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Collecting Specimens for the MycoBlitz

Thank you for your interest in participating in the 2019 Continental Mycoblitz. The specimens you collect as a part of this event will help to inform our understanding of the species of mushrooms that occur in North America. Retaining physical dried collections of the species that you find is a vital aspect of the process that will allow researchers to study the specimens long into the future. A physical collection, also called a "voucher specimen," allows futher microscopic and morphological analysis, as well as allowing for tissue to be retained for DNA analysis. 

Please review the following documents as you prepare to collect mushrooms for the mycoblitz. Each document has important information that can help you to make collections that will have lasting scientific value.

Making Scientific Vouchers of North American Macrofungi: How Documenting the Fungi You Encounter Contributes to the Mycoflora of North America

NAMP: Document and Prepare Vouchers
T
his document describes general protocols for NAMP projects. 
Mycoblitz participants mail requested specimens to Purdue University.

Collecting specimens in the field

Learn how to properly collect mushroom specimens from the field and how to provide scientifically valuable documentation of those specimens.

What types of mushrooms are we looking for?

Each individual mycoblitz participant will be able to submit ten of their most interesting specimens to the project. Our foray mycologists will review the collections that are received and select at least 2,000 specimens for DNA sequencing. What will increase the odds of your specimens being selected?

The short answer is anything interesting or unusual. Your iNaturalist observations will be updated daily with a metric to let you know how potentially valuable an individual collection may be for the project. The metric will be based on how common a particular species is from your region and how many sequences of the species are already in public repositories. Our identifiers will also be commenting on particular obervations if the specimens would be of special interest. Ultimately, the decision on which of your most interesting specimens should be sent in will be up to you, but we help you to make the decision as best we can.

There are four specific groups of mushrooms that the DNA sequencing will be biased towards for this event - Cortinarius, InocybeAmanita sect. Vaginatae, and the Marasmiaceae. We estimate that 20-30% of the total number of specimens selected for sequencing will come from these groups.

There are some specific groups that we will be biased against. These include many non-fleshy groups such as polypores. It is more difficult to get good quality DNA from species with tough flesh, so the overall DNA success rates will be lower. We will gladly accept interesting specimens, but fewer of them will make the final cut for sequencing.

Key Aspects for this Project

Photograph the Mushrooms

When you approach a mushroom, the first step is to take photographs.

  1. Ensure geotagging is active. This project requires at least one "geotagged" photograph of the mushroom being observed and collected. Ensure your phone GPS is turned on and the geotagging or location feature is activated in your cell phone camera application. This will ensure the GPS coordinates of the specimen are stored with your photographs.
  2. 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). Most modern cell phone cameras have a camera that is good enough for documenting the finds in this project. You are welcome to supplement your geotagged image with images from a better camera, such as a DSLR.

  3. If you intend to save the specimen, take an image of the field data slip with the specimen. This will ensure that the correct number is associated with the correct specimen. Each collection will be verified to ensure the observation matches the photographs, collection numbers, and physical specimen at the processing center.

Fill out your field data slip

When heading out to the woods, please bring your field data slips with you. These slips are a checklist for the most information we request you complete when making a new collection. The most important fields to complete while in the field are the ones specific to the collection location - this includes the substrate the mushroom was growing from and any nearby trees (If you do not know the species of the tree, you can always take some pictures of it to include in the observation.)

These slips also include sequential numbers that can help you associate your images with the specimens and organize your collections once you arrive home. The numbers are unique to each individual field data slip that was printed by participants.

Collect your mushroom specimen

After you take photographs of the mushroom "in situ," it is time to remove the specimen for additional photographs and to place it in your collecting vessel. The most important thing to remember is that it is important to collect all parts of the mushroom. For some species, key identifying information may be at the base of the stem, underneath the ground. For these species, you may have to slightly dig around them to ensure the entire specimen is collected. Other key points:

  • Look to collect mushrooms that are in ideal condition (not decayed, dried out, or over-mature)
  • Photograph and collect specimens from a range of developmental stages - from small buttons to specimens with fully opened caps.
  • Include all parts of the mushroom with your collection - parts of the cap, stem, etc. You can also include a small part of the substrate with the collection.
  • For particularly large specimens, it is fine to cut the mushrooms in half or in quarters, or to remove the cap from the stem. 
  • Do not mix collections from different locations. All specimens for an individual collection should only come from a very close proximity to each other (such as from a small patch around a single tree). Specimens from different trees or areas should be saved as separate collections.

Transport your mushrooms home

Most people utilize a tackle box and/or a collecting basket with paper/wax bags to keep collections separated and organized in the field. As you are making collections, be sure to include the "Voucher label" number from the field data slip with your collections. This will help you to ensure the correct specimen is ultimatly matched to the correct observation throughout the drying process.

Drying your collections

Back at home, dry the specimens with a dehydrator or fan. The overall goal of drying mushrooms is preserve the specimen for long-term storage in a fungarium. Use the duplicate number at the bottom portion of the voucher slip to organize collections as they are being dried. You can tape these numbers near the drying specimen to keep them organized.

If you are using a dehydrator to dry your specimens, utilize the lowest heat setting (if that is an option. Once the specimens are cracker dry (usually 1-2 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.

Oven drying is not recommended as it tends to cook the mushrooms.

Uploading photographs and collection information to iNaturalist

Mail in your dried collections

Ensure each field data slip for each collection is fully filled out, including the iNaturalist number (at the end of the URL for the observation). Include the dried specimen and the field data slip for each collection in a Ziplock bag. Mail the specimens to:

Purdue Kriebel Herbarium
Lilly Hall of Life Sciences
915 West State St. Room G-447
West Lafayette, IN 47907

About North American Mycoflora Project

NAMP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to create a continent-wide community of volunteer citizen scientists and professional mycologists to document the biodiversity of North American fungi.

©2017-2019 North American Mycoflora Project. All Rights Reserved.

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