Posting by Kirstin Bourne
Mushroom season has only just started and already ROM mycologists have been out in the field conducting research and searching for new specimens to add to the museum collection. Last week I got the chance to join Jean-Marc Moncalvo, the ROM’s Senior Curator of Mycology, along with Ph.D. Candidate Santiago Sanchez and Josie Carding, a summer intern in the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity for a few days of foraging and camping in Ontario’s Awenda Provincial Park.
Heading out, the hope was to find Amanita jacksonii, a species that was first observed in the park last year by Hillary Hatzipetrakos, a park employee and mushroom enthusiast. Within Canada, this species has only been reported at a few localities in southern Ontario and Québec. Following its discovery in Awenda, the Friends of Awenda mandated a mushroom survey of the park to Hillary and Jean-Marc which they expanded on this weekend. Santiago was looking to collect this rare mushroom in order to study its origin and evolution in Ontario.
It is possible that the new-to-the-province species has recently expanded its range northwestward as a result of climate change. We got lucky on our search and one of the first mushrooms we came across was a specimen of A. jacksonii! By the end, our group had collected six to bring home with us, all found in the same particular forest patch as last year. The trip was a huge success in other ways too. In total almost forty mushroom species were identified, at least five of which were new to the park list, and all of which are being brought back to Jean-Marc’s lab for DNA barcoding which will add to the Canadian Barcode of Life Initiative.