Mushroom Methods Workshop
New Directions for Researching Fungal Futures
14 - 16 August, 2023
There is something underfoot.
They were not there recently. Yet, seemingly overnight, they sprouted up above the surface and forced the world to notice. The mushrooms are here, and they are having a moment.
In many academic disciplines, and in many areas of social life, fungi are being re-discovered, and starting to be worked with in new ways. Mushrooms have been called “world-makers” for their abilities to bind the lives of humans, plants, animals, and soils together (Hathaway 2022), celebrated for their contribution to ecological stability and health (Talbot, Allison, and Treseder 2008; Phillips 2017), investigated for the therapeutic benefits of their properties (Johnson and Griffiths 2017; Borgwardt, Johnson, and Müller 2020; Davis et al. 2021), mapped within citizen science conservation initiatives (Heilmann-Clausen et al. 2019; Sieniatlas 2023; SPUN 2023), distilled for novel chemical components and supplements (Syarifah et al. 2022; KÄÄPÄ 2023), and employed to design art, clothing, furniture, and building material (Ross 2017; Grunwald, Harish, and Osherov 2021; Koppanen 2023). At the same time, fungi are still seen as a threat to everything from human heritage and health (Sterflinger 2010; Sterflinger and Piñar 2013; Kwaśna and Kuberka 2020; Azeem, Hakeem, and Ali 2020) to the integrity of buildings (Ortiz et al. 2014; Embacher et al. 2023), and even to seeds of a zombie apocalypse (Mazin 2023; Pelley 2023).
As demonstrated by this flurry of activity, Kingdom Fungi carries the promise of transforming how humans relate to and live in a changing world in nuanced and dynamic ways. However, interdisciplinary efforts at engaging with fungal futures continue to be limited, and the transdisciplinary potential of mushroom research (i.e. with active participation of the non-academic public) is also under-explored. The purpose of this symposium is to bring together fungal experts from social science, humanities, and natural science disciplines, as well as artists, professionals, and members of the interested public from Finland, the Nordics, and beyond to explore how we may produce mushroom knowledge, and for what purposes. To do so, we ask the following questions:
How has interacting with mushrooms changed the way researchers think about their work/research area, or the values and objectives of their research/work?
What, if anything, can fungi teach us about creating a healthier, more sustainable world? Conversely what potential dangers may ‘the mushroom hype’ pose?
Can we do research not on, but with mushrooms? Can we learn from mushrooms, not just about mushrooms? What would be the value of such a shift?
How do human-fungi relations matter to different groups of people and in different places? In what ways are fungi relevant to Finland, the Nordics, and the wider world?
How does mushroom-oriented research and social activity link with climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental toxicity, and other challenges related to the ‘Anthropocene’?
Image from Alison Pouliot
Ecologist and environmental photographer
Image from Michael Hathaway
Image from Mari Koppanen
Designer and artist
Schedule (time in EEST)
Day 0 (August 14), at Kulttuurilaboratorio, Pikisaarentie 15 (and streamed online)
19:00 – 21:00 Book launch with Alison Pouliot; Underground Lovers – Encounters with Fungi
8:30 – 9:00 Coffee and snacks
9:00 – 9:30 Introduction, Anna Krzywoszynska and Anatolijs Venovcevs
9:30 – 10:30 Keynote, Michael Hathaway; Fungal Liveliness: Forays into the Worlds of Mushrooms
10:45 – 12:15 Paper presentations and discussions
Carolina Némethy; From Zombies to Food and Medicine: Charismatic Encounters with the Caterpillar Fungus in China
Anna L. Ruotsalainen, Tapio Kekki, Esteri Ohenoja, Tea von Bonsdorff; Sarcosoma globosum and New Fungal Observation Culture
Pieta Savinotko; False Morel and the Trouble of Life Amid Ruins
12:15 – 14:00 Lunch with installation and movie screening by the artist Mari Koppanen; Designing with Fungal Wonders: Exploring New Horizons with Polypores, Yeast, and Lichen
14:15 – 16:30 Paper presentations and discussions
Alison Pouliot; Beyond Mushrooms to Mycelium
Taina Pennanen, Sannakajsa M. Velmala, Krista Peltoniemi, Kimmo Rasa, Hannu Fritze; Value of Wood Fibres to Feed Agricultural Soil Fungi
Lorin von Longo-Leibenstein; Conservation of Wood Inhabiting Fungi by Reintroduction
Martin Grünfeld; Mushroom/Museum/Metabolism: Notes from an Ongoing Open-Ended Artistic Research Process
Morgaine Lee; ANTHROPO a Story About Fungi in Four Parts (2019) and Day 1 Summary Discussion
8:30 – 9:00 Meet at University of Oulu parking lot in front of the main entrance and drive to Sanginjoen Nuorisoseura
9:00 – 9:30 Coffee and snacks
