Photo courtesy of Jack McCann | Mycology club members out on a mushroom walk

Mycologists club: Fun-gis in the forest


by Alina Ferguson

Mycology is a very young science, a baby in fact. Up until 1969, Fungi did not even have their own kingdom, as they do now, but were technically considered to be plants. Mushrooms are not plants, contrary to what many may believe.

Some of the most prominent and common mushrooms in Humboldt are actually the edible ones such as the King Bolete and the Pacific Golden Chanterelle. According to Cal Poly Humboldt Mycology Club President Jack Mccann both of these mushrooms are very delicious. 

Mccann said what brought him to the Mycology club was cooking. 

“As a mushroom person I really love to cook,” said Mccann. “I think I like to cook first, that’s part of what got me into mushrooms, it’s just cause it opens a whole new world of food,” said Mccann.

The club holds weekly mushroom hikes on Fridays, which are open to everybody regardless of club membership. This is a chance for the hikers to go out and experience the forest through a mycologist’s perspective.  Every alternating Friday, they host workshops and guest lecturers. These meetings are more targeted towards people who already know about fungi. 

The Mycology club is having a two day DNA barcoding workshop on September 30th-October 1, 2022. The club members will learn about the process used to genetically test the species of a mushroom. This process can often lead to the discovery of new species. During the workshop, club members will see if there is a difference between different mushrooms on a genetic level. 

“We’re gonna borrow a lab and, basically in a pretty sterile environment you separate the mushroom using some primers, seek out the genes you’re looking for and then amplify those genes so you could actually read them,” said Mccan.  

Essentially, what Mccan said is that the club will be collecting mushrooms and then using their DNA to see if there are any genetic differences between species of mushrooms. 

“The machine, known as a thermal cycler, gives you a visual representation of what it looks like, you compare it to what it’s supposed to look like, what you’re expecting.”
All of the prep work will be done at the two day workshop. This includes the collection, the DNA sequencing and the comparison of the DNA. 

Then, their guest speaker Damon Tighe will get back to them with the results. Tighe is a mycologist working out of Oakland and is working with the Company Bio-Rad. He is driving into Humboldt with all the equipment.

The logging industry has a negative impact on mushroom culture. Unlike foragers, who simply take the ‘extension’ so to speak, of the fungi, what is known as the fruiting bodies, loggers do damage with their machines that dig into the ground. 

Logging practices harm the mycelium, the other part of the fungus’ body.  Mycelium is a root-like network that grows under the soil, it is what produces the fruiting bodies we know as mushrooms. According to Tighe, mycelium is just the vegetative state of a fungus. 

Treasurer Sam Parker said he was drawn to the foraging aspect of Mycology. 

“I first learned to do that when I was around eight with morels, and I just love being out in the woods,” said Parker “Mushrooms are a very diverse lifeform and I feel like they just kinda tie everything together, and I just think they are just interesting to learn about,” said Parker.

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