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MSA 2021

Poster and talks on FunDiS community science presented at the 2021 Virtual MSA Conference.

DNA Barcode Identification of Macrofungi by Community Scientists.

Emily Cantonwine, Todd Osmundson, Stephen Russell, Bill Sheehan

Poster [view pdf]

 

Engaging community scientists in collecting data for conservation assessments, the Fungal Diversity Survey (FunDiS).

Gregory Mueller

Oral Paper

Species of fungi are not immune to the threats that put species of animals and plants at risk: habitat loss, loss of symbiotic hosts, pollution, over exploitation, and climate change. Determining which species are thriving and which are rare or declining is crucial for targeting conservation action towards species in greatest need. However, the conservation status of the vast majority of fungal species has not been assessed either globally as part of the IUCN Red List or in the US and Canada with Nature Serve Rankings. This greatly hinders the inclusion of fungi in conservation discussions, access to funding programs, policy decisions, and conservation action; e.g., state DNR efforts, Nature Serve through state biodiversity heritage programs, and international initiatives. A significant challenge that has impeded progress in assessing fungi is that certain minimum information to predict the probability of a species going extinct are needed including data on geographic distribution of the species, an estimate of the population size of the species, information on the change in population size over time, and information on threats, and if possible, solutions to mitigate the threats. Thus, much of the data needed to assess a species extinction risk are observational - what occurs where and when, and are these patterns changing. This is where community scientists / amateur mycologists can, and are needed to help. There are just over 1000 members in the Mycological Society of America but over 10,000 members associated with NAMA affiliated clubs and other amateur fungal associations in the US and Canada. Additionally, 10s of thousands of additional individuals are posting images to iNaturalist and Mushroom Observer. The Fungal Diversity Survey (FunDiS) is developing tools, creating incentives, and providing coordination to engage these community scientists in generating data needed for conservation assessments and to advocate for conservation action.

 

The Rare 10 Challenge, a community-science project documenting rare and threatened fungi in service of conservation

Sigrid Jakob, Bitty Roy, Christin Swearingen, Roo Vandegrift, Else Vellinga, Danny Haelewaters

Oral Paper

Determining which fungal species are thriving and which are rare or declining is crucial for targeting conservation action. Decision-makers need accurate information on the distributional trends of fungi, but data are lacking for the majority of species. Of the thus far 120,000 species that have been assessed for the IUCN Red List only 371 are fungi. This hinders their inclusion in conservation discussions, access to funding programs, policy decisions, and conservation action. Inspired by the British Lost and Found Fungi project, a volunteer-based pilot was launched in Fall 2020 to document 10 rare and threatened species of West Coast fungi with the following goals: collect data on incidence and distribution, generate sequences, and prepare vouchers. The 10 species were selected to cover a number of rarity levels, geographies, habitats, form groups, and seasonality. For example, one of the target species, Pachycudonia spathulata, was only known from 6 verified collections before our pilot. Downloadable pamphlets were created for the project with detailed information on habitat, distribution, morphological characteristics, and lookalikes. Using email lists and social media, volunteers reached out to mushroom clubs, “mushroom influencers”, and nature and conservation-focused non-profits. This drove awareness, word of mouth, and significant documentation activity on iNaturalist and MushroomObserver. After 6 months, the pilot clocked 91 verified observations of 7 of the 10 target species by 62 observers, including major range extensions for two species. Throughout the project, awareness for the 10 Rare Challenge was maintained by posting species information and celebrating finds and finders on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). One-on-one outreach to finders resulted in rich descriptions of habitats and hosts, and netted 20 vouchers, some of species with almost no sequence data in NCBI Genbank. In addition to the observations and vouchers, the pilot also increased general recognition of the importance of documenting rare and threatened fungi. The project demonstrated that partnering with amateurs is a valuable strategy to generate high-quality biodiversity data at minimal cost, while at the same time raising awareness for fungal conservation. The success of the pilot has resulted in the project being extended for five years, in order to generate longitudinal data. Similar projects are in the planning phase, including a 20-species project in the northeastern US.


Report to MSA on Sequencing - August 2021

About Fungal Diversity Survey

FunDiS is dedicated to a world in which the fungal kingdom is fully documented, understood, appreciated and protected.