Wild Mushrooms Topic for November Science Cafe

Several varieties of wild mushrooms will be discussed during the Oxford Science Cafe Nov. 14 at Lusa’s Bakery and Deli. Submitted photo by Jason Hokesema.

The ecology and edibility of wild mushrooms is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s third meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. Jason Hoeksema, UM associate professor of biology, will discuss “Wild mushrooms: Ecology, edibility and more.” Admission is free.

“What is a mushroom? What is its natural function for fungi? Which ones are delicious and which ones will make you ill or worse?” Hoeksema said. “In this presentation, we’ll answer all these questions.

“We’ll start with a discussion of fungal ecology, especially focusing on how fungi obtain food and the really interesting ways that fungi can change the ecology of plants and nutrient cycling.”

Hoeksema’s 45-minute presentation also will examine the role of mushrooms in the life cycles of fungi.

“Finally, we’ll discuss strategies for finding and safely enjoying wild mushrooms in northern Mississippi,” he said.

A Science Cafe organizer said Hoeksema’s discussion should be most interesting.

“I’m eagerly waiting for Dr. Hoeksema’s presentation,” said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and astronomy. “The world of mushrooms is so fascinating.

“When I was a kid, I spent many weekends mushroom hunting with my dad. Nowadays, when I hike in the woods of Mississippi, I’m still mesmerized by the variety and beauty of wild mushrooms.”

Hoeksema received his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of California at Davis, respectively. A member of the Ole Miss faculty since 2006, he teaches courses in ecology, evolution, statistics, microbiology, mycology and ornithology. He also occasionally leads mushroom field trips for the public.

His research addresses questions regarding the ecological and evolutionary consequences of species interactions – such as mutualism, parasitism and competition – on populations and communities, with a focus on interactions between plants and mycorrhizal fungi.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/oxfordsciencecafe. For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/physics_and_astronomy or call 662-915-7046.

By Edwin B. Smith

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