Alabama Fungal Diversity Project
Part of the Alabama Mushroom Society mission statement is "to promote advancement in the science of mycology." One of the ways we are working to fulfill that mission is by having a team of folks who are dedicated to taking excellent observations and collecting fungi in Alabama. These observations and collections serve several different purposes, as outlined below.
FunDiS Sequencing Grant: In 2021, the Alabama Mushroom Society applied for a Fungal Sequencing Grant through the Fungal Diversity Survey. We were lucky enough to receive the grant, which covered the sequencing costs for 50 fungi. This is how the Alabama Fungal Diversity Project was born. We started recruiting individuals that wanted to help us collect these specimens and the more we learned, the more excited we were to make scientific contributions. FunDiS helped put us in contact with the John D Freeman Herbarium at Auburn University where we could archive our collections. We submitted all 50 of our samples in November of 2021 and the results showed that nearly half of the sequenced specimens are either undescribed or have not been previously sequenced.
Data Collection: Primarily, by going out in the woods and logging excellent observations on iNaturalist, we are collecting data about what mushrooms grow in Alabama. There are many many under documented species in our state. In 2021, we set out on a mission to find Purpurcillium atypicola in Alabama. There was only one documented sighting that was logged on iNaturalist in 2018 here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/29178659 and zero observations on Mushroom Observer. As of December 2021, our team had logged 72 specimens --> A. typicola in Alabama Proving that it is not rare, just under-documented. We aim to collect data to better understand what fungi are present in Alabama.
Herbarium Partnership: In 2021, we partnered with the John D Freeman Herbarium at Auburn University to archive vouchered fungi specimens from Alabama. By the end of 2021, we had logged, collected, dried and sent nearly 300 fungi to the herbarium. These mushrooms are available for researchers to access and study.
In 2022, we started also working with the Herbarium at the University of West Alabama and have continued to build the number of fungi in their archives.
Supplying Researchers Directly: The magic of the internet has put us in contact with many different researchers who need boots on the ground collecting fungi for their research projects. Whenever possible, we collect and sent specimens to these researchers directly. We have, so far, sent specimens to researchers in 3 different countries and in 3 different states. Some of these researchers are listed below:
Future Goals: As we continue our work in Citizen Science, we hope to contribute significantly to the understanding of which fungal species call Alabama home. We aim to archive representatives of as many of these species at the John D Freeman Herbarium as we are able. In the future, we would like to have the funding to run DNA sequencing on many of our collections. We aim to add to our list of researchers who are in need of specimens and continue to supply specimens to researchers who are currently studying them. October 8-9, 2022 we will be putting on the first annual Alabama Mushroom Festival where we will be holding a large vouchering foray, with identification expertise by our many expert mycologists who will be in attendance. With the help of Steven Russell, we will be running DNA sequencing on everything collected at this foray. Our intention is to collect a large amount of data and specimens for archive at the herbarium where they can be studied further by researchers specializing in those fungi and to obtain a better understanding of the fungal diversity of our state.
Nigel Hywel-Jones is a mycologist who, along with his student Jennifer Luangsa-ard, originally described Purpurcillium atypicola from Thailand. He is now researching the North American A. typicola, with the expectation that it is a different species than the one found in Thailand. He continues his work in mycology in China where he lives. We have sent him 25 specimens of A. typicola, included specimens infecting aerial spiders which may be a new species.
Richard Tehan is completing a PhD in medicinal chemistry at Oregon State University, College of Pharmacy. We have sent him 1 sample of Ophiocordyceps sphecocephala and 1 Cordyceps tenuipes for sequencing with hopes that they will prove useful for genetic studies of Hypocrealean entomopathogens. We have also sent 9 samples of an undescribed Tolypocladium species.
Carmen Allen is a PhD student at the University of Alberta, Canada who is researching the symbiosis/hyperparasitism between certain fungal species and how their molecular components could be utilized in human medicine. We have collected 5 specimens of Tremella fuciformis, some of which were being parasitized by Sporothrix. We have also sent her 5 samples of Tremella mesenterica.
Sarah Delong-Duhon is a researcher at The Forbes Lab at the University of Iowa working on her PhD. Her work focuses on Stereum species and other members of the Order Stereaceae. We have sent her 1 specimen of Xylobolus subpileatus, 1 specimen of Xylobolus frustulatus, samples of Stereum comlicatum, Stereum ochraceoflavum
Rosanne Healy is a researcher at the University of Florida who is studying members of the Order Pezizales. We are collecting for her members of Pezizales for DNA sequencing and archival at the University of Florida Fungal Herbarium. We have sent her multiple Helvella c.f. corium, a Cheilymenia species, several Peziza species and several Sarcoscypha species.