While our meetings and most of our walks are open to the public, there are definite benefits to joining the Mushroom Club of Georgia and renewing yearly.
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July 3rd, 2019
Caitlin E. Conn, PhD
"Fungal crops, fungal pathogens: parasitism in an ancient agricultural system"
Leaf-cutting ants and their relatives have been cultivating fungal crops for millions of years. The symbiotic relationship between the ants and their cultivars is an example of mutualism; the fungal cultivars benefit by being tended and propagated by the ants, and the ants benefit by receiving nutrition from the cultivars. Another type of symbiosis, parasitism, also occurs in the ants' fungal gardens, when pathogenic fungi in the genus Escovopsis use the ants' fungal cultivars as hosts. Different ant species grow different types of cultivars, and some strains of Escovopsis are compatible with only a narrow range of cultivars. Other Escovopsis strains appear to be capable of parasitizing a wider variety of cultivars. The extent of these differences in host range, as well as their genetic basis, remain unknown.
Dr. Caitlin Conn is a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University who explores host range and its genetic basis in a particularly diverse group of Escovopsis. Her research aims to shed light on the ancient coevolutionary relationships that play out in ant colonies, but her questions have broader implications for understanding host range in diverse parasites and pathogens. As she transitions to an Assistant Professor of Biology position at Berry College in August, Dr. Conn is beginning to research local parasitic plants, which raise fascinating questions about mycorrhizal fungi and the signals to which they respond. She is currently designing a Biodiversity class for non-majors at Berry College and requests feedback from the Mushroom Club of Georgia on how to teach about and interact with fungi in the classroom.
As always, try to come around 6:15 to meet, greet, and share in some snacks!
(FALSE?) MOREL SEASON
It's that time of year again, when hunters hit the woods in search of the elusive morel. Unfortunately there are other (albeit much less common) mushrooms that can appear during this season known as false morels, the name given to several species of mushroom which bear a resemblance to the highly regarded true morels of the genus Morchella. So now is a perfect time for a refresher on the false morel from Tom Volk, mycologist and previous MCG speaker. And remember, if in doubt, do not risk eating it!
MCG features monthly meetings each year between February and November on a variety of fungi-related topics. To view some of our previous meetings go HERE.
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