A program that focuses on the scientific study of fungi, lichenous plants, eukaryotic microorganisms, myxomycetes, and plasmodiophorales and their relationship to diseases in higher plants, animals, and human beings as well as to pharmacologically useful products. Includes instruction in cell and molecular biology; histopathology; fungal growth and behavior; environmental mycology; antifungal sensitivity; mycoses; pathogens and pathogenesis; pharmacological properties; and computer and laboratory research methods.
Mycologists work with all kinds of fungi, including yeasts, moulds, and mushrooms, in order to better understand them.
There's a long-standing debate as to whether fungi can be considered plants; they are incapable of photosynthesis and have many unique traits. Even so, they tend to be studied under the umbrella of botany and natural science. Fungi are important to their ecosystems, where they consume and recycle matter. Sometimes their presence is welcomed - other times, they pose a threat to their surroundings and host organisms. There are over a million types of known fungi, ranging from tasty mushrooms to deadly infestations. From baker's yeast to ringworm and spores that infect plants, most biologists seem to agree that the more we know about fungi, the better we can coexist with them. Companies in the biotechnology sector are increasingly interested in using mushrooms and other fungi in materials engineering, and food and beverage companies frequently make use of fermentation techniques involving them.
Work in mycology may include...
- Examining the growth patterns and behaviors of fungi
- Identifying wild specimens and collecting samples
- Cultivating fungi for consumption, refinement, or study
- Tracking the movement of spores in an environment
- Controlling and containing potentially hazardous spreads
- Conducting research on the effects of fungi
Most mycology related research occurs in university or government labs, where experts work with controlled specimens. There is some crossover into field work from researchers, who may collaborate with agricultural growers or act as consultants to would-be foragers. Medical mycologists may work in hospitals, helping to diagnose and treat patients afflicted by fungi, or in pharmaceutical labs, extracting and refining fungal matter for use in medications. A recent surge of interest in mycology from the biotechnology and industry sector has created jobs for experts who work alongside engineers and product developers. Many areas have their own mycological societies, which sometimes look for contributors for publications and events. Mycologists can also work with public health officials to deal with hazardous infestations or assist with legal cases involving fungi.
There's no one way to enter mycology. Some mushroom enthusiasts with no formal education develop their expertise in the wild; this type of hands-on foraging and identification experience is valuable to mushroom farmers and crop harvesters. Those interested in a more structured approach can enroll in an undergraduate program focusing on botany or microbiology. Taking coursework in toxicology, biochemistry or ecology can provide helpful context to students, and expressing a desire to work with fungi early on can open a lot of doors. Graduates of a Bachelor's degree program can find work as lab technicians or research assistants, but more intensive field work typically calls for an advanced degree. Finding graduate programs specifically geared toward mycology can be difficult, but many biology and botany tracks at the Master's and Doctoral level offer fungal research as an area of focus within a soil science, plant pathology, or forestry concentration.
Fungi are diverse and fascinating organisms that play an essential role in the natural order. Our understanding of them has developed considerably due to the efforts of mycologists, but they're full of surprises. With a career in mycology, you could discover some mushroom mysteries of your own!
For more information, please follow the links below:
- The North American Mycological Association consists of both professional and amateur mycologists with nearly a hundred continental regional affiliate societies who share their goal of promoting scientific and educational activities related to fungi.
- The Mycological Society of America invites professional mycologists, students of the Fungi, mycologues, mycophiles, fungal biologists, and all persons with a personal or professional interest in fungi to join them in fostering education and interest in the field.
- The International Mycological Association represents and encourages the study of mycology in all its branches.
- The American Mushroom Institute is a national trade association representing growers, processors, and marketers of cultivated mushrooms in the US.