As every year, the mycological association of Toulouse (AMT) organizes within the Faculty of Pharmacy (https://pharmacie.univ-tlse3.fr/) a mycological exhibition during a whole weekend (6th and 7th November 2021). I was delighted to see so many people present and interested in mushrooms. Whether students, adults or retirees, mycology fanatic or total neophyte, mushrooms have captured the general public! The exhibition was organized into different poles, each representing a morphological group. Trays with fresh specimens retrieved the day before illustrated these large morphological groups and made it possible to engage the senses of visitors. They could look, touch and smell all the mushrooms for total immersion. In addition to these poles, various workshops were present. A workshop on confusions between similar edible and toxic species, a workshop on odors (mushrooms in boxes in order to fully feel the characteristic and sometimes surprising smells!), a workshop to identify the specimens brought by visitors and to finish, an introductory microscopy workshop (observation of spores, cystids, hyphae, etc.). Guided tours of the exhibition were organized regularly throughout the weekend.
Our exhibition had different objectives. The first was obviously to popularize mycology to the general public, to make mushrooms known, to reveal their secrets and their complexity. Unfortunately, mushrooms are only known to the general public during the fall semester, with the traditional family mushroom picking. We made a point of showing the public all the fungal diversity that exists in our region. Help them understand that mushrooms aren’t just during the autumn season, and it’s not just edible fungi that are interesting! Another objective was to make the public aware of the risks of poisoning, of confusion in the field, as well as of the respect of precautions during mycophagous outings. It is in this context and this objective that the FRANCE 3 television team came to film and interview mycologists and members of the association.
I had the honor of having been interviewed, alongside pharmacist Anaëlle Adoukonou Santos, to talk about the objectives and precautions to be taken in the field. Other fellows have been interviewed, but weren’t broadcast on TV. This is how TV works, you know, you speak for about 10 mn and just 10 seconds of what you said was chosen to be on the big screen! Anaëlle highlighted the risk and danger of automatic applications for the identification of fungi on photos (eg Google Lens, Picture Mushrooms, Mushroom Identify, Shroomify, ShroomID, etc.). Already an identification in the field has a significant percentage of errors according to the species identified, so imagine the percentage of errors that an artificial intelligence can have! especially when we know that many species have diagnostic characteristics that are not or hardly visible on photos (eg microscopy, odor, colors that can vary according to the brightness and the quality of the camera, etc.). The full interview made by FRANCE 3 Occitanie is available in French on their website (https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/occitanie/), or also available in French with English subtitles on my twitter account.
This kind of exhibition is an opportunity for us to share our knowledge and our passion for mycology. I sincerely hope that it will help arouse passions in some people that I look forward to meeting in the field or during our weekly meetings in the mycology lab every Monday evening at 6 p.m.
I would like to thank all the members of the mycological association of Toulouse for having organized this event. Beside focusing on Fungi, this exhibition was the opportunity to share all together a pleasant moment of cohesion, happiness and good French food!
Special thanks to Marianna Muneretto, Anne-Cécile Le Lamer, Jacqueline De Cambiaire and so many other persons for their energy and dedication to mycology. A final thank you to Jean-Paul Chaumeton who did us the honor and the pleasure of being present for one day.
See you next year ! And until then, may the fungi be with you 🙂
AMT Website: http://www.associationmycologiquedetoulouse.org/
As a bonus, here is a brief gallery illustrating this incredible weekend. All photos credited Marianna MUNERETTO. Enjoy!