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Andrew W. Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Mycology
Mycology, Taxonomy, Systematics, Evolution & Ecology
All life needs plants. But what sort of life do plants need? If we had to compile a list of organisms that were considered most important to the existence of plants, we would probably put fungi at the very top of that list. From the decomposition of organic matter into trace nutrients necessary for plant health, to the symbiotic interactions that sustain plant growth, to the binding of soils that provide a foundation for other microorganisms which commune with plant roots, fungi provide essential ecosystem services to plant communities. As Assistant Curator of Mycology in the Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi I work to document the amazing diversity of macrofungi (mushrooms and their ilk) in Colorado and the Southern Rockies. A greater understanding of fungal diversity provides a foundation for exploring their ecological relevance. My position focuses on building the fungal herbarium’s natural history collections from which we study their taxonomy and generate DNA sequence data. This DNA sequence data gives us an additional tool to study their biogeographic history and explore how the evolutionary ecology of these fungi shaped their diversity in the Southern Rockies. The knowledge gained from the natural history collections and DNA studies are used to shine a light on the cryptic world of fungi and educate the public on their importance to plants, and therefore, us.