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Guest Bios

Find out more about the guests who have generously contributed their time and expertise to Fungi Town.


Episode 01: Welcome to Fungi Town

Kevin Frazier of Sparta Mushrooms

 Episode 02: How to ID Mushrooms

Alan Rockefeller

Episode 03: Beer!

David Thornton of Carolina Bauernhaus Ales and Southyeast Labs

Brian Roth of Southern Brewing Company

Brian Roth is the co-founder of The Southern Brewing Company. Brian
started brewing back in 1993. Yeast, single celled fungi, are the back bone of the fermentation process and drive 75% of the character of beer. This led Brian on a quest to discover local wild yeasts in Athens, GA. Brian teamed up with Dr Jeff Rapp the head of microbiology at Athens Tech and they have collected more than 80 local yeasts to brew with. A broad range of yeast that they are running genetic testing on. These are currently stored at UGA in the microbiology and fermentation sciences lab. Southern brewing company currently uses a yeasts captured from the State flower and wild flower.

Kelsey Flick from the Walton County Health Department

Episode 04: Lichen or Not

Dr. Frank Bungartz from Arizona State University and Charles Darwin Foundation

  Frank is the Collections Manager of Lichens and Digital Data at Arizona State University. His research focuses on biodiversity, evolution, ecology and conservation of lichenized fungi. He worked intensively in the Greater Sonoran Desert Region (southwestern USA & northwestern Mexico), in Central America (Mexico) and in South America (particularly the Galapagos Islands). Frank is a contributor and editor to the Lichen Flora of the Greater Sonoran Desert Region, a comprehensive treatment of all lichen species known from this region, published in three volumes from 2002-2007. In South America Frank has also worked extensively for more than ten years on a Species Inventory of Galapagos Lichens. Together with his collaborators Frank discovered hundreds of new records from this archipielago, and as part of this research more that 50 lichen species have so far been described new to science. Frank works on an illustrated, comprehensive guide to Galapagos lichens and a IUCN red-list of the lichens threatened there.
Frank now manages the Consortium of North American Lichen Herbaria CNALH), a biodiversity data portal for lichens from North America. 

"Jen Parilli's "Fungi Town" is a fascinating podcast for anyone interested in fungi. I was thrilled to share with her my enthusiasm for a large, diverse group: the lichens. Lichens are one of the many examples how fungi closely live together with other organisms. With algae and/or canobacteria they establish a close-knit collaboration called the lichen symbiosis. Explaining this complex life-style of fungi is not an easy task, but Jen Parilli breaks it down masterfully, explaining lichen research to a broad audience of listeners. I very much enjoyed being a guest on her podcast, being interviewed about the organisms that I love." - Dr. Frank Bungartz

Episode 05: Eco-Scrubbing Fungi

Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain

Levon Durr of Fungaia Farm

  Levon Durr is the owner of Fungaia Farm, a mushroom company in Eureka, CA, which produces spawn for food production and fungal remediation.  After learning about the mycoremediation and the health benefits of eating mushrooms, in 2011 Levon Durr started Fungaia Farm. Fungaia Farm teaches classes on mushroom cultivation and recently completed a successful mycoremediation project in Orleans, CA.

"It was great fun being interviewed for Fungi Town. The questions were engaging, lighthearted and generated a good discussion about the implementation and future of mycoremediation." - Levon Durr

Episode 06: The Orchid Underground

Melissa McCormick from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Episode 07: The Pecan Truffle

Dr. Tim Brenneman from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia

  Dr. Brenneman was born in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and received his B.S. in Biology from Goshen College (Goshen, Indiana) and his Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Virginia Tech. He joined the faculty of the University of Georgia in 1986 and currently serves as professor of plant pathology with responsibilities for research and extension programming on peanuts and pecans, two of the major crops
in Georgia. He also teaches Introductory Plant Pathology at the UGA Tifton campus, and has mentored numerous graduate students and post-docs. His research program has been broad, including discovery of pecan truffles in Georgia, but his main focus has always been on developing improved, more cost-efficient methods of disease control. He has published over 140 refereed articles, and several hundred
abstracts. He enjoys hunting, fishing, camping and exploring the great outdoors in his free time.

