Indiana Online Foray Case Study

Members of the Hoosier Mushroom Society (HMS) began work on a statewide survey of macrofungi in Indiana in 2015, with the ultimate goal of creating a web-based funga for the state. Indiana covers a large area; it takes over 5 hours to drive from the northern part of the state to the southern part. While many individuals would like to contribute to the statewide survey, it is difficult to hold regular forays that can be attended by most members.  Moreover, only a few members accounted for the great majority of specimens that were being preserved in the state. So organizers started looking for an alternative model that would allow for more participation by the membership, especially from areas of the state that are under-documented.

From October 23-29, 2017, the Hoosier Mushroom Society organized the first state-wide mushroom foray known to be organized entirely online. The survey was conducted over the course of a week, allowing a broad range of members (and the general public) an opportunity to participate at their leisure. Participants used the iNaturalist smartphone app to photograph and record geolocation of specimens in the field, with the observational reports and images being automatically compiled in an iNaturalist project called HMS Online Fall Foray.  It was also the first widespread use of the Fungal Diversity Survey Field Data Slips. Over the course of the week, more than 30 individuals recorded more than 1,300 observations of fungi. This included over 300 species of macrofungi, but more importantly, some 800 of these observations were flagged as containing dried specimens. Ultimately, more than 500 of these specimens were genetically sequenced, with the specimens placed in Purdue's Kriebel Fungarium.

Overall, the event did not take a significant amount of time and resources to plan, and the outcomes were far more beneficial than the organizers anticipated. The majority of the promotion for this event was conducted through the Indiana Mushrooms Facebook group (which has 2,142 members), directing individuals to an informational page on the HMS website (a copy of the page is appended below). In the weeks before the event, organizers sent free field data slips to individuals who were interested in participating. The field data slips, which are sequentially numbered, proved to be an essential organizational tool. Participants were asked to take at least one photograph of each specimen in the field with the slip (which also has a centimeter scale). The numbers allowed participants a quick and efficient way to organize and dry physical collections, even though few had ever done this before, especially at any scale. It also allowed the organizers an efficient way to search and organize all of the specimens, associated with field photographs, in preparation for storage in the fungarium.

Final Considerations

Despite few participants having experience with saving/drying specimens, the vast majority of the specimens that came in were of good quality and were exceptionally well organized. The top collector for this event provided over 150 high quality specimens, yet had not previously participated in any efforts to save specimens at scale.

Before the event, a participant form was placed online, with a question asking how many specimens the user would estimate they planned on collecting during the week. Many of the users were accurate in their estimates and few additional notepads of field data slips needed to be mailed during the week of the event.

HMS did not ask participants to fill out every field on the voucher slip, just participant name, species name, date, and location. However, many people filled out the entire forms. One thing we learned is the need to ask people to add their observation numbers from iNaturalist to the field slips. After specimens had been sent in, the task that took the most time from an organizational perspective was searching for iNaturalist numbers and writing them on the field data slips. One thought is to simply print out labels after future events that contain both numbers, and simply include those labels with the specimens as they arrive.

Post-event specimen triage at Purdue's fungarium

During the event iteself, the aspect that took organizers the most time was identifying observations throughout the week on iNaturalist. The quicker the feedback that individauls receive on unidentified specimens, the more inclined they are to continue regular collecting. For the event, be sure to have several identifiers lined up so that participants can get feedback in a timely manner. Identifiers do not have to be locals; they can be from anywhere in the country (or world), since all of the photographs are online. There were 3 primary identifiers for this HMS event, who identified the majority of the 1,300 specimens, at least to genus. Had the event been much larger, more identifiers would have been needed.

Participants mailed in thier own specimens that were dried and organized for this event. They were mailed directly to the Purdue fungarium, thus should have received a discounted library rate. There were a few small postage issues, primarily with people not being able to obtain this special rate when sending in their collections. 

Prizes did not seem to be an essential component of getting people involved, but we do think it added to the fun of the event. Future events will likely scale back the prizes.

With the success of this event, HMS plans to hold week-long online forays in the summer and fall of 2018, as well as a single-day online foray for each date that a physical foray is planned somewhere in the state. The proximate goal is to continue to seek out interesting physical collections of fungi, with associated images and metadata, so they can be sequenced and continue to add to the large database of sequenced specimens for the state.

Finally, be sure you fully consider your post-event resources before planning this type of broad-based online foray, where voucher collections are strongly encouraged.  Such events should only be initiated by organizations with the resources to conduct a local flora at scale. It takes a significant amount of time and effort to organize 500-800 specimens. It also takes a significant amount of funding to have a large portion of those collections sequenced. Looking towards the future, organizers expect an event like this in the state to bring in several times this many specimens. Thus, specimen triage will be a significant future concern. The real triage is expected to be done by experts after the collections are received, rather than attempting to have participants judge what is valuable or not on their own. If you do not have as many resources available, utilizing this model, but excluding broad-based voucher collections as a priority, may be the best approach, and can quickly provide a huge amount of phenological information about the macrofungi in your region of interest.

