pecan truffle (Tuber lyonii) and related species in commercial pecan orchards in Georgia. This work at the University of Florida (UF) with Dr. Matthew Smith led to my PhD. Before that I studied diversity and evolution of tooth fungi (Sarcodon species) from Central and South America at Humboldt State University with Dr. Terry Henkel for my Master’s thesis. My leadership experience includes being president of the local mycology club, Florida Academic Lichen and Fungal Enthusiasts League (F.A.L.A.F.E.L.) at UF and regular contributions to citizen scientist projects such as the Mycoflora project and macrofungal identification special interest groups on social media. My mentoring experience includes training undergraduate and high school researchers, and receiving excellent mentorship at multiple career phases. My goals for being the post doc representative on the MSA Student Section would be to organize workshops/discussions on: 1) Being a competitive candidate for permanent jobs in academia or industry; 2) Post Doc Life: how to manage? 3) mental health resources and strategies (we all know this is a weird spot in our career); 4) diversity and inclusion in academia; 5) successful techniques for teaching/creating undergrad/grad classes that utilize an inclusive pedagogy; 6) your idea! Thank you for your time and consideration.

Savannah Gentry

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

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

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.

Sara Getson -December 2019

Student Spotlights: December

Sara Getson

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Hails originally from State College, Pennsylvania where she received bachelor’s
degrees in Plant Science and French Language. She is currently a master’s student
in her final year studying under Dr. Mary Hausbeck at Michigan State University.

Tell us about your project!
So, I am really excited to be working on two different crops; Asparagus in Michigan and ginseng in Wisconsin and the Fusarium species affecting these systems. After nearly 30 years since the last survey of Fusarium species found in Michigan asparagus fields, my research is focusing on creating a new baseline for this pathogen for our growers. This is important because asparagus may take 2-3 years of establishment in a field before a harvest may be taken, consequently, if Fusarium isn’t managed effectively, it could mean a significantly reduced yield and revenue for our growers. To do this, I sampled crowns from a variety of growers and cultured them in order to get an idea of what species were present. This data will be able to help researchers focus management strategies on these most prevalent Fusaria. The other portion of my project centers on Fusarium species found in the ginseng perennial system as well. Ginseng is a high value crop and (like asparagus) may take a number of years to fully mature, thus pathogen management from the start is critical. Again, in order to manage this pathogen, we first need a baseline for what we might expect to find and control. This is where my survey project fits in, in order to develop that baseline data.It’s really super exciting to see all of the different morphological structures for each of these species!
Awards you would like to brag about?
I was the American Phytopathological Society National Meeting recipient of the Efrat Gamliel-Atinsky and Joseph P. Fulton Joint Student Travel Award in 2019! I also received a scholarship from the Michigan Vegetable Council in 2018 at the Great Lakes fruit and vegetable Expo and a Beneke Award recipient from Michigan State University Plant Pathology Program in December, 2017 😊
What are your career goals/plans for after you are done with your current
position?
After completing my master’s degree in a vegetable pathology lab, I will be returning home to Pennsylvania to co-manage a fruit farm and get some experience in fruits production in the state! Eventually, my long-term goal is to work for Penn State extension as an extension educator to work collaboratively with the university and with our growers to solve the challenges of the current day.

What is your favorite fungus and why?
My favorite fungus is Armillaria mellea (the honey mushroom!). This one has particular meaning for me since I would go mushroom hunting with my dad since I was pretty young and it is the first one I ever learned how to identify. It’s also super good when cooked well! 😊
What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?
My favorite thing about fungi is how many roles they can play in our environment, from helping trees and plants to grow better and faster (mycorrhizae), to plant rust diseases with intricate life cycles, to phenomenal decomposers!
Who is your mycology role model?
Hmmmm, this is kind of a tough one… I suppose I would have to go with Gerlach and Nirenberg who compiled incredible illustrations of Fusarium conidia and morphological structures.

Any great stories from field work?
Well, let’s just say that ginseng gardens require rather tall boots 😉
What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
Basically everything, haha! I love ballroom dancing, rock climbing, baking, cooking, gardening, mushroom hunting, reading, and a whole host of other things!
Anything else you’d like to talk about?
I really love teaching and it’s been a lot of fun to work with the Midwest Mycology Information program in Michigan to lecture for their mushroom hunting certification courses. This program is the first of its kind and helps to better inform those who wish to collect wild mushrooms and sell to restaurants and farmer’s markets for example!

