Meet Our Speakers

Jesse Akozbek

Jesse runs Feral Foraging, an educational platform on Instagram, Youtube and Facebook where he teaches foraging and holds classes and forays for interested individuals to come together and learn hands-on. He loves teaching as much as foraging itself! Jesse is known for breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized pieces that are approachable to all skill levels. You'll walk away with practical information that you can implement immediately!
From the moment Jesse took his first bite of bread made from acorns he foraged in his own backyard, he was hooked! Since then, there are not many moments you won't find him outside in woods and fields looking for wild food and herbs. 

Curtis J. Hansen is the Curator of Plants in the John D. Freeman Herbarium at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama.  Over the past 22 years, he has focused his research on herbarium management, lichens of Alabama, vascular plant floristics, and outreach education about the natural world.  He earned a Bachelors degree in Biology from the University of Utah and holds Masters degrees in Botany from Brigham Young University and Biological Sciences from Auburn University.  In recent collaboration with the Alabama Mushroom Society, the Freeman Herbarium has begun an exciting and important project to further document and preserve the rich fungal diversity of Alabama.  Mr. Hansen is a member of the Society of Herbarium Curators, American Bryological and Lichenological Society, Botanical Society of America, Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance, and National Academy of Inventors.

Curtis J. Hansen

Jay Justice

Jay Justice became enthralled with mushrooms and fungi while pursuing a graduate degree many years ago. After completing his graduate degree, Jay joined the North American Mycological Association (NAMA) in 1980. In 1982, he was instrumental in forming the Arkansas Mycological Society and participated in his first NAMA foray in 1985. He has been a prominent member of NAMA, and a well-known mycologist in the decade since. 
In 2011, Justice was the recipient of the Gary Lincoff  Award for Contributions to Amateur Mycology, an award that is given each year by NAMA to recognize service performed by selected amateur or professional mycologists.
He has been listed as a co-author on several research papers in mycological journals and he serves as one of the chief mycologists for the Missouri Mycological Society as well as a scientific advisor for the Arkansas Mycological Society, the Cumberland Mycological Society, and the Gulf States Mycological Society. Jay continues to serve as a lecturer and mushroom foray leader for mycological societies and mushroom clubs, particularly in the Southeast. 
He has recently co-authored the book Amanitas in North America, which was published in June of 2020.

Walt Sturgeon is a field mycologist with over 45 years of experience studying and identifying mushrooms. His photos of mushroom and fungi, some award-winning, can be seen in numerous mushroom field guide publications, three of which he co-authored: Waxcap Mushrooms of Eastern North America, University of Syracuse Press, 2012; Mushrooms and Macrofungi of Ohio and the Midwestern States, Ohio State University, 2013., and Mushrooms of the Northeast, Adventure-Keen Press. He has also written Appalachian Mushrooms, Ohio University Press, 2018, He was a Contributing Author to the Encyclopedia of Appalachia, University of Tennessee Press. Walt has received the North American Mycological Association (NAMA) Award for Contributions to Amateur Mycology, and Northeast (North America) Mycological Federation (NEMF) Eximia Award, both for contributions to the advancement of amateur mycology. He is the past president of the Ohio Mushroom Society and has associations with many other mycological organizations.

Walt Sturgeon              

Gary Gilbert

Gary Gilbert is a member of the Executive Committee of the Boston Mycological Association and is the creator of ‘Mycocards: Flashcards for Learning Mushrooms. He began hunting mushrooms when a Dutch friend took him into the woods of Maine around 1980 and continued study in the Pacific Northwest during graduate school. He is also a fine amateur chef, having earlier worked for years in the restaurant industry. He is one of the contributors to the ‘Fantastic Fungi Community Cookbook.’ and has lectured locally and nationally on fungi. He also has an ongoing column ‘Mushroom of the Week’ with the Cricket Press.

Tim Pfitzer is an avid forager who lives in Irondale, Alabama and co-owns Magic City Mushrooms, a gourmet mushroom cultivation business. Although Tim has been interested in wild foods since a young age, his passion for foraging was ignited while working in the kitchen at Frank Stitt’s Birmingham bistro, Chez Fonfon, where he prepared the seasonal delicacies of the forests. Tim co-founded Alabama Mushroom Society in 2018 and has a passion for sharing his knowledge. 

