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.

Alan E. Bessette, Ph.D., is a professional mycologist and distinguished emeritus professor of biology at Utica College of Syracuse University. A member of the North American Mycological Society, the Asheville Mushroom Club and the Gulf States Mycological Society, he has published numerous papers in the field of mycology and has authored or coauthored more than twenty-five books, including: Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America, Mushrooms of the Southeastern United States, and A Field Guide to the Mushrooms of the Carolinas, and Mushrooms of the Gulf Coast States. His latest book is Polypores and Similar Fungi of Eastern and Central North America. Alan served both as a consultant for the New York State Poison Control Center and as the scientific adviser to the Mid-York Mycological Society for more than twenty years. He has been the principal mycologist at national and regional forays and was the recipient of the 1987 Mycological Foray Service Award and of the 1992 North American Mycological Association Award for Contributions to Amateur Mycology.