Regina Bledsoe

Student Spotlight – October 2019

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Regina Bledsoe grew up in a small town on the South Louisiana Gulf Coast. She is currently doing her research at East Carolina University Greenville, NC.
Tell us about your project!
While soil may seem lifeless to most, below-ground plant roots, fungi, and bacteria (and other organisms) are living life to the fullest below the surface. Whether we can see it or not, these below ground plant and microbial activities play a huge role in global biogeochemical processes. My current research is investigating impacts of long-term disturbance and fertilization on plant and soil microbial community diversity and how changes in community diversity impact wetland carbon storage. Human activities have increased deposition of nitrogen and phosphorus in unintended ecosystems such as wetlands which store a majority of Earth’s carbon. Because carbon has such a vital role in global climate processes, it is important for us to understand how different ecosystems will respond to continual nutrient deposition. Historically low-nutrient wetlands, like the one I am studying, are potential carbon sinks but are also particularly sensitive to increases in nutrient availability and can become sources. I am using a combination of genomic sequencing and metabolic assays to better understand how plant, fungal and bacterial community composition and function shift due to prolonged fertilization. Insights from this project will help inform future studies within the lab addressing potential mechanisms for C cycling in wetlands.

Awards you would like to brag?
NSF GRFP recipient and 2019 MSA Backus Award!

What are your career goals/plans for after you’re done your current position?
Between now and finishing my doctoral degree next spring, I hope to find a post-doctoral position that allows me to explore more culture based methods of examining plant-microbial interactions to better understand how shifts in microbial community members impact plant growth. I am particularly interested how fertilization shifts plant-microbial interactions from cooperative to competitive.

What is your favorite fungus and why?
My interest in fungus started through my stomach so I have to go with Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane). Its unique toothy pom makes it easy for a novice to identify making this one of the first wild mushrooms I foraged. And it is delicious! A little butter and aptly applied Maillard reaction with a dash of lemon juice makes a tasty meal.

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?
Among the amazing things fungi do, when exposed to UV mushrooms produce vitamin D, similar to animal skin. This makes them a rare dietary source of non-animal, unfortified vitamin D.

Who is your mycology role model?
My fungal eureka was only a couple of years ago after I attended a mushroom cultivation workshop led by mycologist Tradd Cotter. He was clearly passionate about fungi and teaching people how to access this wonderful resource. At his workshop, he not only discussed edibles and cultivation but also how he is experimenting with fungal cultures to answer his own research questions. Oh the possibilities! Much thanks to him for his introduction into the world of mycology.

Any great stories from field work (funny/interesting/something that stuck out to you)?
Have you ever done something stupid and while it was happening (usually about 5 seconds of stupidity) time slows down to a crawl and you see it in slow motion? Trucked loaded with sampling gear, I arrived at our field site a little earlier than everyone else. Then in about 5 seconds, I threw my keys on the dash and promptly hopped out, locked the door, and slammed it shut as my eyes made contact with the keys on the dash. Doh! We were only about 20 minutes from main campus and campus police would assist. I didn’t feel awkward when I had to explain to the police that we were in an overgrown field and he should drive in to a dead end and then get out and I would walk him to my truck in the field. I totally thought I sounded creepy and suspicious but he showed up a few minutes later and he quickly freed the field equipment and my keys. Thankfully the rest of the day was flawless!

What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
I like growing plants and mushrooms. But not just any plants, I tend towards wild natives that I have collected the seeds for. We often do not need to look far for beauty in nature but only open our eyes and see it. Two of my favorite South East natives to grow are Passiflora incarnata or simply passion flower and Hibiscus moscheutos and H. laevis. It can be challenging at times, especially since each species can have its preferences and it can take a long time but this also makes it more rewarding when things grow. Most recently I was tinkering with Cordyceps militaris cultivation but my favorite to grow has been pink oyster (Pleurotus). While waiting for things to grow, I like to do a little baking, sweet things and breads mostly. My cinnamon rolls keep getting better!