"I appreciate being on Fungi Town - it's a good venue for  describing our research in a broader perspective to an audience that might not be aware of it otherwise" - Tim Brenneman

Dr. Matthew Smith

Matt is an Associate Professor in Fungal Biology based at the University of Florida. Dr. Smith is affiliated with the Department of Plant Pathology but also serves as the curator of the Fungal Collection for the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLAS). Matt teaches fungal biology and conducts research on fungalsystematics, ecology, and evolution. He loves all kinds of fungi but truffles (hypogeous fungi) are his favorite.

“The only thing I love more than collecting and studying fungi is talking about them. It was fun to be on Fungi Town and it is a great resource with lots of interesting episodes to choose from!” - Dr. Matt Smith

Arthur Grupe from the University of Florida's Plant Pathology Department

Episode 08: White on the Nose

Melissa Ingala from the American Museum of Natural History

Karen Vanderwolf from the University of Wisconsin

I received my BSc at the University of Western Ontario and my Masters of Science at the University of New Brunswick where I studied bats and the pre-white nose syndrome fungal flora that occurs on them. I'm currently at Trent University studying how the mycobiome of bats varies with their susceptibility to white-nose syndrome and which fungal species can inhibit the white-nose syndrome pathogen, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, in the lab.

"I'm always happy to participate in outreach activities about science, especially when it is about the generally overlooked world of fungi. There are so many stories to tell and your enthusiasm in telling them comes through!" - Karen Vanderwolf

Episode 09: Fun With Fibers

Alissa Allen of Mycopigments

Tess Barlow

Episode 10: Smut

Dr. Marin Brewer from the University of Georgia

Daniel Brooks of Licha's Cantina

Episode 11: Tree-of-Heaven

Kristen Wickert from West Virginia University

Episode 12: Ergot a Better Title?

Dr. Anthony Glenn from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service

Episode 13: Frogs and Fungi 

Dr. Taegan McMahon from The University of Tampa


Assistant Professor, Biology

Education: 2007 Bates College, B.S. 
2013 University of South Florida, Ph.D.

Career Specialties: Taegan McMahon's interest in both applied and fundamental ecology is reflected in her research. She studies both anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic factors that affect community structure and species interactions, with an emphasis on aquatic communities and host-pathogen interactions. She also studies the impacts of the pathogenic chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) its hosts (amphibians, crayfish, etc).

Professional and Community Activities: McMahon is following two research pathways, both relating to the parasitic chytrid fungus and its hosts. She is investigating the non-amphibian hosts of the chytrid fungus (e.g. Crayfish (McMahon et al. 2013 PNAS), and is also researching possible vaccination regimes for frogs and chytrid. She was able to demonstrate that frogs could develop an acquired resistance to the chytrid fungus given previous exposures to dead chytrid (McMahon, et al 2014 Nature). This means the potential to vaccinate frogs against the fungus.

“I had a great time with the fungi town podcast, thank you for sharing my research!” - Dr. Taegan McMahon

Episode 14: Halloween 2018

Dr. Andrew Miller from the Illinois Natural History Survey

 Episode 15: The Fungus Olympics

Dr. Daniel Irimia from the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital

Derreck Carter-House from the University of California at Riverside

  I'm a fifth year PhD candidate in Jason Stajich's lab. I study bacterial fungal interactions, and I'm particularly interested in early diverging fungi, such as Rhizopus stolonifer, the black mold on old strawberries. I want to know more about how fungi defend themselves from bacteria. I devote a great deal of time to planning and conducting science outreach to the local community, teaching kids and parents about plant pathology and future careers in science.

