Join Maria Morrow and Christian Schwarz for a comprehensive introduction to the forest mushrooms of California and the Pacific Northwest!
Over the course of this series we cover foundational topics ranging from the fundamentals of mushroom identification to basic fungal biology. We also discuss the fascinating complexities of the bigger picture: Patterns of ecology, evolution, and biogeography. The series closes with community-science challenges to participate in over the course of the upcoming years!
Part 1: Welcome to the World of Mushrooms
- In our first session we’ll unfurl our mental sails to the wind, catching up quickly on the fundamentals of the fungal lifestyle, and taking a brisk survey of the enormous diversity of this branch of the tree of life. This foundation will allow us a deeper understanding and appreciation for the subtle intertwinings of morphology, ecology, and evolution that we discuss later on. Our journey begins!
Part 2: Mushroom Ecology along the Pacific Coast
- From decomposing individual spruce needles to facilitating complex communications between unrelated forest trees at landscape scale, fungi have a hand in practically every interaction in terrestrial ecosystems. This class will highlight some of the weird, wild, and fascinating ways fungi participate in the structure and maintenance of forest ecosystems. We’ll end by taking a tour through each of the most important mushroom habitats on the Pacific Coast.
Part 3: Forest Pathogens of the Pacific Coast
- Fungi play many roles in forest ecosystems, and one of the most important of these roles is as pathogens. While some of these fungi can have devastating impacts, many native pathogens provide unique habitat, increase biodiversity, and contribute to healthy forest dynamics. This section will explore different types of forest pathogens in Pacific forests, highlight signs and symptoms we can use to identify them, and discuss their roles in maintaining ecosystem function.
Part 4: Mushroom Explorations
- The habitats along the Pacific coast support a unique and astoundingly rich assemblage of mushrooms. During this session, we’ll start by learning general principles of mushroom identification, including basic anatomy and vocabulary; as our recognition skills grow and we gain footholds in the vast diversity of fungi, we’ll end by taking a close look at some of the individual species and remarkable groups of fungi that make the western forests such a treasure.
Part 5: Gaps in our understanding / Future Directions / Threats and Changes in the coming decades
- It’s no secret that our world is changing rapidly and turbulently. We may lose a great deal of the biodiversity that surrounds us due to the twin threats of habitat destruction and climate change, and fungi are no exception. In our last session, we’ll discuss what can be done to fill in the gaps in our understanding of our fungal neighbors, and strategize ways to engage our communities in working to ensure a continued existence of these astonishing organisms.
Maria Morrow is a professor of botany and environmental science at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California. She grew up in the wonderfully damp city of Seattle and somehow managed to learn nothing about fungi until she moved to California in 2012 and took Terry Henkel’s Forest Pathology course at HSU. Since then, she has been digging in the duff, looking at logs, and even prodding at poop to get a better understanding of this mysterious kingdom of life. She studied fungal genetics and forest pathology at U.C. Berkeley and is currently working with the Humboldt Bay Mycological Society to survey the macrofungi of Redwood National Park. You can find her on iNaturalist as YipKiyay or every third Wednesday of the month on Zoom with HBMS.
Christian Schwarz studied Ecology and Evolution at UC Santa Cruz, where his interest in the world of fungi became irrevocable – their seemingly endless forms (from the grotesque to the bizarre to the sublime) feed his curiosity. Christian now teaches Natural History of Fungi to undergraduates, and is a research associate of the Norris Center at UCSC. He is co-author of Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast, and now spends his time seeking, photographing, collecting, teaching about, and publishing research on the macrofungi of California and Arizona. He is a research associate of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and is assembling a mycoflora for the California Channel Islands. He has also served on the IUCN Red List Working Group for North American Fungi, advocating for habitat conservation focused on fungi. He is passionate about biodiversity in general, and especially in the philosophy and practice of community science (especially through the use of iNaturalist). You can find his blog at www.Biodiversiphile.com
Violet Hales (verified owner) –
This was an amazing class. I learned so much more than I expected. I really appreciated the wide spectrum of knowledge that was covered throughout the course. At the end of the class I only had more questions and it left me excited to know more about the world of mushrooms.
