Fungi. What are they? Where are they and what roles do they play in terrestrial ecosystems? How do they get their energy? How do they grow? What do they taste like? How do they interact with other organisms? During this two-quarter long program at the Evergreen State College we will answer these and other questions about fungi.
Fall quarter we will cover the fundamentals of fungal and biology, diversity, ecology and systematics. Students will learn to describe and identify fungi and lichens using chemical and microscopic techniques, along with a wide variety of taxonomic keys. Students will participate in a quarter-long project to curate their own collections of herbarium-quality lichen and mushroom specimens. Several multi-day field trips and day trips will provide students with an opportunity for collecting specimens and studying the natural history of western Washington.
During winter quarter, we will explore fungi through the lens of forest ecology. Forest ecosystems rest on a foundation of fungi, and students will learn about the pivotal roles fungi play as mutualists to plants and animals, as nutrient cyclers, disease-causing agents, and indicators of environmental quality. Lab work will focus on advanced methods and examining taxonomically-challenging groups of fungi. Students will also learn about museum curation by organizing and accessioning the class mushroom collection for submission into the Evergreen herbarium.
Finally, students will engage in a two-quarter-long group research project relating to fungi. During fall quarter, students will participate in seminars and workshops on library research and scientific writing. Each group will prepare a concise research proposal that includes background information, a project justification, a project timeline, and an explanation of their expected results or products. During winter quarter, students will carry out their planned projects and write a 2-page popular science article about their work. During the final week of the program, students will host a Fungal Kingdom Expo where they will communicate their findings to the TESC community.