As you might know we have been working on finding for PSMS a forest area we can use to study the local funga (= mycota = myco-flora, as in flora, fauna & funga). There are several objectives that inspire PSMS to get such a citizen science project underway. As one of the leading mycological societies in North America we want to contribute to the knowledge of the North American funga by collecting specimens that will be submitted for DNA sequencing and vouchered for future reference and thus contribute to the North American Myco-Flora Project. In addition, such a study will contribute to the knowledge of our local mushrooms and enlarge the pool of members that are interested in improving their identification skills. Furthermore, it is a great opportunity to get to know fellow PSMS members and exchange knowledge. And last, but not least, to have fun together in the woods!
At first we tried to get access to Cedar River Watershed Management area, which has some nice old growth stands, but we were denied access. Bottom line was CRWM does not allow anyone in there without their staff joining any party. So we had to look for another site and a main criterion was that it is not a 2 or 3 hour drive from Seattle. So we looked closer to home and we thought of Bridle Trails State Park (BTSP), right between Kirkland and Bellevue, in the northeast corner of I 405 and I 520 intersection, just 10 miles East of Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH), where our monthly meetings are held.
For many years Jim Erckmann, director of “Bridle Trails Park Foundation” (BTPF), a fungophile and retired ecologist, has organized annual mushroom walks for his organization. Starting in the late 2000s Joe Ammirati, Luke Bayler, Colin Meyer, myself and others had made frequent visits to BTSP surveying some of its mushrooms. Some of the results used to be online at Fungabase.org, software designed by Colin Meyer. However, it is currently offline, but hopefully Colin can resurrect it for us. Fungabase was a webpage with an interactive database to which users could upload their mushroom finds. Colin was also heavily involved in PSMS’s last field study, the Shadow Bog Fungi Inventory Project. However, we will upload our findings to Mushroom Observer, the leading fungal database.
Bridle Trails entails 482 acres with 28 miles of equestrian/pedestrian trails. There are three marked trail loops from 1 to 3.5 miles long (There is a trail map online). Basically the entire park is forested. It is mostly dominated by conifer forests consisting of Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and Pacific Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). Common deciduous trees are Black Cottonwoods (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa); Big leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) and several species of Willow (Salix spp.). A complete list of plants so far recorded in Bridle Trails is accessible at the BTPF webpage, as are listings of birds, mammals and amphibians. Bridle Trails was logged first in the late 1880s and lastly in 1936, thus the youngest regenerative areas are already 80 years old, the older ones nearly 130 years.
On Feb. 18 Jim Erckmann, Scotti Stephens (Ranger of Bridle Trails State Park), and PSMS members (Kim Traverse, Milton Tam, Carlos Cruz, Wren Hudgins and I) met at the park and discussed the project. We were assured the full support of the Park ranger and Bridle Trails Park Foundation. One important detail is to respect the horses and riders in the park, which basically is stepping to the side when a horse comes and making eye contact with the rider. In addition we are not supposed to leave any colorful markings that would spook the horses.
Next step is finding clarity about how we want to set up the study, methodically and site wise, i.e. criteria for test plot selection. Points raised in preliminary talks suggested weekly visits during peak mushroom season. Documentation is key for our mushroom finds by photography, noting of ephemeral characteristics like color changes, odors etc. & voucher collection, which includes dehydration. Recording morphological details would be helpful too. How we are going to do all this concretely, i.e., working on specimens freshly collected, where the drying can be done, storing specimens, which specimens to submit for DNA analyses etc. has not been decided. We have an interesting offer from Dr. Erica Cline doing the sequencing for us at UW Tacoma.
All these details need to be discussed in a special meeting, which we will held on March 17, 2016. Location will probably be the CUH, details will be announced soon. It is crucial that volunteers step forward to support the project. Mushroom ID skills are NOT crucial to get involved. Most important is finding two or three project coordinators, especially for an email list service and probably entry of related info on the PSMS webpage or blog. In addition, we need group leaders for sampling dates. We will try to schedule sampling as flexible as possible, so that no one is left out who wants to get involved. We might have to limit group size due to post-collection room capacity.
So there is a still lot of coordination to be worked out.
Looking forward for input and support
All the best,
Daniel Winkler – PSMS Vice President