9:30 – 11:30 Workshop on research themes and methods, building on Day 1, facilitated by Anna Krzywoszynska, Agnese Bankovska, and Anatolijs Venovcevs
12:00 – 13:00 Lunch and orientation to the afternoon’s activities
13:00 – 15:00 Mushroom walk
15:00 – 16:00 Debrief, discuss, ways forward
16:00 – 16:30 Drive back
Book Launch: Underground Lovers - Encounters with Fungi
Once overlooked, fungi are the exhilarating new poster organisms reconfiguring our understanding of the natural word and capturing the public imagination. Underground Lovers is a captivating journey into the sensory realms of fungi. It's told through first-hand stories - from the Australian desert to Iceland's glaciers to America's Cascade Mountains - where we encounter glowing ghost fungi and the enigma of the lobster mushroom. We'll dwell with fungal allies and aliens, discover how fungi hold forests together, and why humans are deeply intwined with these compelling organisms. The book presents new questions and insights about fungi but is also an intimate celebration of their astonishing beauty and complexity. It melds science and personal reflection to explore overlooked themes, among them - fungi and fire, fungi and climate change, fungi and aesthetics, fungi in ecosystem restoration, and fungi and indigenous wisdom. What can we learn from the lives of fungi? Underground Lovers brings us to our knees, magnifier in hand, to find out.
Fungal Liveliness: Forays into the Worlds of Mushrooms
Fungi are remarkable beings: breathing in oxygen, dissolving rocks, and building webs of connection across kingdoms of life. Their lives have been shaping our planet for perhaps a billion years, but all of a sudden, now in the beginning of the 21st century — a time of ratcheting environmental despair — fungi are capturing the attention of a wide swath of society. Some say a “mushroom renaissance” is upon us.
Why might this be happening and how might we engage with it joyfully and also critically? For social scientists and humanists, how might they engage with scientific and other forms of knowledge to think hard and with these modes of knowing? For natural scientists, how might they engage with others to learn more, to learn otherwise about our fungal kin? Some years ago, animal studies brought together scholars from many disciplines into a sometimes shared, often fractured conversation. More recently, plant studies is emergent, revealing some of the ways in which our understandings, shaped by animal ways of being ourselves, might need to be queered in relation to botanical ways of being. Now, how might us lovers and scholars of fungi learn from our peers as they have gone about their own engagements with plants and animals?
From Zombies to Food and Medicine: Charismatic Encounters with the Caterpillar Fungus in China
Following a 22-year-old Chinese medical journal entry found in a drawer of the researcher’s own home in Sweden to her 2023 fieldwork in China, this presentation delves into an exploration of the caterpillar fungus in the context of Chinese medicine. Decomposing the hype for medicinal mushrooms driven by both traditional uses and commercially driven interests, the caterpillar fungus reveals a rugged topography of environmental remoteness, widespread presence at medicine halls, artificial chemical extraction, adulterants, as well as everyday culinary use. This landscape exemplifies what Lai and Farquhar (2015) refer to as the coexistence of charisma and rationalization in Chinese medicine, which serves as a useful framework for deconstructing the ambiguity of the caterpillar fungus as both a food and a medicine – an ambiguity which transforms into tension upon considering the environmental limits of the fungus as a vulnerable species.
Sarcosoma globosum and New Fungal Observation Culture
Anna L. Ruotsalainen, Tapio Kekki, Esteri Ohenoja, Tea von Bonsdorff
Sarcocoma globosum (Witches cauldron) forms strange-looking, swollen sporocarps in nutrient-rich spruce forests in the spring. The species is internationally considered as near-threatened. It was categorized as near-threatened also in Finland until 2019, when the status of the species was updated as least concern. In Finland, user-friendly open database became available (www.laji.fi) and citizen science project Finnish Fungal Atlas started in 2015. Here, we analysed S. globosum observations in Finland. Our results suggest a huge increase in citizen observations of S. globosum after 2015. In contrast, specimens deposited in public herbaria and data from the environmental authorities have declined. Our results are indicative of emergence of a new, citizen-based observation culture of fungi. We conclude that changes in citizen observation activity may disguise true changes in fungal populations. There is a need for tools to deal with changes in observation activity in the evaluation of red list status of fungi.