John Nagle (verified owner) –
I found the course worth my time and money. Thank you for the links to the recordings. i intend on viewing session 3 and 4 again. The instruction had great energy and kept me engaged. Thank you
Sean Meehan (verified owner) –
Backcountry Press consistently produces top flight natural history content across many platforms. In the COVID era, their innovative and refreshing webinars have personally opened up so many new doors for me in the realms of nature inquiry and adventure. This webinar has been a quantum leap for me in fungi knowledge and I can’t recommend it highly enough!
Firefly M. (verified owner) –
This class was so well taught! The class felt accessible and engaging the entire time. Especially loved the last 2 classes. Overall, great relevant classes and left me feeling both satisfied as well as thirsty for more knowledge in the best possible way. Thanks!
Brooke (verified owner) –
This class was a delight! Maria and Christian offer their knowledge of mushrooms in an approachable and enthusiastic manner that is super engaging. Their curiosity, openness, and love for nature was infectious. I particularly appreciated that the class looked at the broader ecology of fungi. I learned a ton and had a fun time doing it. Thank you, Backcountry Press, for hosting this class!
Tracy Carrithers (verified owner) –
This was an absolutely inspiring class from start to finish. Christian’s and Maria’s passion and expertise were outstanding, not to mention their great chemistry as lecturers and educators. I loved that the subject matter wasn’t just surface-level identification, but that the lessons delved into the science behind how fungi behave and how we interact with them. Truly a pleasure and a privilege to attend.
Jeff Dillion (verified owner) –
Excellent overview of the field of mycology in general and how local California coastal fungi fit into and affect the local ecology. Maria And Christian are very enthusiastic in their approach to the subject and make the classes a highly enjoyable experience.
Tricia C (verified owner) –
Loved this class! Highly educational. Will take any future classes.
Bruce Newhouse (verified owner) –
Maria Morrow and Christian Schwartz tag team teach beatifully. They are expert myco-teachers and have fun doing it. The class content focus on ecology was so much appreciated. I really was sad to see it end, and am hoping they do more classes together. Maybe a fungal ID class, including field in-the-hand and lab microscopy? ” )
Karen J (verified owner) –
This was a seriously awesome course! Maria and Christian were excellent, exuberant instructors. I’m only bummed because it’s over now! I learned so much about mushrooms and am excited to take what I learned into the field. Thanks for hosting Backcountry Press! Excellent course!
Tasha (verified owner) –
Loved everything about this class and hope Maria and Christian plan for more classes in the future! Mushrooms are crazy and fun. Science is weird and awesome.
Steve Eddy (verified owner) –
ksuher (verified owner) –
Fantastic class, Maria and Christian were both excellent, nice to have 2 different teachers to add to add their experience, viewpoints and passion! we don’t ‘chat’ a lot but my partner and I feel like backcountry has become an extended family through all the webinars we’ve attended-we would definitely do an additional fungi class…..from Portland, OR
I had such a good time taking this class! Excellent teachers and fun host! It was jam packed with information that I think every level of mushroom enthusiast could benefit from. I will certainly be rewatching to learn as much as possible and enjoy being able to do so, it really makes it worth the funds in my opinion. I would absolutely recommend this course for any and all interested.
Kia Sutter –
This class was absolutely superb. Maria and Christian are not only deep wells of mycoknowledge, but they are able to articulate it with passionate eloquence. Their enthusiasm was infectious and I find myself viewing the forest ecosystem through a new lens. The class was structured very well and backcountry press did a wonderful job of compiling resources and making it all accessible and easy, which is very much appreciated!
Kemset (verified owner) –
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to view the sessions later as I was only able to stream the last session on time. The fire map Christian shared was something I am still pondering.
Harald Frey (verified owner) –
I enjoyed the class because it gave a lot of good information (what do mushrooms do, where do they live, what distinguishes them etc.), but I especially loved the many very high quality photos.
