When I first moved to Pittsburgh a year ago, I joined the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club. Since then, I have spent many weekends going on walks and learning how to identify various types of mushrooms that are found in this region. A typical walk consists of meeting up at a location with the other attendees and wandering around an area for about 2 hours and then regrouping to share what we’ve found. A club officer is present who is designated as the main identifier to verify what has been collected by the group. The species are then documented, gathered and logged into a database that is kept by the club. Some are also collected for DNA barcoding to document and compare to other species that may have a similar morphology but are actually completely different species.
This past weekend the walk was held at Sycamore Island, which is further up the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh. According to the the Allegheny Land Trust, the island is “the last privately owned undeveloped island” in the whole county. At one point a resort was built on the island in the 50’s, but has been abandoned since and you can see remnants of various structures hidden in the woods.
Leucoagaricus americanus (Reddening Lepiota) growing inside a maple tree!
Mushroom hunting fashion.
Post-walk: the different mushrooms are sorted out onto plates and the reference books come out.
What I really appreciate about the mushroom club is that it allows for various levels of participation – whether it’s just a way to go on a walk in nature on the weekends, or a serious inquiry and documentation regarding the diversity of fungi in western PA. In regards to citizen science, I’m interested in being able to think of this varying level of participation that is needed of a user ~ a thought tied to Thomas Thwaite’s toaster project in the level of understanding a technology or system is required in order to be able to fully interact with it. (Want users to be active v. passive, but to what degrees?)