Macrofungi Added to Notes from Nature!

The Notes from Nature team is excited to announce the addition of content from the Macrofungi Collection Consortium!  This collection is a partnership of 35 institutions across the U.S that collectively will digitize about 1.5 million specimens that have been collected the past 150 years.  Macrofungi are important to humans in many ways – many people like to eat them, but some species are also deadly poisonous.  Macrofungi are also key to the health of our forests – indeed, most forest trees could not survive if their roots did not form a relationship with a macrofungus (called mycorrhizae) that helps tree roots absorb water and minerals from the soil.  Macrofungi are also an important source of food for forest animals and they serve as homes for many soil insects and other small organisms that are also part of a healthy forest ecosystem. Many macrofungi are very beautiful, and are the subject of nature photographers.  Their pigments may be used for dyeing wool or cotton, and for paper-making. Macrofungi are important religious symbols in some cultures.  Recently it has been discovered that macrofungi can play a role in the cleanup of environmental disasters.  Through a process called “mycoremediation” macrofungi are able to break down or remove contaminants such as pesticides and fuel oils.

The Macrofungi Collection comprises mushrooms and related fungi.  After collection, specimens of macrofungi are dried on a vegetable dehydrator or similar type of dryer, and then are placed in a box or packet with a specimen label that gives the name of the fungus, when, where, and and by whom the specimen was collected.  Because macrofungi are often very short-lived, documenting their occurrence with specimens is critically important for knowing which macrofungi grow where.

To help scientists answer the many remaining questions about these foundational organisms, they need access to data from collections.  Our project is to digitize these specimens and make the data available in a standardized, searchable form through the MycoPortal.

Although macrofungi (mushrooms and mushroom-like organisms) are not plants, they are still stored as dried specimens in herbaria.  The dried mushroom (which often looks nothing like the fresh mushroom!) is stored in a box or paper packet and is accompanied by a label that that gives the name of mushroom, where it was collected, when, and by whom.

You can contribute to a better understanding about these environmentally critical organisms by helping to transcribe data from the specimen labels into a structured format.   The folks who are capturing the images of these specimens have already recorded the name of the fungus,  so what we need your help with is transcribing the collection locality and date, as well as the collector’s name and number.

If you want to learn more about macrofungi, there are many sources of information.  Online, Encyclopedia of Life, which is also linked to the macrofungi collections in Notes from Nature, is a reference for images and descriptions of many of these fungi.  Mushroom Observer is a site where citizen scientists and professional mycologists meet to discuss macrofungi of interest.  There are also many clubs around the country where participants go on mushroom collecting trips, host lectures for members and teach the general public about these organisms.  You can learn about clubs in your area through the North American Mycological Association website.

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5 responses to “Macrofungi Added to Notes from Nature!”

  1. reddder says :

    I do not see a place to record the name and number of the collector as described in your project intro.

    • barbarathiers says :

      In this project we don’t ask you to enter the name of the collector or the collector number– this information was recorded when the specimen label was imaged– we’ll check the instructions to make sure this is clear– thanks so much for you comment!!!

  2. jylanie says :

    I feel sorry for Macrofungi still being at 0%, but I just can’t read the handwriting on these records. Guess I’ll stick with the Ornithological pages.

  3. Lisa Beck says :

    I’ll admit that I think transcription for Macrofungi is a bit more difficult than for the others, so I was surprised to see that the difficulty level for it was listed as “Easy,” especially when I saw that the Ornithological collection was categorized as “Very Hard.” I’m at a Sprout level with Herbaria and an Egg level with Calibug; I’ve also transcribed 16 records for the Ornithological collection, for which there is no badge level. Both Herbaria and Calibug are listed as “Easy” for difficulty level, but I am not sure why. In fact, I find the Ornithological collection the easiest of all. You don’t have to first draw a box to begin and in almost every instance the fields you are prompted to answer are present with data and require little to no interpretation/manipulation of information to fit with the field for data provided. Who decides the difficulty levels? Is there a standard with specific qualifiers used in the process or is it left to the curator of the collection? Either way, I think it is a bit misleading the way it is now. Regardless of the accuracy of difficulty level, I still enjoy contributing to these projects and hope Notes from Nature continues to thrive.

    • Robert Guralnick says :

      That is a really goood question, Lisa! I think we pretty much guessed, and I also think we made the Ornithology ledgers “hard” because its time consuming to get it done. We probably need to move Macorfungi to “medium” and we haven’t forgotten badges for Macrofungi — we are just a bit behind with that. Hoping for that soon…

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