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Pre-July 2009 Press Archives

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2/5/2004 Mushrooms focus of Linfield faculty lecture

McMINNVILLE – Mushrooms and their value to the environment will be the focus of an upcoming Linfield College faculty lecture.

Jack Murphy, assistant professor of biology at Linfield, will speak on "Mushrooms" Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in 201 Riley Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Murphy will discuss what mushrooms are, where they are found and how they are used. He will also share findings from his research on mushroom biodiversity, focusing on both species numbers and genetic diversity within species, and explain how a focus on mushroom biodiversity is relevant to the critical environmental issues of the 21st century.

"Biodiversity is disappearing across the board, but you can’t know if a species goes if you never knew it was there to begin with," said Murphy, a Linfield professor since 2002. "Most people consider fungi quaint at best, but they are essential to healthy ecosystem functioning. The possible loss of fungal species might be more important than, perhaps, the loss of the condor or spotted owl."

Discussion will include topics like edible and poisonous mushroom varieties such as Shiitake, Chanterelle, Matsutake, truffles and Hedgehog. Another fungal puzzle is the bizarre Fuzzy Sandozi, a huge fungal conk which lives only on dead or dying old growth noble and silver fir trees. With only a dozen individuals remaining in the world, Murphy said the Fuzzy Sandozi is the only fungus included on any American list of endangered species.

"This reveals more about the sorry state of our knowledge of fungal diversity than about how many endangered fungi there are," he added.

Murphy first became interested in mushrooms as an undergraduate student at Humboldt State University, then entered a graduate program in mycology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where he earned both a master’s degree and Ph.D.

"Mushrooms are endlessly delightful in their own right, but I’m also interested in human behavior and environmental conservation," he said. "Connecting the dots between these delightful creatures, ecosystem functioning and environmental issues is an essential part of my research and teaching."

Each year Murphy and his Linfield students collect and database mushrooms from two Yamhill County parks, Metzker Park and Airport Park. Currently, their list contains over 53 species from Metzker Park alone, and this count is expected to grow considerably. Murphy said the diverse forests of Yamhill County are a rich source of mushrooms, and the fungi are especially prevalent on the Oregon coast and in the Cascade mountain range.

Murphy’s interest in mushroom biodiversity began with his graduate work, where he cataloged species in the Appalachians, and continued in Chicago, where he was a research associate with the Field Museum for two years. In addition to his work in Oregon, Murphy is chair of the voucher committee for the North American Mycological Association, which is documenting species numbers and distribution across North America.

The Linfield College faculty lecture series offers one presentation each month by a member of the Linfield faculty. For more information, call 503-883-2409.