False Morel and the Trouble of Life Amid Ruins
False morel, Gyromitra esculenta, is an ascomycete fungus which fruits in spring and early summer. It grows on sandy soil particularly in former coniferous forest areas where the ground has been disturbed by forest harvesters or other machinery. Poisonous if eaten raw but delicious when properly processed, the mushroom engenders a peculiar phenomenon every spring: instead of flourishing forests, mushroom pickers head towards timber clearings, with even the soil preferably harrowed or scalped down to soil.
As false morel and its pickers attest, there is thriving fungal and fungi-inspired life in severely disturbed forests. For a researcher this poses an ethico-epistemological problem: how to account for the possibilities of life amid ruins without legitimizing the ruinous practices? When seeking answers to this trouble I have turned towards Eve Sedgwick’s thinking on paranoid and reparative reading. Paranoid reading practice shows false morel as a henchman for plantationocentric forestry, whereas reparative reading on false morel picking suggests a possibility to surpass the current destruction. By focusing on the ongoing to-and-fro movement between the two positions, research can bear witness to the complexities of life and to take responsibility for the performative power of knowledge production.
Designing with Fungal Wonders: Exploring New Horizons with Polypores, Yeast, and Lichen
As both a designer and researcher, Mari Koppanen’s work embodies the essence of fungi - empathetic, potential, and relatable. Presenting a range of material samples from fungi and fungi-related materials her work inspires us to reconsider our relationship with this extraordinary organism and invites us to embrace the possibilities it presents in the field of art and design. Alongside these samples, a short documentary highlights the remarkable properties and historical significance of amadou, a unique fungal material derived from tinder mushrooms.
Fungi have captivated people who have understood their world as well as caused strong fears in those who haven’t experienced contact with this mystical organism. Fungi play a significant role in our lives, profoundly shaping our existence. They enable not only all living on earth but also offer a great variety of natural materials and pigments to explore.
Beyond Mushrooms to Mycelium
The reproductive structures of fungi such as mushrooms are conspicuous and captivating and have captured attention throughout history. But beyond mushrooms, out of sight in the subterrain, the clandestine wordings of mycelial fungi both underpin functioning terrestrial ecosystems while unravelling human frameworks for understanding nature. The notion of fungus mycelium wobbles the assumptions and premises that we use to conceive and categorise nature, manage ecosystems and build human societies. However, as we enter the 'fungal turn' these unruly fungal renegades might also inspire the innovative thinking needed to navigate an uncertain future. In this talk Alison shares insights from over two decades spent in the field with fungi across hemispheres.
Value of Wood Fibres to Feed Agricultural Soil Fungi
Taina Pennanen, Sannakajsa M. Velmala, Krista Peltoniemi, Kimmo Rasa, Hannu Fritze
Forest soils cleared for agricultural use are lacking particularly fungal networks. Therefore, our aim was to test whether we can improve the agricultural soil mycobiome by fertilizing with forest side stream products to gain back important forest soil microbiome members. Our results showed that forest industry-based side-streams increased in fungal biomass and community change indicated by DNA-amplicons when added to agricultural soil (Rasa et al. 2021). Simultaneously decreased erosion potential, measured as leaching of carbon and nutrients along soil profiles, was observed. Coniferous tree bark and its cascade-processed residuals to we tested in microcosms. Consistently with the results of the field study, bark-derived side streams showed potential to counteract the decline in fungal biomass and biodiversity of agricultural soils (Peltoniemi et al. 2023). These findings are important as recent estimates suggest that up to half of persistent carbon in soil comes from residuals of dead microbes, particularly of fungi (Liang et al. 2019).
Conservation of Wood Inhabiting Fungi by Reintroduction
Lorin von Longo-Leibenstein
In biodiversity conservation, fungi have been greatly underrepresented, particularly in proportion to the threatened number of species. Fungi must be considered in holistic ecosystem protection, given its significant role.