Anything else you’d like to talk about?
Please follow me on Twitter: @Gina_Bledsoe

Xiomy-Janiria Pinchi-Dávila

Student Spotlight – October 2019

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Xiomy is a Master’s student that grew up in Pucallpa, Peru. She is currently
doing her research at Western Illinois University with the guidance of Dr.
Andrea Porras-Alfaro.

 

 

Tell us about your project!
My project focuses on the description of a new fungus within Pleosporales
using multi-locus sequencing and microscopy, then I will try to see how this
fungus interacts with native grasses under drought and heat stress. Another
objective is to try to elucidate if there is host specificity of certain strains over
Bouteloua gracillis, B. eripoda or B. dactyloides.
Awards you would like to brag about?
My poster was awarded the first place by the Illinois State Academy of Science
in the annual meeting this year. I received a scholarship from the Women in
Science Club at Western Illinois University.
What are your career goals/plans for after you are done with your current
position?
I plan to pursue a Ph.D and study the evolution and ecology of mycorrhizal
fungi or fungal endophytes.
What is your favorite fungus and why?
I don’t have a favorite fungus but I love micro-ascomycetes. I love the colors of
the colonies and how these tiny organisms produce beautiful and amazing
sexual and asexual structures.
What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?
How plastic they are, how they completely change during their teleomorph and
anamorph phases.
Who is your mycology role model?
Giuliana Furci. She’s the first mycologist woman in Chile and founder of The
Fungi Foundation, the first NGO dedicated to the kingdom of Fungi in the
world.She changed the policies of Chile regarding the conservation of fungi.
Any great stories from field work?
Nothing special.
What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
I like watching drama or thriller movies, painting or crocheting.
Anything else you’d like to talk about?
Many times language barriers prevent students interested in any science to
learn more. I have seen many cases in my home country during the Latin
American Congress of Mycology that is why I decided to create a Facebook
page called Hongos Peru where I share recent publications, translate the
abstracts and post funny facts of fungi (All in spanish).

Tania Kurbessoian

Student Spotlight – October 2019

Photo of me. - AWIS UCR

 

 

Tania Kurbessoian is a PhD student that grew up in Los Angeles, California.
She is currently doing her research at the University of California-Riverside with
the guidance of her advisor Dr. Jason Stajich.

 

 
Tell us about your project!
Currently I am looking into studying fungi in Desert Biocrusts. Biocrusts
(Biological Soil Crusts) are a complex assemblage of different organisms
(cyanobacteria, eukaryotic algae, lichens, bryophytes, bacteria and fungi) that
all work together to survive in that environmental niche. There are biocrusts
found all over the world in many unusual niches but we have chosen to look
into hot desert environments. These desert biocrusts are considered to be the
desert’s “living skin” and many National Parks have started to consider this and
are conserving their diversity by asking visitors to avoid stepping off the trails.
My work looks into a later successional biocrust composed mainly of lichen and
cyanobacteria. This cyanolichen crust main lichen species is a Collema sp.
which helps us identify the crust when we are looking for more specimens. The
general observations for fungi has indicated a variety of resilient Ascomycetes
but also a propensity to harbor black yeasts. I have been working on culture
dependent and culture independent methods of understanding the fungal
diversity of these biocrusts. Using a combination of minimal media and
antibiotics we’ve been able to isolate, grow and store these fungi. We’re hoping
to understand their function and role in the crusts through a myriad of different
metabolomic and flux testing.
Awards you would like to brag about?
I was the 2019 winner of the Emory Simmons Research Award from MSA!
What are your career goals/plans for after you are done with your current
position?
After finishing up my PhD at UC Riverside- I would like to do a post doc at a
NASA facility. I’m very interested in extremophilic organisms and the possibility
of panspermia depositing life forms onto new planets (this being a hypothesis
for how life started on ours).
What is your favorite fungus and why?
I spend some of my time looking for fungi that are really great specimens to dye
fiber with. Fungal dyes only stick to animal fibers and not plant fibers
(cotton/flax). My favorite fungi that I can get a beautiful dye from is Ompahlotus
olivascens, a west coast relative to Ompalotus olearius. When boiling the
fungus with the wool the natural color that comes out is a gorgeous purple, but
while using an iron mordant we can get a variety of different forest/olive
greens. Both green and purple are my favorite colors! Also these fungi are
spooky and glow in the dark.
What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?
My favorite thing about fungi is that we still really do not know much about
them. I also love how it can bring a variety of different people from different age
ranges to a table and to marvel at their beauty and diversity.
Who is your mycology role model?
A great conservationist, illustrator, and dabbler in mycology my role model is
Beatrix Potter. Her tenacity and love of arts inspires me to believe that
combining the sciences and art is vital to understand the complexities of this
world.
Any great stories from field work?
Didn’t think I needed hiking boots while collecting crust from Joshua Tree
National Park- the cholla cactus proved me wrong.
What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
Other than dyeing fibers with mushrooms- I like to use that wool to create fiber
goods, though it has been some time since I’ve dabbled in it. I also enjoy other
crafts such as needlepoint and tatting (not tattoos, a type of lace making) but
also fermented goods like beer, wine, mead and pickled things.
Anything else you’d like to talk about?
I’ve been working on my science Instagram/Twitter which you are all welcome
to follow me along this journey. Instagram: @BlackYeastUnleashed, Twitter
@BYUnleashed

