Gary Emberger

I'm a professor of biology at Messiah College where I've taught since 1981. You can read more about the courses I teach, my interests, and my other responsibilities at my Messiah College home page.

My interest in fungi began in a formal manner through the introductory mycology course I took at Penn State. In spring term, 1974, I took BIOL 418 Mycology with Dr. C. Leonard Fergus as the instructor. Dr. Fergus loved the fungi and during the course I caught some of his passion for this group of organisms. As a result, I'm quite certain I'd still be involved with mushrooms as a hobby even if I did not teach mycology and biology as a profession. In any event, I combined my interest in plants with my new interest in mycology and completed graduate work in plant pathology at both Penn State and at North Carolina State University. While at NCSU, I took PP 625 Advanced Mycology in the fall of 1978, taught by Dr. Larry Grand. I still fondly remember staying up all night (the only time I ever did this) to complete a collection of fungal specimens to be turned in as part of the final grade. I reminded him of this at the 2004 NAMA meetings in North Carolina! In the plant pathology world of microscopic plant pathogens, PP 625 provided an interesting contrast in studying some of the macroscopic fungi. Larry is one of the contributing photographers for the site.

In the early years of teaching mycology at Messiah College, my students collected a number of specimens which they could not identify. Neither could I with any confidence. Eastern Penn Mushroomers did not exist and I turned to Dr. Fergus at Penn State for help. He graciously offered his assistance. Many of the specimens I took to him were wood decay species. As I became more proficient at identifying wood decay fungi I appreciated their usefulness in teaching a mycology course with a field collection requirement. Even when conditions were too dry for terrestrial fungi, my students could almost always find fungi on logs, stumps, and decaying wood. In addition, many of the species are simply beautiful and often spectacular. My appreciation for this group of fungi continues to deepen over the years.

Because of my contact with Dr. Fergus, I was aware of his book Illustrated Genera of Wood Decay Fungi. I was intrigued by the concept of a key to fungi which are restricted to a specific habitat, in this case, wood. The idea slowly developed in my mind that a web-based identification guide to fungi growing on wood would make for an interesting academic project. It would be an updated version of the out-of-print Illustrated Genera of Wood Decay Fungi. I felt a need existed for this kind of guide. And, can there ever be too many field guides to fungi? Following a time as department chair, the opportunity presented itself to pursue this project. I started work on the web site in 2003.

That's me below in 2005 examining Trametes versicolor on a rotting stump.


Me | Dr. Leonard Fergus | Acknowledgements

Using keys | Glossary | Species inclusion criteria | Why wood decay fungi ?
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