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Maintained by
S.T. Bates

 

COLLECTING

  Well preserved voucher specimens are essential to scientific studies (e.g., biodiversity surveys) that record the existence of fungal species in a particular locality at a given point in time.  In addition to allowing for verification of identifications, voucher specimens can provide material for future analyses (e.g., DNA for molecular phylogenetic studies).  Herbaria are essentially organismal museums were specimens can be stored, cared for, and entered into databases.  Prior to accession into a herbarium, proper handling and collection procedures will insure that a specimen is fit to serve as a scientific record.

  Nonlichenized fungal specimens are normally fruiting bodies (sporocarps) of the fungal organism rather than the actual vegetative/assimilative body of the fungus, which is known as the mycelium.  Collecting sporocarps is generally not detrimental to the fungus as the mycelium should be left intact after the specimen is taken.  A few basic principles govern the collection of fungal sporocarps: take enough, take it carefully, and remember the data.  With that sentiment in mind, consider the following points:

Take enough:

  • If possible, collect several fruiting bodies at various stages of development (particularly true for smaller species).  Characters found on sporocarps early in their development are essential to identify some fungi to the species level.  On the other hand, some characters are only reliably determined on mature specimens.

Take it carefully:

  • Make sure that you are collecting the entire sporocarp - if in soil, you should carefully excavate the base of sporocarp, taking care to collect buried portions of the stem, intact.  As you dig, be sure to preserve all structures that may aid in the identification of the fungus (e.g., the basal cup [volva] of Amanita species).

  • Excavating the base of the sporocarp will also allow the collector to determine if the fungus is growing from a buried substrate (e.g., Pluteus species growing from a rotting log covered with soil or a Cordyceps species emerging from subterraneous insect larvae).

  • Preserve the integrity of specimens as you bring them out of the field.  Don't mix collections together as stray spores only confuse identification efforts.  Inhibit spore mixing and prevent specimens from being crushed by wrapping individual collections in wax paper (tinfoil works for larger specimens) or place them in wax bags, paper lunch bags, or compartments of plastic tackle/craft boxes.

  • NEVER collect specimens in plastic zip-lock bags as these cause fungal specimens to rapidly rot!

Remember the data:

  • Good field data are essential to sound scientific reporting.  Data such as substrate descriptions and field notes describing fresh specimens can greatly assist mycologists in making valid identifications.

  • Locality data should be as precise as possible.  Note road names, mile markers, the distance to nearby fixed landmarks (e.g., towns or trailheads).  Although not essential, GPS data citing latitude, longitude, and elevation greatly enhance the scientific value of specimens.

  • All specimens submitted to the Arizona Mycota Project should be accompanied by an AMP Datasheet.

SHIPPING

  Ideally, all specimens should be dried before being sent to AMP to assure that they do not decay while in route through the post.  The sooner collections can be dried after coming in from the field the better.  Before drying, cut one specimen in half - this is particularly true for puffball or truffle collections.  Drying can be achieved by several means.  Consider the following:

  • Place well spaced collections on a commercially available 'food dehydrator' equipped with a fan.  Dry overnight at low to medium drying temperatures (90-125 degrees F), allowing more time for larger specimens.

  • When relative humidity is low in Arizona (particularly in lower elevation, desert areas), drying specimens outdoors works in a pinch.  Place collections on a paper plates or in paper lunch bags and leave them in area that does not receive direct sunlight, which can bake specimens on warmer sunny days.  Make sure that the drying specimens are out of reach of prowling animals such as neighborhood cats!  Depending on weather conditions, specimens will dry in a day or two.

  • Desert adapted species (e.g., Battarrea, Podaxis, and Tulostoma) are normally encountered in the field in a dried state and can be shipped as is.

  For shipping, individual collections can be wrapped in paper or placed in paper lunch bags along with the accompanying AMP Datasheet.  Pack all specimens securely in a sturdy cardboard box (no envelopes please) and mail to:

Arizona Mycota Project
c/o S.T. Bates
CIRES Visiting Fellow
University of Colorado at Boulder
Rm. 318 - CIRES Bldg.
Boulder, CO 80309

  The Arizona Mycota Project gratefully receives all macrofungi specimens sent.  We thank you for helping us in this effort!  Specimens will be identified and the field data added to our database.  Specimens with significant scientific value will eventually be housed in the University of Arizona's Robert L. Gilbertson Mycological Herbarium, and have already contributed new records of Arizona fungi to the Checklist of Arizona Macrofungi and Slime Molds.

Send your specimens today!

IMAGES

  Besides being useful to persons attempting to identify macrofungi, fungal images are often quite beautiful.  Ideally, it would would be best if every specimen sent to AMP were accompanied by an image(s); however, this is not always possible.  Specimens are collected when the camera is not at hand or persons take pictures of interesting fungal finds and don't bother to collect specimens. 

  In the past a camera equipped with a macro-lens and flash units (and don't forget lots of patience) were required to capture fungal images in the field; however, digital cameras now make it possible to obtain high quality images of macrofungi in the field with little more than a push of a button.  That being said, here are a few guidelines to help you capture the best digital images possible - ones that will be pleasing to the eye as well as scientifically informative:

  • Fungal images are often best when taken close-up, allowing the fungus to fill the majority of the frame.  Most digital cameras require the user to set the camera to 'macro mode' (often depicted symbolically as a flower) for close-up photography.  Familiarize yourself with the camera's instruction manual before heading out into the field so that you can easily transition to 'macro mode' when your subject requires it.

  • Shaky hands often destroy a good image.  Carrying a small, inexpensive tripod into the field can help alleviate this problem.

  • When taking a close-up image, the camera lens is often held very close to the subject, thus decreasing the focal length.  For a digital camera, the depth of field is often compromised when the lens is close to the subject - leaving parts of your image out of focus.  By increasing the depth of field, more parts of the image (subject and background) will be in focus.  Digital cameras often digitally recreate settings that one would find on an 'old fashion' single-lens reflex (SLR) camera.  By setting the camera at the highest f/stop number (e.g., f/stop 20 - often called a "small f/stop" because this setting creates a minimum aperture), the maximum depth of field can be achieved.  However, this setting will allow less light to pass through the lens, thus a slower shutter speed must be used to allow more time for the light to be accumulated in the image.  A tripod comes in handy here as well, because slower shutter speeds allow more time for shaky hands to blur the image.

  • When in doubt, try different f/stop and shutter speed settings as you can always delete those images that aren't satisfactory!  Practice makes perfect so don't expect perfect images right away.

  • Still confused - there are many good websites that discuss macro photography - try searching www.google.com with terms such as 'macro photography', 'close up photography', 'digital macro photography', 'f stop and depth of field', 'photographing mushrooms', etc....

  Please include images on a CD (or other similar media) with specimens sent to the Arizona Mycota Project.  Suitable images not accompanied by a specimen will also be accepted.  AMP images are now linked to the Checklist of Arizona Macrofungi and Slime Molds, and available for viewing via the World Wide Web.  Don't forget to fill out and send an AMP Datasheet.  Or, you can send your digital image via email to:

scott.thomas.bates@gmail.com

Send your images today!



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A specimen housed in the R.L. Gilbertson Mycological Herbarium.
(image by A.E. Arnold)

 
 


Collections drying on a commercially available 'food dehydrator'.
(image by S.T. Bates)
 
 

Digital image of Hygrophorus speciosus.  Note the species is represented at different stages of development and fills entire frame - displaying various diagnostic characters, including stem, gills, and cap.
(image by S.T. Bates)

 
 

Examples of macrofungi collecting gear - click-on image for details.
(image by S.T. Bates)