Alabama Mushroom Society

Citizen Science 
How To Take Scientifically Useful Observations

Current estimates suggest that the total number of fungi species is around 3.8 million. Less than 10%  of those have been identified.₁ Alabama ranks as one of the top US States in biodiversity.₂ Despite this fact, Alabama fungi are underrepresented in online databases. These two facts mean there is a very good chance you are finding fungi that have not been previously described to science!

The Global Red List, which lists threatened and endangered species, only includes 408 of the 3.8 mil total species due to lack of data. For comparison, there are 1756 protected species of the 43,557 total vascular plants.₃ Knowing which mushrooms are where and when is vitally important to being able to study and protect them.


It is citizen scientists like us who are helping gather the data for further study by professional mycologists. Citizen Science just means scientific research done by non-professionals- like you and me!  Mycological research tends to be underfunded, and due to budget cuts, there are fewer university mycologists to do this research than there used to be.  

Are you interested in learning to take high-quality observations of fungi to contribute to the future of mycology? Read through the information below for how to take high quality observations on iNaturlist. Want to do more? 

We have partnered with the John D. Freeman Herbarium at Auburn University to collect, ID and dry fungi to contribute to their collection, where the samples can be studied in the future by mycologists. Learn the proper steps below!

>Be sure your Location Permissions on your phone are ON to document WHERE you found it.

>Images need to be clear, well-lit, in focus and the mushroom needs to be relatively large in the photo so it's detail can be seen clearly.

>No immature, old, or damaged specimens.

>Be sure you get a photo of each criteria as explained below. It often takes several attempts to get adequate lighting and focus. You should end up with a minimum of 4 final photos (#1-4, as #5-7 are not always necessary or possible. 

>Be sure your Location on your phone is ON to document WHERE you found it. You also must grant location permissions in setting for both your camera and the iNaturalist app.

>Images need to be clear, well-lit, in focus, and the mushroom needs to be relatively large in the picture so its details can be seen clearly.

>Color and texture are best documented in natural light.

>No immature, old, or damaged specimens.

>Be sure you get a great photo showing each criteria. There should be a MINIMUM of 5 photos (#1-5 below, as #6-8 are not always necessary or possible) But it often takes several photos to get adequate lighting and focus.


Field data sheets are used to:

>Associate photos with collected specimens, for identification and for recording description information.

Improve photo-documentation skills by providing an ever-present checklist in the field of what to pay attention to and photograph.

>Provides a scale to indicate size.

>Associate photos with specimens after drying for vouchering and sequencing.

>Additional notes can be written on the back. Please write the address of where you collected the specimen from on the back.

We can ONLY archive specimens that have the proper information recorded. Much of this information is impossible to determine even a short time later. This is what makes your observations so important!

>Print the field data sheet here 4 to a page in landscape orientation. Set printer settings to "fill"
 AMS Field Data Sheet.png
OR a pad of 50 sheets can be purchased from this website using our project name "Fungi of Alabama FunDiS" and our project number 1145:


Photos That Are ALWAYS Necessary

#1 In Situ

Photo of fungus before you pick it. Show it’s habitat. Note species of tree (conifer or hardwood?) if growing on wood, or take an additional photo of leaves and bark to indicate ID if you don’t know. Take photos of nearby trees if you don't know their names.

#2 Cap 

Close up of the cap.

#3 Stipe

Show the entire stem of the mushroom. Keep your thumb out of the way. When you dig it up, dig deep to get the complete base.

#4 Gills

Close up of the gills. Its important to show how the gills are attached to the stipe and also the presence of any short gills, the edges etc.

#5 Photo with Field Datasheet

Fill out as much of the sheet as possible. Be sure you have AT LEAST written in a temp number, if you don't have the iNaturalist number yet. Set mushroom next to the sheet to show size.

Photos That Are Sometimes Necessary