After 5 whirlwind weeknight classes and two field trips, our first session of the Beginner's Mushroom Identification Course is over - I say this with a mix of celebration (because I had a great time) as well as sadness (because there's so much more to do!).
During our course the mushroom season went from 0 to 60, and our two field trips were about as different as they could be: dry and warm with only a few mushrooms on the first walk, and wet, windy, howling and full of a great diversity of species on the second.
We achieved a lot during this course: by giving students an entrance and exit survey, I was able to see a lot of progress. Participants uniformly mastered mushroom anatomy and associated vocabulary, and although many had never identified a wild mushroom on their own before this class, everyone had done so a few times over by the end of it!
Not only that, but we made some significant contributions to our local knowledge of mushrooms:
On the second field trip, Courtney found four fruitbodies of Rhizomarasmius undatus - the first record of this rare species for Santa Cruz County, and one of less than 10 total records for the state! Astonishing.
Although some students are moving to the Intermediate Course in January, some will be taking another session of the Beginner's Course - I designed the course to work either way - by dealing with whatever fungi happen to be in season (which will never be the same year to year or even month to month) those who are re-taking the Beginner's Course in January and February will see a whole new set of winter fungi - more chanterelles, more waxy caps, more Milky Caps and Brittlegills (Russula). Continuing to practice your keying skills on a new suite of mushrooms is worth its weight in gold on the road to identification proficiency.
Students going on to the intermediate course can expect a challenging and very different experience - there will individual projects, as well as citizen-science "assignments". Our field trips will focus on the idea of "predictive searching" - keying in on macro- and micro-habitats to really be able to see the diversity of fungi in an area.
I'm more excited than ever to have the opportunity to teach these classes - we're building a very special community of mycophiles.
See you in the New Year,
PS - We still need some folks to fill out the the Jan-Feb Beginner's Mushroom Identification Sessions - please let your friends know that their are plenty of spaces available!