by Robert Courteau, president of the Ottawa Mycological Society
It was a glorious sunny day on Saturday, September 24th when members of the Ottawa Mycological Society and of the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club came together at MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre to contribute observations to the Great North American FungiQuest.
MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre, just outside of Cumberland, is a closed-to-the-public property of 425 acres, dedicated to the education of elementary and high school students. Once or twice a year, they hold an Open Trails Day, where they open the property to the public to come explore. This year, they provided special accomodation for our Fungi Observation Rally.
Our group was provided with the MacSkimming classroom, a beautiful log cabin with all the modern amenities one may want, including tables, chairs and bathrooms! Our day began early, as the early forager gets the mushroom. Robert Courteau, President of the Ottawa Mycological Society, provided the group with a tutorial on taking proper observational photos of fungi, described the importance of field guides, and where the top field guides fall short, and finally, gave one-on-one instructions to those struggling with the iNaturalist app or contributing to the MacSkimming iNat Project.
With cameras in hand and fungi on the mind, the group scattered out into the forest to begin their contributions as Citizen Scientists to FungiQuest.
FungiQuest is a month-long observation rally, or BioBlitz, that is running from September 15 to October 15, 2022. The goal is to bolster the number of data points of what fungi species are located across all of North America. Included with the fungi are the friends of fungi, such as slime molds and lichen. The initial goal was to record 50,000 observations within the 30 days, but as of our Observation Rally, FungiQuest had already broken that record. A new goal had been set for 150,000 observations, and is still in progress.
While the Observation Rally itself was only from 9:30am to noon, many people had arrived well before 9:30 and a significant number remained right up until MacSkimming reclosed their doors to the public at 3pm. While many of the members are still in the process of uploading their observations for identification, we know that hundreds, and likely well over a thousand photos were taken of a wide variety of fungi species.
MacSkimming is not just an enormous forest, it is also a remarkable conservation area due to restrictions on public access. We found plentiful, healthy colonies of several species that get plundered throughout forests of Ottawa and Gatineau. One such example was a stump covered in Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae a.k.a Hemlock Varnish Shelf). MacSkimming truly is an example of conservation in practice and was a paradise for those looking for fungi.