2019-2020 Elections

Learn more about who is running and vote for new members here

 

Chair:

Rebecca Shay

PhD Candidate, Michigan State University

Rebecca Shay

Hello! My name is Rebecca Shay, and I’m a grad student at Michigan State University. I work in the Trail lab on Fusarium graminearum-host interactions, specifically the defense response to F. graminearum in barley trichomes. This will be my third year on the MSA Student Section board, moving from Communication Chair to Vice-Chair, and then to Chair. I look forward to helping keep the Student Section active in the society and doing many things that benefit our members and the greater science community. I love the opportunities the Student Section provides for graduate students and postdocs to get involved in the mycology community. Outside of MSA, I’m an Outreach Committee co-chair for the Mid-Michigan chapter of Graduate Women in Science, and helping to plan the GWIS National Conference this next year, as well as being on the planning committee of the A.H. Smith Lake States Mycological Foray. I look forward to serving the Student Section this upcoming year!

 

Vice Chair:

Robert Powers

PhD Candidate, University of Michigan

Robert Powers

I am a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan working in Tim James’ lab. My research is primarily focused on understanding the genetic, epigenetic and gene regulatory mechanisms during mating and heterokaryosis in the mushroom-forming members of the Agaricomycotina. Prior to my PhD studies, I received my Master’s degree from the University of Michigan, also in Tim James’ lab, studying both sexual selection and biogeography in the Coprinellus disseminatus species complex.  My passion for mycology bloomed later in life – my undergraduate training was in computer science and ethnomusicology. I worked for ten years in the information technology sector in San Francisco before deciding that my true calling was mycology. I served the last year as secretary of the MSA Student Section, and am running for Vice-Chair because the Society and the Student Section were instrumental in helping me transition into mycology, and I would like to help bring my enthusiasm and passion for fungi to other students as well. My previous experience on an executive board was as a member of the Tech-Underground technology co-operative, a group that provides technology services to non-profit, community, and arts groups – a co-operative of which I was also a founding member.  

 

Secretary:

Sara Getson

Master’s student, Michigan State University

Sara Getson

My name is Sara Getson and I am currently a master’s student at Michigan State University in plant pathology. Growing up in an Eastern European household, I went out hunting mushrooms with my dad ever since I was a kid. Then, in college, my love for mushrooms really blossomed as I minored in plant pathology and mushroom science and technology at Penn State and worked on research projects under five different professors there. Now in my graduate work, I have the privilege of continuing my mycology work as I focus on the identification of Fusarium species in asparagus, ginseng, and celery through genetic and morphological characteristics. Along with my research, I have had the opportunity to help with, lead, and present at many mycologically oriented activities and workshops at Penn State, Michigan State, and in the wider communities. Some include lecturing for the Midwest Mycology Information (MAMI) mushroom expert certification workshop for the state of Michigan, running hands-on mushroom identification activities for a Girl Scout troop in Pennsylvania, as well as the Graduate Women in Science ‘Girls in Math and Science day’.