Below you will find an example of the information page that was produced by The Hoosier Mushroom Society.

HMS Online Fall Foray

October 23 - 29, 2017

Only open to participants collecting in Indiana

Top Prize: A pewter morel sculpture and $100 cash. 
Many other prizes will be given away throughout the week.


One goal of this foray is to help finalize protocols for the Fungal Diversity Survey. Indiana is playing a central role in this nationwide project. Learn more about what we are trying to achieve by watching the video below.

Welcome to what we believe to be the first online statewide foray anywhere in the country. Indiana is leading the way in this and it can be successful with your help. Since we are a large and geographically diverse state, online forays may be the best way for more of us to get together more regularly. In order to participate, follow these easy steps.

Before Foray Week

1. Request Voucher Slips - Place an order online. These will be mailed to you before the foray week.

2. Download the iNaturalist Mobile App - Both Android and IOS versions are available. Check your preferred app store for the download. If you do not have a mobile device, you can participate by utilizing the web interface to report your observations.

3. Join the "HMS Online Fall Foray" project in iNaturalist - You can join from the mobile app or now from your favorite web browser. You can join this project at any time.


Citizen Science Training/Foray
Monday October 16th, 2017 - Purdue Horticulture Park - 5:15 pm
Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 - Brown County State Park (meet at nature center)- 4 pm 
Monday, October 23rd, 2017 - Eagle Creek Park (meet at Earth Discovery Center) - Indianapolis, IN - 5 pm - Join Us

During Foray Week

  1. Create new observations of mushrooms you encounter. This can be done through the iNaturalist mobile app or web interface. With each new observation, be sure to select the project for your event and whether you collected the specimen. The mobile app uploads the photos to the reports online.
    1. Take multiple photos of the mushrooms with your cell phone or camera. Take a nice image near ground level from the side, as well as an image of the top, the stem, and the spore bearing surface (this gills or pores on the underside of the cap).
    2. If you intend to save the specimen, take an image of the field data slip with the specimen. Please review the information here for more information. 
    3. Enter the field data slip number into the field in the mobile app.

  2. Collect the specimen. Store your field slip (or the portion with the number) with the specimen. 

  3. Back at home, dry the specimens with a dehydrator or fan - Use the duplicate number at the bottom portion of the voucher slip to organize collections as they are being dried. Once they are cracker dry (usually 1-3 days) put the voucher slip and the specimen in a ziplock bag. Please put the iNaturalist number (in the URL of your observations) and the species name on the voucher slips. This will save us a huge amount of time once we receive the collections. 

  4. Mail in your dried specimens - Mail your specimens to Stephen Russell. These specimens qualify for the "Library Rate" since they are specimens being mailed to a herbarium. All of the specimens that are collected as a part of this event will have their DNA "sequenced" or examined. We are likely to find multiple species that are new to science during this event. Your collections could be part of this.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I have to fill out a data slip for each mushroom I see? No, only for specimens you are collecting. If you are simply taking an image of a mushroom to document it, you do not need to fill out a field data slip for it. Just take the pictures and create a report of the observation online.

2. Do I have to collect all of the specimens I see for them to count towards my totals? Yes and no. Any specimen that you cannot readily identify should be collected. We do not need 100 collections of Turkey Tails (Trametes versicolor) or Dryad's Saddle (Polyporus squamosus). If you know the mushroom is common, a picture will suffice. Just be sure to take nice, close images from several angles. No need to collect it. But many mushrooms cannot be identified from a picture alone. Also, we cannot get DNA results from pictures. Saving the specimens allows us to study them further, so please err on the side of collecting the specimens. 

3. Should I collect a mushroom if I cannot identify it? Yes! Unidentified mushrooms are often the most interesting ones. 

4. What should I call the mushroom in the project if I do not know what it is? Just call it "Fungi" and someone will come along and identify it for you.

5. What if a mushroom is large. Do I have to collect the whole thing? No, just collect a small portion, such as 1/4 of the cap. The best part to save is the top part with the gills/pores, rather than the stem.

6. Do I need the field data slips in order to participate? No, but it is strongly encouraged. It is tough to maintain organization without them. We highly suggest you order them to keep track of which specimen is what. Specimens change significantly as they dry, so you will likely not be able to identify the mushroom later in the process without some type of identifying number attached to it. If you do not have field data slips (or run out of them) use the iNaturalist number to keep track of your collections.

7. What if I run out of field data slips?  Several options. 1.) Order more. We will get them out to you next day. 2.) Meet us in West Lafayette to pickup more. 3.) Print off your own blank slips and write in numbers that we can assign you. 4.) If you are going for a large number of collections, we would be willing to drive a bit to meet you somewhere. Contact steve@hoosiermushrooms.org and we can discuss the best option of getting you more slips.