Fungi spread primarily through spores, and recent research has shown that fragmentation and anthropogenic habitat changes can cause severe limitations to this dispersal. Without intentional reintroduction, some species of fungi have little hope of reaching their previous ranges, even after the habitat is protected.
I will talk about the approaches used in recent fungal reintroduction research to introduce cultured fungi to dead-wood. This includes in-situ methods where there are appropriate natural logs or trees, or, as in my current doctoral research project, ex-situ on freshly harvested logs which can be brought to the reintroduction site when they are ready to produce fruit bodies. Context will be provided for choosing which method is most appropriate for various fungal species and conservation sites.
Mushroom/Museum/Metabolism: Notes from an Ongoing Open-Ended Artistic Research Process
At museums around the globe, preservation practices aim to stabilize objects in authentic material states sometimes designated as their “true nature”. Meanwhile, the absolute Others of museums – heritage eaters – are suppressed as unwelcome metabolizers. But what if we see other species as potentials? In this talk, I present an ongoing project at Medical Museion in Copenhagen – The Living Room – where we collaborate across conservation science, artistic practice and humanities research to cultivate other lifecycles of objects and organisms at the museum. We develop practices of caring beyond saving, by deliberately reawakening collections from their metabolic slumber. In our practice, mushrooms have played crucial planned and serendipitous roles, shaping our exhibition and research with us. Drawing on our transdisciplinary and multi-species collaborations, I will discuss how mushrooms have kept our artistic process open reshaping it in uncontrollable and uncertain ways and showing us how decomposition does not necessarily entail loss.
ANTHROPO a story about fungi in four parts (2019)
A film by Morgaine Lee
ANTHROPO a story about fungi in four parts (2019) is an exploration of four major themes that emerged during my research on fungi for my undergraduate honours project; anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism, anthropology, and anthropocene. Through the ‘anthropo’ lens, this film explores the deeply entangled worlds of humans and fungi and invites us to consider the ways we tell stories about fungal worlds in the context of climate disaster. If we recognize the lively and agentive lifeways of fungi, while simultaneously valuing their usefulness to humans — what does this do? Delving into the worlds of fungi asks us to unpack our assumptions about our relationship with the worlds around us and challenge human exceptionalism. What is our relationship to fungi? Why does it matter?
Link to the film: https://vimeo.com/morgainelee/anthropo
Azeem, Uzma, Khalid Rehman Hakeem, and M. Ali. 2020. Fungi for Human Health: Current Knowledge and Future Perspectives. Springer.
Borgwardt, Stefan, Matthew W. Johnson, and Felix Müller, eds. 2020. Hallucinogens and Entactogens: Establishing a New Class of Psychotherapeutic Drugs?, Frontiers Research Topics.
Davis, Alan K., Frederick S. Barrett, Darrick G. May, Mary P. Cosimano, Nathan D. Sepeda, Matthew W. Johnson, Patrick H. Finan, and Ronald R. Griffiths. 2021. "Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy on Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial." JAMA Psychiatry 78 (5):481-489. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.3285.
Embacher, Julia, Susanne Zeilinger, Martin Kirchmair, Luis M. Rodriguez-R, and Sigrid Neuhauser. 2023. "Wood Decay Fungi and Their Bacterial Interaction Partners in the Built Environment – A Systematic Review on Fungal Bacteria Interactions in Dead Wood and Timber." Fungal Biology Reviews 45. doi: 10.1016/j.fbr.2022.100305.
Grunwald, Ofer, Ety Harish, and Nir Osherov. 2021. "Development of Novel Forms of Fungal Art Using Aspergillus nidulans." Journal of Fungi (Basel) 7 (12). doi: 10.3390/jof7121018.
Hathaway, Michael J. 2022. What a Mushroom Lives For Matsutake and the Worlds They Make: Princeton University Press.
Heilmann-Clausen, Jacob, Hans Henrik Bruun, Rasmus Ejrnæs, Tobias Guldberg Frøslev, Thomas Læssøe, and Jens H. Petersen. 2019. "How Citizen Science Boosted Primary Knowledge on Fungal Biodiversity in Denmark." Biological Conservation 237:366-372. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.07.008.