Previously, at Penn State, I served as secretary for both the Blooms and Shrooms plant pathology club and for the ballroom dance club, as well as the webmaster for the campus Newman club. Because of these opportunities, I have gained valuable experience in and understanding of this type of position and given my passion for fungi, I would be honored at the opportunity to serve as the MSA student section secretary for the 2019-2020 year.

 

Post-doctoral Representative:

Lotus Lofgren

PhD/postdoc, University of Minnesota

Lotus Lofgren

I’m a finishing PhD student (Defending May 15th) in University of Minnesota’s Dep. of Plant and Microbial Biology, working with Dr. Peter Kennedy on mechanistic fungal ecology, genomics and bioinformatics. I’m a founding member of Fungal Garden, a living laboratory, gourmet mushroom farm and outreach initiative, housed on the U of MNs St. Paul campus since 2011. I just stepped down from the leadership board of Mycology Club at the University of Minnesota, where I have served since 2014 as secretary (1 year), outreach coordinator (1 year) vice president (2 years), and president (1 year). The club hosts numerous science outreach events, as well as public forays, mushroom ID classes and cultivation workshops, hosts speakers and organizes a mycology journal club. I’m interested in serving as a post-doctoral representative on the MSA student board to help as needed, gain experience on national leadership panels, and advocate for the inclusion of issues and perspectives relevant to post doctoral scholars.

 

Merchandise Chair:

Savannah Gentry

Phd, University of Wisconsin

Savannah Gentry

Hi, I’m Savannah Gentry and currently in the Botany PhD program at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. A part of the Pringle Lab, I work on fungal pathogen-host interactions and pathogen ecology, namely with Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola and Nannizziopsis guarroi responsible for snake fungal disease and yellow fungal disease, respectively. Outside of research I co-founded and am currently co-president of a graduate support organization for underrepresented graduate students in STEM named Community. Our goal in Community is to provide resources i.e. financial, professional, and cultural, for graduate students of the university. I’m currently the Merchandise Chair for the MSA student section board and have enjoyed working with fellow board members, MSA executive board members, and the MSA community to share in the wonderfulness that is fungi. This will be my second year and I hope to remain the Merchandise Chair, coming in with even more effectiveness and know-how than before, to help the Student Section grow.

 

Webmaster:

 

  • Chance Noffsinger

 

Graduate Student, Montana State University

Chance Noffsinger

Hello, my name is Chance Noffsinger, and I’m a Master’s student at Montana State University working under Dr. Cathy Cripps. My research focuses on understanding the diversity and distribution of Russula in the Rocky Mountain Alpine zone. I’m running for the Executive board of the MSA student section because I want to build a career focused on mycological research and education and the Mycological Society of America has been an integral part of my growth as a scientist. I want to continue to provide other students with the inspiration and resources that the MSA students section continues to provide me. Specifically, I’m running for Communication Chair because I believe scientific communication and outreach are crucial to the future of science, especially now when the public’s mistrust of science is uncomfortably high. I would be responsible for managing the social media accounts of the MSA student section and I believe that social media plays an important role in scientific communication in positive and negative ways. Therefore, if elected, I will make it my duty to communicate positive, useful, and informative information to our mycological community. I would also look forward to contributing articles to Inoculum and featuring our diverse community of students on our website. As an undergraduate, I represented my local honor society on the College of Agriculture student council and was responsible for communicating between the two organizations and advocating for student interests. As a graduate student, I’m involved in teaching and scientific outreach focused on mycology to undergraduate and K-12 students.

 

  • María-José Romero-Jiménez

 

Graduate Student, Western Illinois University

María-José Romero-Jiménez

Hello, my name is María-José Romero-Jiménez and I am a graduate student at Western Illinois University. I do research at Dr. Andrea Porras-Alfaro Fungal Ecology laboratory on the description of Darksidea species and the effect they have on grasses. My first MSA meeting was in 2017. The conference was a beautiful experience where I met new people that were passionate about fungi. Since then, I have been interested in getting a little bit more involved with the mycology community and sharing it with everyone. Because of this I am interested in the Communication Chair position at the Student Section. I think that the position will allow me to meet and work with exciting people I don’t know and learn new things. I believe that it will push me out of my comfort zone and it will allow me to share with many others why fungi and mycologists are awesome. At WIU I am the vice-president of the Biology Graduate Student Association and we participate in several outreach activities like Biology Day, Discover Western and Girl Scout STEM. If we are aware of a conference, we send emails with deadlines for registrations and abstract submission. As a member of the Fungal Ecology Lab, I co-coordinated the botany section of Harry Potter Summer Camp and helped in other outreach activities. One of the things I like is sharing with everyone our work and the outreach activities we do either on the Facebook page of the lab.

