ASSEMBLING A NORTH AMERICAN MYCOFLORA
Speaker: Stephen Russell (Purdue University)
Despite over 200 years of mycological progress, few regions have up-to-date surveys of the macrofungi (mushrooms) that occur in their area. This is especially true for surveys that are broadly supported by genetic data. Knowing a.) what species exist and b.) the range of these species is foundational knowledge that can inhibit many other lines in inquiry if the data is incomplete or inaccurate.
The North American Mycoflora Project is looking to significantly enhance our knowledge of North American mushrooms by producing a comprehensive survey of macrofungi across the continent. Since registration was announced in January 2018, over 60 individual projects – including Colorado – have signed on to begin documenting, vouchering, and sequencing the DNA of local macrofungal specimens in this new coordinated effort. Stephen Russell will discuss how you can make an impact on the success of this continent-wide effort.
Bio: Stephen Russell is a Ph.D. student at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he explores the biodiversity and ecology of macrofungi (mushrooms). His interest in mushrooms began with applied mycology, particularly mushroom cultivation, and is the author of The Essential Guide to Cultivating Mushrooms. He was the founder of the Hoosier Mushroom Society (www.hoosiermushrooms.org) in 2009, and still serves as the President. He is also a coordinator of the North American Mycoflora Project (www.mycoflora.org) – an organization dedicated to surveying all the macrofungi of North America – particularly through engaging citizen scientists. His current academic work focuses on creating a DNA- based mycoflora of Indiana.
The North American Mycoflora Project is a collaboration between professional mycologists and citizen scientists to identify and map the distribution of macrofungi throughout North America. It allows the scientific community to tap into the vast amount of knowledge and data amassed by individuals and mycology clubs, and can provide a new focus for amateur efforts.
Key components of this project include careful documentation and preparation of specimens (vouchering), depositing these specimens in a herbarium, and DNA sequencing to complement the morphological observations that amateur mycologists already use.
There are more than 10,000 members of North American Mycological Association (NAMA) affiliated clubs and hundreds of thousands of people in online groups interested in identifying mushrooms. It is no easy task trying to coordinate the vast amount of crowd-sourced field observations, but whether you are surveying birds, observing ocean species, or counting mushroom species, crowd-sourcing the field observations can help move science forward.
What is a mycoflora?
A mycoflora is a survey of all of the fungi that exist in a defined geographic region. It could be as simple as a list of all of the species that occur within those boundaries. The more metadata that is associated with each species in the list, the more robust and useful your mycoflora would be. Essential metadata includes dates and locations where observations occurred, color images of specimens, and dried physical collections of the specimens that were observed.
Who is operating the North American Mycoflora Project?
The North American Mycoflora Project is a collaboration between professional mycologists and citizen scientists – primarily involving the Mycological Society of America (MSA) and the North American Mycological Association (NAMA).
What species are most important to this project?
Starting out, we have no formal requirements or recommendations on the species to be selected for sequencing. We need more data from most species groups. You can determine, on a local level, which species are most interesting and valuable.