Teresa Mariani Hendrix (verified owner) –
This was a fantastic course and well worth the money. I’m a liberal arts grad but I’m fascinated by mycorrhizal fungi networks and mycelium. Thank you to professors Maria and Christian for making micorrhizal systems so understandable for curious non-sciencey folk who want to know more about Pacific coastal forest ecology. The enthusiasm of all the instructors was infectious…in a very good way. My favorite new knowledge: Gibellula! Take that, Spiders! Also, Armillaria – the subspecies that’s an evil conifer-killing fungus that can send armor-coated shoots snaking over ground to bore into new trees to begin sucking the life out of them. GREAT Sic-fi writing prompt.
Kate Connors –
Just another five-star review agreeing with all the above comments. The class was a great intro to a subject of mind-blowing breadth. I now feel I have organizational “hooks” on which to hang new knowledge. Well worth the price of admission!
Carey Craddock (verified owner) –
I loved this class, and it has rekindled my interest in mycology from 20 years ago. I’m going to rejoin my local mycological society, and have started my naturalist account for ID of fungi from the urban gardens of San Francisco!
Thank you to the amazing instructors and to Back Country Press!
Nancy Kruberg (verified owner) –
This class has been remarkable. It is easy to understand and gives us a great place to start or continue our journey in fungal ecology and identification. I feel it’s a great value for the money and time spent. The teachers are approachable and the flow of the content made so much sense! Thanks for a wonderful class!
Leslie Krongold (verified owner) –
I loved the course but I’m giving it 4 stars because I think it can be even better. I’m not a newcomer to mycology and I found parts of it a “little over my head.” I wonder if some pre-work could be provided and maybe an online glossary. Or do people just google terms? Some terms aren’t presented in slides so misspellings are possible. My favorite part is the incredible enthusiasm of the teachers and Allison. If you don’t learn anything (somewhat impossible!), they are certainly entertaining.
Lou Woo (verified owner) –
A delightful and highly engaging class, suitable for beginners from adolescents to seniors. Really enjoyed the material, as well as the banter between Maria and Christian — a natural teaching team. Highly recommend this class for all members of California mycology clubs (I’m in LAMS and SFMS) and for parents with budding naturalists aged 12 and up. Pro tip: screen share the course to your big screen TV. The huge fungi photos are stunning!
Stacey Kett (verified owner) –
Wow, so fun! I learned so much! Christian and Maria are such articulate speakers and were super fun to learn from. I would love a part 2 class!
Thanks so much!
Karen Orso (verified owner) –
This series is thoroughly enjoyable. The presentation by Christian and Maria was excellent. They are super-knowledgable, great communicators and charming. The classes were well organized and supported with useful maps, charts, photos and links to further reference material. And I found the encouragement given to listeners to seek out and contemplate our fellow life-forms very touching.
Ingrid Crickmore (verified owner) –
This was an amazing course, I learned so much about the fungal world and how it connects to forest ecology, in a mind-blowing and exciting way rather than dry and boring. AND great photos and stories about cool and weird macrofungi species as well as how to learn to recognize them. The presenters Maria and Christian were engaging, fun, and thoughtful of their presumably wide-ranging audience in how they organized and presented the material, as well as how in how they supported and traded off between each other. Not to mention amazingly knowledgeable about their subject. Sort of an intro course, but with deep insights and references to current research (and lack thereof!) that I bet would be of interest even to those who already know a lot about mushrooms. Plus great reference links to follow up on the course resource page for the course – which I heard Allison state would remain up on the Backcountry Press site “for perpetuity” so I’m holding her to that!
