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Culinary Historians of Chicago

66 EpisodesProduced by CulinaryHistoryWebsite

Culinary Historians of Chicago studies the history of food and drink in human cultures. Why we procure, prepare and serve the food we do has cultural, sociological, geographical, financial and political influences. We encourage participation from all walks of life: from academics to home cooks, chef… read more


Fetid Russulas in North America: What we know, What we don't

Fetid Russulas in North America: What we know, What we don't

Presented by Peter Avis, PhD

Niles Historical and Cultural Center, 8970 N. Milwaukee Ave, Niles, IL 60714

Russula is a highly diverse genus of ectomycorrhizal fungus. Over 700 species of this genus are known making up about 10% of the known ECM fungi in world. One especially intriguing group of Russula are the members of subsection Foetentineae, commonly referred by some as the fetid Russula since their brown to light yellow capped sporocarps regularly have unpleasant smells and tastes. Their ecological attributes include the ability to be “dominant” (i.e. numerically abundant) in temperate, boreal and tropical ecosystems worldwide, to persist in high nitrogen environments, and to associate with mycoheterotrophic plants. Despite these ecological attributes, much of the diversity of this group remains unknown and/or fully documented. In this presentation, I will provide a thorough overview of the molecular diversity of fetid Russula in North America and place this overview within a context of the current understanding of subsection Foetentineae globally.

Peter Avis, PhD has been at Indiana University orthwest since 2007 and prior to that he did a post-doc with Greg Mueller at the Field Museum. His PhD is from Minnesota where he worked with Dave McLauglin, Ris Charvat and Trice Morrow. Currently, Avis is chair of the biology department and teaches intro bio, mycology, evolution, molecular biology among other courses. His research falls into three general categories: Fungal ecology and evolution, molecular methodology for the study of fungi, and ecological restoration monitoring. The project he will discuss at the program grew out of the following project.

Nitrophilic Russula, iconoclastic ectomycorrhizal fungi

I found a surprising nitrophilic response to increased nitrogen pollution by a certain group of mycorrhizal fungi, the foetid Russula (Avis 2012). This is unexpected but exciting, because most mycorrhizal fungi are intolerant of such pollution. This study (Avis 2012) is the first to use modern DNA based methods to sort out the diversity of this common, typically dominant and usually misnamed group of fungi and to understand how common the nitrophilic tendencies are in the group. This project and Avis's efforts were supported and recognized by the Mycological Society of America which awarded him the Martin Baker Award, an early career research award, in 2008 ( How foetid Russula tolerate this pollution remains unknown (Parrent et al 2010), but will be a focus of his future investigations as will a broader phylogenetic analysis of this intriguing group of fungi.

Recorded at the Niles Historical and Cultural Center on October 7, 2019.

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