Greetings, my fellow mushroom enthusiasts,
I wanted to take a moment and introduce myself to the Society. My name is Michael Burke Heim and I hail from Omaha, Nebraska. It was there that I found my affinity for fungi. At the time I was working at a restaurant and one spring noticed a flow of folks coming to our doors bearing 30-gallon bags of mushrooms. I didn’t know anything about wild edible mushrooms or plants however I was immediately struck by the flavors and aromas coming from our kitchen. It all came into focus one morning when a friend took me hiking along the Platte River to find this mysterious mushroom. Can you guess which mushroom I was hunting?
This coincided with a formative time in my life. Finishing my studies and needing to fill a general science requirement, I decided to study horticulture. Simultaneously I was reading Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which argued for ethical and reasonable food policy all the while encouraging personal food choices that reflected nature’s intention.
Marrying my deep appreciation of nature with a passion for food was the recipe that got me hooked. Soon after, I moved to Boulder, Colorado. Unable to shake the idea of finding food in the wild I researched my area for groups and resources. One google search produced an organization called the Colorado Mycological Society. Funny name. That summer (2010) I sent my check in the mail and went to my first meeting at the Denver Botanic Gardens. There were so many mushroom nerds all in one place. OMG, I have found my people! It was within the club that I really honed my skills and gained an entirely newfound appreciation for biology, and more specifically, mycology. I was no longer just a “belly hunting” outsider. I was learning so much about the science that the subject became equally as engaging as the recipes I was scheming on.
Fast forward to 2018 and I am now the damn president of the club. Strange world we live in. Let me tell you what I am excited about this year. We have already scheduled some really impressive speakers, presenters, and experts. Right off the bat in March we have Jeff Ravage, a front range forest manager, on the front lines of forest restoration, employing myco-restoration practices in the field. For April’s meeting, we’ve locked in Dr. Jack States, mycologist, expert taxonomist, noted author from Wyoming, and long-term friend of CMS. If you’ve ever tried researching your mushroom specimens online, I have no doubt that you are already familiar with the work of this year’s CMS Fair identifier, Professor Michael Kuo. He is the primary developer of www.mushroomexpert.com – an invaluable resource. While he is a professor of English in Illinois, he is most famous for his work on the website and for his contributions: Morels (2005), 100 Edible Mushrooms (2007), 100 Cool Mushrooms (2010, co-authored with Andy Methven), Mushrooms of the Midwest (2014, coauthored with Andy Methven). He is also co-author of a very special book that came out two years ago, written by Dr. Cathy Cripps and our very own Dr. Vera Evanson. The Essential Guide to Rocky Mountain Mushrooms by Habitat. Other big names are on the CMS horizon but we are working on dates, so stay tuned on that front.
Another exciting thing happening this year is the website. By now most of you have checked it out since it re-launched last year. But let me tell you, we are working with our new webmaster, Justin Reynard, and he is killing it. Our aim is to make a seamless, beautiful, and resourceful site for our membership and the general public to gather and learn about the amazing fungal diversity born here in the Centennial State. (Shameless plug: WE ARE ALWAYS ON THE HUNT FOR CONTENT THAT WE CAN SHARE WITH THE GROUP, PLEASE FORWARD ANY OF IT TO US – see website for contact info) On the new site, you will find all happenings for the Society, recipes, articles, scientific journal entries, resources, a membership shop (finger’s crossed), ALL THINGS FUNGAL.
I know that since Dr. Andrew Wilson has joined Vera in the SMHF Herbarium as co-curator, there has been an infusion of new energy and excitement surrounding the North American Mycoflora Project. It has all come into focus that we Citizen Scientists must play a larger role in furthering the body of knowledge on the subject of macrofungi (aka. visible mushroom bodies). What is a Citizen Scientist? Mycologists the world over are only now scratching the surface on mapping the genome of our wonderful friends, macrofungi. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the scientific community recognized Fungi as its own Kingdom, separate from plants and animals. The stated mission of the Project “is to produce a modern, comprehensive mycoflora of macrofungi for North America.” Regular members like you and I have a unique opportunity to contribute to a larger body of work in an effort of furthering our understanding of the subject. Lots of ground to cover and so much work to do. AND SO MANY Citizen Scientists to pitch in!
Finally, and most importantly to me, I am the most excited about sharing this wonderful club with a community of passionate like-minded folks. Walking in the woods with friends and family is the best meditation I have ever been gifted by the universe. Personally, given the current state of affairs, it is the greatest way for me to connect outside and to leave the negative behind. Sharing in the magic of the forest with our fellow man is a medicine that cannot be matched. I am so grateful.
Looking forward to sharing that good energy with you all! See you at the March 12th meeting.
Michael Burke Heim
~ 2018 CMS President