Cris Padilla (verified owner) –
Highly enthusiastic and knowledgeable instructors made for an absolutely terrific and enjoyable web series! Thanks Maria, Christian, and Allison for this special offering of foundational mushroom know-how! 🙂
Alex Liverman (verified owner) –
Thank you for a very accessible and inviting exploration of fascinating fungi ecology and biodiversity, in general. Christian and Maria are so inspiring in their articulate and easy going sharing of knowledge and encouragement to just get out there and dive in! Such great resources to keep relying on and revisiting as we remain vigilant in our curiosity. Although I’ve been intrigued by PNW mycology for a decade or more, this webinar series gives me confidence to get as deep into it as I can and just enjoy being in the woods meeting new friends (mostly non-humans!) to acknowledge and appreciate. And thanks Allison for the interesting lead-in summaries, enthusiasm for the content and organizing and compiling the resources. Backcountry Press has a new fan!
Patience Kaltenbach (verified owner) –
Great presentation overall, I learned a lot and will watch sessions 1-4 again.
Pam McLeod (verified owner) –
So delightful! Maria and Christian are outstanding guides, and Allison an amazing host. The course inspired us to start engaging in new ways while hiking; we were surprised to discover the wild array of fungi even in our own neighborhood. And as others have already stated, it was a great foray into the world of fungi. We’re just sad that it’s over. It was such a fun way to spend our Tuesday nights together. Thank you, Backcountry Press!
Dakota Sands –
Learned about the significant connection fungi mushrooms have to forest, trees, earth and humans. The presenters went a moderate pace that was easy to follow. The photos of species and other visuals were useful. The presenters answered questions as time permitted. Overall worthwhile!!!
Florence O’Reilly (verified owner) –
I learned so much from this class! Highly knowledgeable instructors; will watch
sessions again! Thank You!!
tony (verified owner) –
this course was so incredibly informative, and made exploring the fantastic world of mushrooms and fungi feel a whole lot more welcoming. i loved how enthusiastic the presenters were, and how newbie-friendly (without feeling dumbed-down) it all was. additionally, i really, really appreciate that the webinars were recorded, and that you can watch them back as many times as you want- this made it a hell of a lot more accessible for chronically ill folks like myself. even when i couldn’t attend the webinars in real time, whether because of a pain flare or debilitating fatigue, i didn’t have to miss out on the learning. the recordings also let me go back and take notes at my own pace, which helped so much with actually internalizing the information. basically, this was a phenomenal learning experience, and i will absolutely be doing other courses through backcountry press.
Vincent Parisi (verified owner) –
This class was well worth my time! Maria and Christian did a great job as co-presenters! Thanks!
kurt & anh (verified owner) –
Wow! – where to begin… will try to keep this short (ish). First of all a great big thank you to Allison and BackCountry Press for putting this on. And of course big thank yous to Christian & Maria. This was life changing stuff – as you can tell with the other reviews. The amount of time and effort (and fun) put into this was evident throughout the classes. You all should be very proud of what you have done here!
We are not zoom/chat kinda people so we watched the recorded versions (and continue to re-watch). Unbelievable… bought Christian’s book about 9 months ago and was so excited to hear about these classes. You could tell that everyone was a little nervous going into this (with the zoom stuff and presenting without seeing an audience), but this quickly went away as the mycelium starting to make it’s way connecting people. The level of expertise mixed with the sense of wonder shared by Maria and Christian was very insporing and made for a presentation that was less of a class and more of a magical adventure. This was (and continues to be) the perfect path along our way of connecting with nature and who we are (and want to be). From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU so much!!
Alison Moon (verified owner) –
This course was so enjoyable. It greatly improved my overall understanding of fungi and left me with the confidence to move forward in expanding my knowledge. Christian and Maria were wonderful presenters. Their personalities and passion shined through so well. I feel like they are now friends of mine, even though they have never met me. The topics covered over the five weeks gave a comprehensive cover of everything fungi. I was left with more questions but now I know where to start to answer those questions. Thanks again for hosting this series and I hope to participate in more in the future.
Jennifer Bergstrom (verified owner) –
This course exceeded my expectations in the most delightful way! I was thrilled that this course started off with a holistic look at mushroom ecology instead of just diving into identifying mushrooms (which was also fun). Maria and Christian were enthusiastic, thoughtful, and wonderful to listen to. Highly recommend!