Ep. 38: Hiking the Long Trail - Forest Pathology, Fungal Relationships & Protecting Rare Plants (feat. Matt Berger)

Today on Mushroom Hour we have the fantastic opportunity to chat with Matt Berger. Matt is a trained horticulturalist with a masters in forest pathology from West Virginia University. He currently works as a seasonal botanist for Sierra Pacific Industries and an Ecological Surveyor for the Great Basin Institute. 

Our adventure begins as we find Matt mid-expedition hunting for rare plants in one of his favorite plant habitats - the high desert and mountainous regions of Nevada. His background in forest pathology means he always has an eye on interactions between plants, fungi and insects. Even in the desert, fungi are omnipresent and Matt shares some of his experience with fungal pathogens that can be found on rare, desert plants he studies. How central is an understanding of fungi in understanding the big picture of forest pathology?  

Getting lost in the wild and cataloging biodiversity is something Matt is uniquely equipped for. He shares with us secrets of locating and identifying wild plant species and also encourages us to get out into big nature.  In the context of a fast-paced modern society, spending days and even months hiking a trail can take on a spiritual significance and profoundly change a person. Life-changing experiences hiking on the PCT trail spurred Matt's own passion for studying plant diversity and pursuing work in rare plant conservation.  

As we continue our trek across the great hiking trails of the American West, exploring deserts and mountain ranges, it becomes apparent just how many under-explored areas still remain. In the ranges of Nevada and California that are Matt's focus, each mountain can be a completely unique environment with entirely different species of plants and fungi! This means there is an incredible amount of biodiversity to research and catalog. We learn how researching biodiversity is integral to any conservation effort because you can't protect what you dont know is there! It would be putting it lightly to say Matt is obsessed with the conservation of rare plants. He explains how humans lose so much when we lose a species - both in it's potential value to humans and in it's intrinsic value as an organism that can never be replicated. We are called to get out into under-explored areas then catalog and protect the organisms we find!  

Directed, Recorded, Produced by: Mushroom Hour

Music by: Ancient Baby (https://peckthetowncrier.bandcamp.com/)   
Art by: Wyn Di Stefano (http://www.wyndistefano.com/)   

Episode Resources  
Matt Berger IG: https://www.instagram.com/sheriff_woody_pct/  
Matt Berger YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxru3ZxQQyQBw1188apzSQQ   
Great Basin Institute: https://www.thegreatbasininstitute.org/  
Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (Ambrosia beetle): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euwallacea_fornicatus   
Lewisia maguirei (Plant): https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/Rare_Plants/profiles/Critically_Imperiled/lewisia_maguirei/index.shtml  
Massospora platypediae (Fungus): https://www.gbif.org/species/2559691 
Claytonia (Plant): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claytonia 

1 comment

  • Absolutely fascinating episode! Love what you both mention about limerock. There’s so much I took from this episode. Mush love.


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