A new College of the Redwood course will allow people to dig deeper into the world of local mushrooms and earn college credit.

Laura Morgan, a new associate faculty member at the Del Norte Education Center, will be the instructor for North Coast Mushrooms. The class will focus on different groups of fungi, including microfungi, lichens and mushrooms, their ecological roles and uses for humans, Morgan said.

“A large part of the semester is dedicated to learning local mushroom species,” she said. “In the lab we’ll attempt to grow oyster mushrooms as well as stain root mycorrhizal fungi, make kombucha and mold terrariums. We’ll regularly be using microscopes to look at the microscopic features of different fungi.”

North Coast Mushrooms, listed as BIOL-21-D6285 in the fall 2018 class schedule, is the first course dedicated to local fungi being offered for college credit at the Del Norte Education Center, according to Morgan. There are only two more seats available in the course, but those who want to attend can get on a waiting list, she said.

Classes are 5:15 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and 10:05 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Saturday, starting this weekend.

According to Rory Johnson, director of the Del Norte Education Center, the college had held a community education class devoted to mushrooms for several years. But a student could not earn college credits by taking that class, he said.

Johnson said the college brought back a mushroom course after receiving several requests for it and after Morgan was hired.

“We thought what the heck, let’s run this one,” Johnson said. “It’s what some of the people have wanted and we have somebody now who can do it. And we wanted to do it for college credit, otherwise the cost to the students could have been significantly higher and they wouldn’t be eligible for financial aid, which now they are.”

When under the umbrella of the college’s community education program, the mushroom class costs about $200, according to Johnson. Now, it’s $46 per unit. For those who are eligible for a California Promise Grant, formerly known as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver, taking the mushroom class would cost less than $20 for materials and the student health fee, Johnson said.

Johnson noted even though the North Coast Mushrooms class doesn’t meet the natural science general education requirement, the units do count toward a degree and are transferable to another college as an elective.

Morgan studied botany as an undergraduate and a graduate student at Humboldt State University. She said she was introduced to mycology, the study of fungi, as an undergrad and thought they were fascinating.

After graduation, Morgan took a job monitoring sudden oak death in Redwood National Park. She said this led to her graduate research on Phytophthora ramorum, the fungus-like pathogen that causes sudden oak death.

“Recent research has shown how prevalent and significant mycorrhizal relationships (the symbiotic relationships between plants and fungi) are,” Morgan said. “Given our botanical diversity, rural location (lots of forests) and foggy, wet fall season, we also live in a great place to study fungi. Like most wildflowers bloom in the spring, most mushrooms fruit in the fall.”

According to Morgan, North Coast Mushrooms will focus on the features and functions of different fungi groups during the first few weeks of the semester. Since the second half of the semester will be prime mushroom season, students will take field trips during the lab to different areas to seek them out, Morgan said.

“Fall in Del Norte is a perfect time to learn about fungi, so I am excited to be teaching this class,” she said.

Other classes that will make their debut this fall includes a new agriculture class on plant propagation, AG 21. According to Johnson, this class is connected with the Crescent City Tree Garden managed jointly by the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, the Community Food Council and CR. This class is also transferable to another college as an elective, Johnson said. It also counts toward a certificate in agriculture, he said.

Another course making its debut is a computer networking class, or CIS 30. Johnson said there are a few prerequisites students need to take the class, but it was added to the schedule in response to several requests from members of the community.

The fall 2018 semester starts on Saturday, although most classes begin Monday, Johnson said. Students are still registering for courses and will likely continue to register during the first week of the new semester, he said. Although he won’t know the exact number until a few weeks into the semester, Johnson said he expects between 700 to 900 individual students.

For more information about North Coast Mushrooms and the fall 2018 semester, visit www.redwoods.edu/delnorte.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .

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