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Abstract Detail

Teaching Section

Volk, Thomas [1].

The F- word: What should botany and other biology students learn about Fungi?

The study of fungi is often neglected in undergraduate curriculum and in K-12 education. In introductory courses, fungi are often given just a cursory look, if any. The discussion of fungi in biology textbooks is nearly uniformly terrible, focusing on dreary life cycles, a superficial look at the phyla, and other minutia. On the contrary, when students are presented with enthusiastic information about the inner workings of fungi and the effects of fungi in their lives, they can become very captivated with the fungal kingdom. They discover that fungi are cool and different. I teach courses in general Mycology, Medical Mycology, Plant-Microbe Interactions, and a new graduate course, 21st Century Mycology, as well as Latin & Greek for Scientists. In previous years, students took separate plant biology and animal biology courses, and fungi were not covered very well or sometimes not even included in those two courses. However, our students are now required to take a single integrative Organismal Biology course as their second semester biology course. I teach about half of this course, where, among other things, second semester students become exposed to the magnificence of the Fungal Kingdom. Obviously, this talk cannot include all the detailed information about all the fungal information covered in our Organismal Biology course, but general topics include: Characteristics of fungi that are like plants, those that are like animals, and those unique to fungi; How fungi grow though a substrate (exoenzymes and hyphal extension); Fungal cell biology (do cells exist in fungi?); Reproductive diversity of fungi (asexual and sexual reproduction, how to solve the problems of spore dispersal); Systematics and the placement of fungi (not with the plants, but will fellow Opisthokonts, the animals); Fungi are the kings of surface area (growth, reproductive structures); Role of fungi in the environment (saprophytes, parasites, mutualists); fungal effects on humans (both good and bad, both direct and indirect); Industrial uses for fungi (fermentation, citric acid, antibiotics, mushroom cultivation, and many others); and my favorite, a healthy dose of Gee-Whiz. I find that discussion the many interactions of fungi with other organisms piques students’ interests. Because of the many intimate interactions of fungi with plants, botanists especially should pay attention to fungi. K-12 students should also learn more about fungi, but there is the problem of their teachers typically not knowing much about fungi. Once people are exposed to fungi they can become mycological converts.

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1 - University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

integrative learning

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 44
Location: Salon 9/The Shaw Conference Centre
Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Time: 1:45 PM
Number: 44002
Abstract ID:1259
Candidate for Awards:None

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