Jesus Pena from the University of California at Riverside

I'm a 3rd year PhD candidate in the Stajich Lab at UC Riverside. I study sexual development in mucoromycotina, a subphylum of Mucoromycota. My work is motivated by the fact that we know a lot about the developmental mechanisms in animals and how those relate to body plan evolution, but there's little information about this in fungi. Outside of the lab I'm interested in making science accessible to the public through informal education. 

twitter: @FungalEvoDevo


Dr. Jason Stajich from the University of California at Riverside

I am interested in the process and mechanisms of evolution. I study this primarily in fungi using comparative, computational, and experimental tools.  We utilize genome and RNA sequencing, sequence analysis, molecular evolution, and phylogenetics, and molecular biology tools to explore the functions of genes or genomic regions identified by analyses to be involved in processes we study.
Most of our work is focused in the zygomycete and zoosporic chytrid fungi (fungi that move!). We also have collaborative projects and interests in AspergillusFusariumCoccidioides, and Clavispora lusitaniae. The lab is increasingly moving towards questions that relate to symbioses with new projects on fungal-bacteria antagonism and on the biological symbioses that occur among fungi, algae, bacteria in desert Biological crusts. I also have a new interest in extremophile fungi and working on projects to understand the halophilic Hortaea werneckii and endolithic Antarctic fungi through genome sequencing and laboratory experiments.


Dr. Ilkka Kronholm from the University of Jyväskylä


I am a researcher at the University of Jyväskylä. I’m interested in the role of epigenetics in phenotypic plasticity and evolution. I'm using both models and experiments. The experimental work I'm doing at the moment is done with the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa. I'm interested in if epigenetic changes like DNA methylation or histone modifications contribute to evolution. Neurospora is a great model system for genetics and I'm leveraging the power of fungal genetics in my current work.

Previously, I did a post-doc at the University of Edinburgh, where I worked on the unicellular algae Chlamydomonas.

Before that, I did my PhD work at the Max-Planck Institute of Plant Breeding Research on the population genetics of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana.

Episode 16: The Great Lakes

Dr. Andrew Miller from the Illinois Natural History Survey

Dr. Andrew Miller is a research professor and serves as the Director of the Herbarium at the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Andy has traveled extensively throughout the world collecting and describing fungi, documenting their biodiversity, and studying their evolutionary relationships. An expert on both large macrofungi and small microfungi, he has described over 100 species of fungi new to science. Andy has published over 120 scientific and popular papers on fungi and has given numerous lectures and workshops to a variety of organizations on the diversity and importance of fungi.

Dr. Robert Cichewicz from the University of Oklahoma

Robert has had a long-standing fascination for the chemistry and biology of natural products. These interests were initially cultivated during his childhood and young adult life in rural western Michigan and further refined during his undergraduate experiences in biology (B.S. 1994) and anthropology (B.S. 1994) at Grand Valley State University. Robert went on to the University of Louisiana, Monroe where he obtained his M.S. degree in pharmaceutical sciences (1999) under the guidance of Dr. S. Kouzi in the microbial biotransformation of natural products. Following these studies, Robert joined the plant natural products lab of Dr. M. G. Nair at Michigan State University where he earned his Ph.D. in 2002. Upon moving to the University of California, Santa Cruz, Robert conducted postdoctoral studies in the field of bioactive marine-derived natural products under the mentorship of Dr. P. Crews. In 2005, Robert began his independent research career by establishing the Natural Products Discovery Group as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2011 and laternamed a Regents’ Professor in 2012. Also in 2012, Robert was appointed the Director of the University of Oklahoma, Institute for Natural Products Applications and Research Technologies (INPART), which is focused on translating natural products into therapeutic leads to combat cancer, infectious diseases, and other unmet medical needs. In 2014, Robert was promoted to full professor. Robert’s research group merges technologies and methods from the chemical, biological, and microbiological sciences for the purpose of discovering new bioactive metabolites from fungi and bacteria.