 

Treasurer:

 

  • Austin N. Frewert

 

Graduate Student, Washington State University

Austin N. Frewert

My name is Austin Frewert and I am from upstate New York and there are three interests that have always been in my life… fungi, plants and mountain biking!  I am studying soil-microbe interactions in the Cheeke Lab at Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland, WA. My master’s research is focused on synergistic plant responses to co-amendments of mycorrhizal fungi and biochar when grown in contaminated mine soil. I am also interested in the ecological aspects of mycorrhizal helper bacteria, bacterial and fungal siderophores, and the affect of our changing environment on belowground interactions. I am running for treasurer to contribute to the MSA community and to encourage interest and involvement in mycology. I think it is important to be involved the community, to encourage your peers and support them as they grow. I currently volunteer at my local bicycle repair co-op where I can share what I know as well as learn something new. I am eager to share my passion for mycology by contributing to the community through Inoculum as well as social media outlets, while broadening my volunteer experience. Thank you, I look forward to meeting you at MSA 2019.

 

Communication Chair:

 

  • Tania Kurbessoian

 

Graduate Student, University of California Riverside

Tania Kurbessoian

My previous experience in school or organization affiliated volunteering has been occurring for the past 8 years. As an undergraduate and Masters student at Cal State Northridge I’ve worked with the local chapter of ASM (on my campus was called MSA too, Microbiology Students Association) as the Secretary, Treasurer then President for 4 years (2012-2016). I’ve organized, planned and executed many microbiology related events (Beer Brewing, Wine Making, Networking, CLS). For the past 5 years I have also been involved with my local mycological organization (Los Angeles Mycological Society- LAMS), setting up events at the OC Fair and the Natural History Museums to better engage with everyday folk and to get them interested in fungi! Coming to UC Riverside I began involving myself in the local Micro-GSA (Graduate Student Association) as an outreach coordinator, Vice President and now President. I was the Social Outreach coordinator at another organization called AWIS (Association for Women in Science), and am now the Co-President. AWIS fosters stronger bonds for women in all parts of science, connecting them to proper mentors who can take them to the right places, and just being an overall support system for women in science. I believe organizations like these and the MSA Student Section only helps enrich the experience of being an early scientist and helps garner other skills that may not be available as just a student. Currently I am in the Stajich lab, studying the role of melanized fungi in biological crust systems through Microbiology, Computational Biology and Mycological techniques. Follow me on @BlackYeastUnleashed on Instagram and @BYUnleashed on Twitter for updates!

 

  • Megan Buland

 

Graduate Student, University of Georgia

Megan Buland

Hi, my name is Megan and I am a graduate student in the Warnell School of Forestry at the University of Georgia, where I study root-feeding beetles and their associated phoretic fungal communities under the direction of Dr. Caterina Villari.  I would be honored to serve as the MSA Student Communication Chair in the upcoming year. I have served as a core officer with Warnell’s graduate student association in the past, as well as serving on committees in association with the American Phytopathological Society.  I am active in social media, including Twitter (you can find me @MeganLou89), and would be prepared to assume such responsibilities as are associated with the Communication Chair position. Additionally, I am a contributing author at the Athens Science Observer where I greatly enjoy writing about the natural world around us, and would greatly appreciate the opportunity to represent the MSA Student Section in Inoculum.  I am passionate about fungi and would value the opportunity to work more closely with the MSA, and specifically the graduate student community, in the upcoming year. I hope you will consider voting for me as your Student Communications Chair and look forward to seeing you all in Minnesota!

