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Wild World of Fungi Is Topic of Natural History Lecture

Alex Weir

To most people, the fungi kingdom consists of mushrooms and molds. But the speaker in this year's Lytton J. Musselman Natural History Lecture at Old Dominion University will introduce his audience to a wide array of fungi that are very, very different.

Alex Weir, an associate professor at the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 12. The topic of his presentation is "A Mycological Mystery Tour: Unraveling the Wild, Weird and Wonderful World of Fungi." The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be in the North Cafeteria of Webb Center.

A focus of Weir's research has been the Laboulbeniales order of ascomycete fungi that are ectoparasites of living arthropods such as beetles and cockroaches. For example, Laboulbeniales can be found as tiny mushroom-like organisms growing on the outer shell of a ladybug.

Other fungi also live within arthropods. Some are so specific that they live only in certain joints of insects; one insect may have several species, each specific for a joint. In addition to discussing his research specialty, the speaker will give an overview of the fungi kingdom.

Weir, who directs SUNY's Cranberry Lake Biological Station, received the Mycological Society of America's 2008 William H. Weston Jr. Award for Excellence in Teaching. His fungi courses at SUNY are immensely popular.

Norfolk Botanical Garden has worked with ODU in planning the lecture and is also hosting a workshop as an offshoot of Weir's presentation on Sept. 22. It will be led by Alan Muskat, an expert on foraging for wild edible mushrooms. For details, visit www.norfolkbotanicalgarden.org.  

A field trip for ODU alumni led by Weir is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, April 13, at the garden. If edible mushrooms can be found on the grounds, there will be a cooking demonstration at 1:30 p.m. in the garden's Visitors Center Magnolia Room. For details, email lmusselm@odu.edu

At 6 p.m., just prior to the April 12 lecture, there will be a reception for Weir to which the public is invited. It will be in the Rectors' Room of Webb Center. Those who want to attend the reception and/or the lecture are encouraged to RSVP by calling 683-3116 or going to www.odu.edu/ao/unievents (events code: NHL12).

Free parking will be available in the 49th Street parking garage.

This is the ninth annual lecture in the Musselman Natural History series, which is supported by an endowment. Musselman is the Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany at ODU.

The effort to launch the lecture series was led by Michael Pitchford, an ODU alumnus and former biology student of Musselman who is now president and chief executive officer of Community Preservation and Development Corp. in Washington, D.C. He and his wife, Sue, also an ODU graduate, provided a substantial gift to the lecture series endowment.

This article was posted on: April 9, 2012

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