PMB 5212: Fungi - A Kingdom of Their Own

3 Credits

No matter how you classify life on Earth, the fungi are in a Kingdom of their own. Latest estimates of the number of fungal species on our planet are between 2.2 and 3.8 million species. The diversity of single-celled and multi-cellular fungi is staggering, the result of divergence within a group of aquatic eukaryotes one billion years ago (± 500 million years). That divergence ultimately gave rise to animals and fungi, but the diversification within the fungal lineages is unrivaled. They can be found in aerobic and anaerobic environments. They are found on every Continent, recycling and reallocating vast amounts of nutrients in every Biome. They cause problems in crops but are also used to make food, with ancient processes such as fermentation and mushroom cultivation. For these reasons, mycology (study of fungi) is increasingly popular among students with interests as diverse as their fungal subjects. With the advent of high-throughput DNA sequencing to sample entire communities, we are seeing fungi in all of these places where they were previously invisible. The fungal role in Earth's most critical processes is, right now, coming into light. It is an exciting time to study Kingdom Fungi. This course uses a format of lecture, discussion, and field trips to provide undergraduate and graduate students with a solid foundation in the fungi, primarily through an environmental lens. Undergraduate and graduate students will learn the basics of fungi in three core sections: 1) Phylogeny, taxonomy, and diagnostics (Who are the fungi?); 2) Morphology and physiology (How do fungi work?); 3) Ecology and Biotechnology (What are fungal implications and applications?). Within each core section, there will be one class period devoted to a discussion of the environment, the role of fungi, and the human dimensions of conservation and management. This discussion will be used by the class to vote for an environmental theme used to frame writing assignments, one per unit. Using this theme, all students will create a Fungus in Focus one-page brief focused on this environmental issue. This is a creative way to connect dots for students linking microbial processes to the environment, in our case harnessing connections to fungi that often have visible characters (e.g. mushrooms) that make those connections easier for students. We will also go on two field trips, one to a mushroom cultivation facility, and one into the field in April, all depending on class size and weather.

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B+ Average (3.433)Most Common: B (40%)

This total also includes data from semesters with unknown instructors.

10 students
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  • 4.80


  • 4.00



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