Highlights from the 2019 Telluride Mushroom Festival

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The Telluride Mushroom Festival continues to get better each year. There were too many memories to recall in a small space here, but here were my personal highlights…

Keynote Presenter David Nichols. Nichols is the Founder and Lead Researcher at the Heffter Foundation, and a world-renowned psychedelics researcher. Just what is the work of the Heffter Foundation? In 1993 Nichols founded the Heffter Research Institute, which has supported and funded clinical research with psilocybin and led the so-called “renaissance in psychedelic research.” He enthralled a packed house, discussing how it is the Heffter who has come to fund most of the major psychedelics research over the past several decades. He also gave a tour de force of his two principal research areas, focused on drugs that affect serotonin and dopamine transmission in the brain and central nervous system. Nichols was presented with the Festival’s Lincoff Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Field of American Mycology.

Other highlights included meeting several academic mycologists who are recent arrivals to Colorado, including Telluride native Amy Honan, now at Western Colorado University; Alisha Quandt, University of Colorado-Boulder; and Lauren Czaplicki D’Antonio, of Science by Design in Boulder. Amy and Alisha blew us away with their taxonomic study of local mushrooms, while Lauren’s specialty is bioinformatics and environmental engineering wherein she uses fungi in many sustainable causes—we’re talking “mycoremediation” here, which is pretty much THE hot topic of late. Lauren even teamed up with regular Festival faculty member (and myco rock star) Leif Olson to lead tours at the local mycoremediation project site at the Fest’s end.

And finally, possibly my favorite highlight was Year 2 for our Lincoff Student Scholarship. This year’s student scholar was Lily Mickaill who traveled all the way from her university in southeastern Australia. Many of us got to hang out with her as she was pretty much everywhere, all the time, taking in all the Fest had to offer. Last year’s Student Scholar was Caue Oliveira, who hails from Brazil. Caue was back this year as a presenter, discussing his fascinating work with a popular group of forest polypore mushrooms, Laetiporus. Things really fell into place for Caue … we planned for him to arrive at my place weeks before the Festival and I was able to get him to the North American collections of Laetiporus in Madison, Wisconsin—a boon to his research. From there, my colleagues in Wisconsin took charge of him, getting him to the annual Mycological Society of America conference in Minneapolis where he gave a paper. He then came to Telluride fully energized. A trip like this can really set a career into motion and open doors and this is the synchronicity of the mushrooms and of this Festival! We’ll be watching for great things in the future for both Caue and Lily.

-Britt Bunyard, executive director

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