Ep. 30: Leah Mycelia - Making Friends with Mushrooms, Mycoheterotrophs & Slime Molds (feat. Leah Bendlin)

Today on Mushroom Hour we are graced by the presence of Leah Bendlin AKA Leah Mycelia. For anyone on Instagram or Facebook, you will know Leah for her near-encyclopedic knowledge of wild macrofungi, some of their underappreciated fungal brethren and even their distant cousins, the infamous slime molds. 

On our way to visiting her myceliated domain of Portland, OR we make a stop in Leah's home state of Wisconsin to learn a little from Leah's Dad - a biology teacher who was a huge early influence in Leah's exploration of nature. As she explored her own relationship with nature and her quest for more delicious wild things to eat, Leah discovered mushrooms and became obsessed with these enigmatic organisms. Her love of food is still at the core of her mushroom obsession. To date, she has eaten an unbelievable 252 species of mushroom! What are some delicious edibles that we don't even know about?   

As she has continued to develop her mycological repetoire, Leah has been able to tap into the extensive fungal community both in-person and online. Whether it's Facebook mushroom identification groups or local mycology clubs we'll feel the mush love and expand our knowledge exponentially. As citizen scientists have increasing access to vast amounts of information, the line between the professional and amateur scientist begins to blur. How do these communities overlap in practicing science and furthering the study of mycology?

Branching out beyond the confines of kingdom fungi, Leah will introduce us to some distant relations that either rely on fungal organisms or resemble them - Mycohetertrophic plants and the infamous Slime Molds! Mycoheterotrophic plants rely on the nutrient-sharing mycorrhizal fungal networks that connect 95% of land plants together. Are these plants strictly parasitic or do they offer some benefit to the fungi? Few people are as passionate about slime molds as Leah and she will demystify these single-celled eukaryotic organisms. Even though many of us associate them with fungi, slime molds evolutionary lineage shows they actually have less in common with fungi than we do! Due to their unique physiology and behavior, slime molds are frequently used in scientific research. What kind of unique clues about non-human learning and brain-free intelligence do slime molds reveal to us?

Episode Resources
Leah Bendlin (IG page): https://www.instagram.com/leah_mycelia/   
Disciotis Venosa (mushroom): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disciotis_venosa   
Geopora Cooperi (mushroom): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geopora_cooperi   
Cortinarius Caperatus (mushroom): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortinarius_caperatus   
Alden Dirks (Collaborator): https://www.aldendirks.com/   
Alison Pollack (Collaborator): https://www.instagram.com/marin_mushrooms/   
Sarah Lloyd (Collaborator): https://www.instagram.com/sarah.lloyd.tasmania/   
Myxomycetes - A Handbook of Slime Molds (book): https://www.amazon.com/Myxomycetes-Handbook-Steven-L-Stephenson/dp/0881924393

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