Johnson, Matthew W., and Roland R. Griffiths. 2017. "Potential Therapeutic Effects of Psilocybin." Neurotherapeutics 14 (3):734- 740. doi: 10.1007/s13311-017-0542-y.
Koppanen, Mari. 2023. "Work." https://marikoppanen.com/work.
Kwaśna, Hanna, and Alicja Kuberka. 2020. "Fungi in Public Heritage Buildings in Poland." Polish Journal of Environmental Studies 29 (5):3651-3662. doi: 10.15244/pjoes/112213.
KÄÄPÄ. 2023. "Kääpä Mushrooms." https://www.kaapamushrooms.com/.
Lai, Lili, and Judith Farquhar. 2015. “Nationality Medicines in China: Institutional Raionality and Healing Charisma.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 57 (2): 381-406.
Liang, Chao, Wulf Amelung, Johannes Lehmann, and Matthias Kästner. 2019. “Quantitative Assessment of Microbial Necromass Contribution to Soil Organic Matter.” Global Change Biology 25:3578-3590.
Mazin, Craig. 2023. The Last of Us. Edited by Neil Druckmann, Bruce Straley, Craig Mazin and Jeffrey Pierce. Alberta, Canada: Warner Bros. Television Studio.
Ortiz, Rodrigo, Mario Parraga, José Navarrete, Ivo Carrasco, Eduardo de la Vega, Manuel Ortiz, Paula Herrera, Joel A. Jurgens, Benjamin W. Held, and Robert A. Blanchette. 2014. "Investigations of Biodeterioration by Fungi in Historic Wooden Churches of Chiloe, Chile." Microb Ecol 67 (3):568-75. doi: 10.1007/s00248-013-0358-1.
Pelley, Lauren. 2023. “Frightened by Fungal Zombies in The Last of Us? The Real-Life Threat is Terrifying, Too.” CBC News. 4 February, 2023. Accessed online at https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/frightened-by-fungal-zombies-in-the-last-of-us-the-real- life-threat-is-terrifying-too-1.6736291
Peltoniemi, Krista, Sannakajsa Velmala, Hannu Fritze, Tuula Jyske, Saija Rasi, and Taina Pennanen. 2023. “Impacts of Coniferous Bark-Derived Organic Soil Amendments on Microbial Communities in Arable Soil – A Microcosm Study.” FEMS Microbiology Ecology 99 (3): 1-14.
Phillips, Michael. 2017. Micorrhizal Planet: How Symbiotic Fungi Work with Roots to Support Plant Health and Build Soil Fertility. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.
Rasa, Kimmo, Taina Pennanen, Krista Peltoniemi, Sannakajsa Velmala, Hannu Fritze, Janne Kaseva, Juuso Joona, and Risto Uusitalo. 2020. Journal of Environmental Quality 50 (1): 172-184.
Ross, Phil. 2017. "Fungal Mycelium Bio-materials." In Cultivated Building Materials: Industrialized Natural Resources for Architecture and Construction, edited by Dirk E. Hebel and Felix Heisel, 134-141. Walter de Gruyter Gmbh.
Sieniatlas. 2023. "Sieniatlas." https://sieniatlas.fi/.
SPUN. 2023. "Society for the Protection of Underground Networks." https://www.spun.earth/.
Sterflinger, Katja. 2010. "Fungi: Their Role in Deterioration of Cultural Heritage." Fungal Biology Reviews 24 (1-2):47-55. doi: 10.1016/j.fbr.2010.03.003.
Sterflinger, Katja, and Guadalupe Piñar. 2013. "Microbial Deterioration of Cultural Heritage and Works of Art - Tilting at Windmills?" Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 97 (22):9637-46. doi: 10.1007/s00253-013-5283-1.
Syarifah, Syarifah, Elfita Elfita, Hary Widjajanti, Arum Setiawan, and Alfia Rahma Kurniawati. 2022. "Antioxidant and Antibacterial Activities of Endophytic Fungi Extracts of Syzygium zeylanicum." Science and Technology Indonesia 7 (3):303-312. doi: 10.26554/sti.2022.7.3.303-312.
Talbot, J. M., S. D. Allison, and K. K. Treseder. 2008. "Decomposers in Disguise: Mycorrhizal Fungi as Regulators of Soil C Dynamics in Ecosystems Under Global Change." Functional Ecology 22 (6):955-963. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2008.01402.x.