Tim Pfitzer

Rosanne Healy

Dr. Rosanne Healy is a mycologist at the University of Florida with an interest in fungal diversity, and a focus on systematics and ecology of Pezizales and Orbiliales. She works with Dr. Matthew Smith on phylogenetic relationships, ecology and biogeography of Pezizales truffles and their closest above ground relatives. She is interested in trait evolution, as well as when, and why pezizalean truffles evolved to the truffle form, and moved across the world over time. Her work also involes linking Pezizales (including truffles) with their anamorphic states, with the hope to eventually understand how the anamorphic state fits into their lifecycle.

Harte Singer is the Sequencing Lead for the Fungal Diversity Survey (FunDiS). His curiosity about fungi arose from a passion for cooking and foraging mushrooms in a past life as a chef in New York. After moving to California and then leaving a career in restaurants to pursue his love of the outdoors, his curiosity was rekindled. He discovered the legendary community science space Counter Culture Labs where he learned the fundamentals of modern mycology: microscopy, tissue culture and DNA barcoding. This led to stint at Cal State East Bay where he received a bachelor's in Cell and Molecular Biology. He currently teaches workshops at Counter Culture Labs, sits on the board of several fungal non-profits and runs a side business doing DNA barcoding and providing supplies for fellow community scientists. His favorite mushroom is Cuphophyllus russocoriaceous because it is one of the best smelling organisms in the natural world.

Harte Singer

Django Grootmyers

Django Grootmyers is a third-year PhD student in the department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, he received his BS in Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology from the Ohio State University where he also worked as a research assistant in the Plant Pathology department. His research focuses on fungal systematics and molecular phylogenetics, specifically dealing with the basidiomycete mushroom family Porotheleaceae.

Gowin Valley Farms is a small family mushroom farm run by Emma Reigel and Gabriel Harrison, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Rocky Face, Georgia. They are a pre-Civil War historic homestead offering indoor organic mushrooms to their community and educational activities, workshops and more at their Farm by reservation. 

They have partnered with Dr. Christopher Cornelison of Kennesaw State University in a 3-year innovative USDA/Georgia Dept. of Agriculture research grant — Piloting Sustainable Controlled Environment Mushroom Cultivation for Georgia Growers

Their grant with KSU looks to transition indoor mushroom growth to a modular, controlled environment with patented cultivation technology solutions that will allow a wide diversity of culinary mushrooms to be grown in Georgia that are not currently available in the market. Our growing data will aid in the understanding of this new technologically advanced approach to growing mushrooms by tracking the productivity and profitability of their mushrooms.

Emma Reigel and Gabriel Harrison (top)
Dr. Christopher Cornelison and Dr. Kyle Gabriel (bottom)

Alan Rockefeller

Alan Rockefeller is a mycologist living in Oakland, California. In 2001 he began studying mushrooms, and is self taught. Each year since 2007 he has traveled to Mexico to collect
mushrooms - he has now photographed more than 1,000 species of fungi from Mexico. Alan enjoys mushroom photography, DNA barcoding and microscopy.

Alan regularly identifies mushrooms for several fungus fairs in Mexico and the USA in addition to identifying on websites such as Mushroom Observer, various Facebook groups and iNaturalist.

A retired chemist, David P. Lewis is currently a research associate with S.M Tracy Herbarium at Texas A&M University. He has previously served as a research associate at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and is President  Emeritus of the Gulf States Mycological Society, where he has served as president since 1998. He has described many species new to science, and has several species named in his honor. 

David Lewis

Sidnee Obersingleton

Sidnee grew up in the PNW, and although he always had an interest in fungi, it didn’t develop into a mycological focus until starting school at Lane Community College where he participated in an undergraduate research program on mycoremediation. It sucked him in. He dove headfirst into mycology, continuing research and education at LCC, and eventually getting a position studying fungus-growing ants at the University of Oregon. He spent 7 years doing ongoing research and teaching, in both a professional and amateur fashion on a wide range of subjects within the field. He has a special interest in fungal genetics and mating, Morel ecology, fluorescence microscopy, and applied biotechnology to the ends of cultivation, mycoremediation, cellulosics, and use for their diverse metabolites, which includes dyeing! He really loves discovering novel uses for fungi to introduce to the field of mycology.

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