 

November and December Student Spotlight

November student spotlight:

img_5308 - heather slinn

Heather Slinn is a PhD candidate at the University of Guelph and originally from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She is currently working in the labs of Drs. Jonathan Newman and Lee Dyer. Her current project focuses on understanding the natural history of the interactions between plants and their seed dispersers which are critical for terrestrial communities. Seed dispersers can have profound impacts on plant fitness and plant community composition by transporting seeds away from parent plants to maximize offspring success or providing the necessary conditions to trigger germination through scarification. However, it is not known how passage through dispersers’ guts affect seed fungal communities. Ecological filters that alter fungal community assemblages can affect plant fitness by providing chemical defense against antagonists and increasing germination. For instance, chemically mediated mutualistic interactions, where fungi and associated defensive compounds are passed from parent to offspring through the seed coat, have been well documented in temperate systems (e.g., this occurs in cool season grasses). In the tropics, much less is understood about these interactions. Heather’s research seeks to identify changes to the seed fungal community of Piper sancti-felicis (Piperaceae) after passage through bat guts. Piper is the same plant genus that the common spice, black pepper comes from. Her research evaluates the antifungal properties of an important class of secondary metabolites (alkenylphenols). This is extracted from fruit to assess whether is acts as a filter for fungal colonization prior to dispersal.

 

When she finishes her PhD, Heather would like to continue her work as a postdoc investigating fungal mediated interactions in Piper. She is hoping to graduate in 2 years.

 

What is your favorite fungus and why?

 

Cordyceps because it is awesome at infecting the brains of arthropods and manipulating behavior.

 

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

 

Fungi make an extraordinary diversity of secondary metabolites that play all sorts of important ecological functions, but also serve critical roles in pharmacy (e.g. taxol) and other biotechnology. We understand such a small percentage of this diversity, there is huge application potential.

 

Who is your mycology role model?

 

I don’t have a single role model, but there are many women that I admire. Posy Busby at Oregon State, Betsy Arnold at the University of Arizona and Sue Hartley at York University in the UK. I met Sue at ESA a couple of years ago when I was giving a poster presentation on plant-insect interactions. She asked me what I was thinking about doing next, and I told her about my new work on fungi in Piper. Her eyes lit up in excitement and I looked down at her name tag and I got really excited because I hadn’t recognized her.

 

Any great stories from field work?

 

I nearly set La Selva Biological Station on fire once. Faulty drying oven. I’m still not sure who put that fire out. There is no alarm system. I also found a juvenile Terciopelo in my room. They are one of the most venomous vipers in Latin America. I repeated that story to tourists at the station. They looked terrified.

 

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

 

Running, biking, reading, working on my Spanish, joking around as much as possible and drinking wine (Malbec is my favorite).

 

What are you passionate about?

 

I am passionate about promoting and supporting minorities in STEM. If you’d like to follow me for this, my handle is @h_slinn.

 

 

 

 

December student spotlight:

img_1048 - jacob golan

Jacob Golan is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, originally from Long Island, NY. He is currently working in the lab of Dr. Anne Pringle, where his research focuses on how fungi move – from across landscapes to across continents. He approaches questions regarding dispersal from a biophysical, genetic, genomic, and ecological perspective in order to better understand fungal biogeography and population dynamics. He is also interested in the intersection of microbial biology and intellectual property rights. During his time as a graduate student, Jacob has received several awards, including the NSF GRFP and the Chateaubriand Fellowship in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics & Biology-Health (STEM). After completing his PhD, Jacob would like to go to law school and eventually work in legal academia on the intersection of microbial biotechnology and intellectual property rights

 

What is your favorite fungus and why?

 

Hemileia vastatrix is one of the coolest! Putative transoceanic dispersal + coffee = amazing!

 

What is your favorite fact/thing about fungi?

 

Supposedly fungi won the American revolution…according to some, the British fleet was overrun by Serpula lacrymans

 

Who is your mycology role model?

 

Tie between Rytas Vilgalys and Anne Pringle

 

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

 

If editing manuscripts counts as field work, then I enjoyed editing my first chapter with my advisor in the bathroom of a former post-doc’s house. We needed a quiet space and we were down to the last minute.

 

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

 

I really like to read and to learn languages. Russian literature is by far my favorite

 

What are you passionate about?

 

I love working with undergraduates – it’s a great way to get extra help with your research and also to practice your teaching skills