8. What do I need to fill out on each field data slip? The requested minimum information to fill out is the date, your name as the collector (you can use initials), the site name, and whether or not you took field photos. The field for Foray ID is not being used for this event. The more information you are willing to save, the more valuable the report/specimen will be for science. Once your specimens are dry, please put the iNaturalist number for each collection on your voucher slips.

9. Do I need to smell and taste each mushroom? No, but this information is important for certain groups of mushrooms. These sections of the field data slip are optional, but encouraged. Also keep in mind that taste does not equal swallow. You can taste any mushroom without fear. Just gently chew a small bit of the mushroom and let it sit on your tongue for a few seconds to see if any specific taste starts to develop. Then spit the flesh out.

10. What are the numbers on the bottom of the field data slip for? The "Voucher Label for Drying" can be torn off and stored in your tackle box or basket with the specimen. This will allow you to keep the specimens organized with the pictures you take (be sure to take a picture of the field data slip with each specimen for the number and the scale bar on the side of the slip).  The "Tissue Label" is not something we will be using as a part of this project. Please keep it attached to the field data slip with the specimens you send in. This section will be attached to the tissue sample tube that will be used for looking at the DNA of your specimens.

11. Do I have to upload the photos using the mobile app? You have several options to get your images/reports onto iNaturalist. 1.) You can create reports using the mobile app in the field as you go along. If you do not have cell service, the app will store the individual reports until your phone is connected. 2.) You could take pictures in the field without using the mobile app, and upload individual reports later once you are back at home. (This is often the suggested method, as you don't have to fuss with as much in the field and can spend more time enjoying nature.) Finally, 3.) You could take images with a regular camera and upload individual reports on the iNaturalist website through your computer browser.

12. Does harvesting mushrooms hurt the environment? The short answer is no. It is misguided to think of harvesting mushrooms in the same terms as harvesting plants or other organisms. There have been multiple studies to explore this topic and none of found harvesting to have a negative impact on the mushrooms being harvested. Mushrooms are only the reproductive structure of the organism, like an apple on a tree. The main body of the organism lives under the ground or in the wood that you are harvesting the mushroom from. Walking through the woods off trail (ground compaction) is likely to have a greater impact on the environment than harvesting mushrooms. If harvesting large numbers of mushroom species had any detrimental impacts to the organism, we would be the first organization in like to discourage large-scale collecting. 


Top Prize - Top Hunter: Most species collected/saved during the week
Pewter Morel Sculpture + $100 Cash

Big Day: Most species collected/saved on a single day
Signed Copy of Mushrooms of the Midwest - Michael Kuo and Andy Methven + $50 Cash

Rarest Mushroom
Book: Mushrooms of North America by Orson Miller

Best Photograph
Book: Mushrooms of Illinois and Surrounding States by McFarland and Mueller

Largest Single Mushroom
Signed Copy of the Essential Guide to Cultivating Mushrooms by Stephen Russell

Largest Edible Haul
Home Assortment: mushroom themed items: recipe book, cheese cutting board, apron, and more

Bonus Prize: Beat Steve's 2017 Big Day (211 specimens saved. No single species more than twice)
$100 Cash + ID Reaction Kit + Various mushroom themed gifts


Daily Prizes: Most species collected/saved for the day

Monday: TBA
Tuesday: TBA
Wednesday: TBA
Thursday: TBA
Friday: TBA
Saturday: TBA
Sunday: TBA

Fine Print for Prizes:

All macrofungi count towards species totals. This includes any fungus that has a fruiting body that you can see with the naked eye.

Slime molds count towards species totals. Lichens do not. 

Only mushrooms found within Indiana are eligible. You do not have to be from Indiana to participate.

For all prizes, a species can only be added to your total if you have photographs of the specimen fresh and you save and dry the physical collection. Our goal here is to not only see interesting mushrooms, but to allow this event to have long-lasting scientific value. This can only be done if specimens are saved. This requires organization, but if you follow our suggested protocols above, it should be a fairly easy process for you.

For the daily winners, individuals can win more than one prize, but an individual species will only be counted once per county for the duration of the event. Example: If you win on Monday collecting in Marion County, you could still win other prizes throughout the week, but you would have to make collections in a different county. Any species you found in Marion County could not be used again towards your totals for the rest of the week, even if it is from a different location in the same county.

Rarest Mushroom and Best Photograph prizes will be determined by Stephen Russell, at his sole discretion.

Largest and smallest mushroom prizes will be bases on size of the specimen. Entries must have photographs with some type of scale to verify the size. 

The largest edible haul will be judged by total weight of all specimens of a single edible species. You must provide evidence to support your claim. Only mushrooms harvested during the event week are eligible. You must create iNaturalist records for each find, but you can keep your geolocation turned off for edible species. Just fill in county-level location data.

Prizes will only be awarded once dried specimens are received at the Purdue Herbarium.

Purdue Kriebel Herbarium
Lilly Hall of Life Sciences
915 West State St. Room G-447
West Lafayette, IN 47906

About Fungal Diversity Survey

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