Arctic Mycology Training

Arctic 8
Midnight sun
  • Marta Misiak

Where is the best place to study Arctic Mycology? The high Arctic is the answer! Last month one of the members of the Fungal Ecology group (Marta) attended a month long course on Arctic Mycology at University of Svalbard, Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Norway at 78°N. It is the world’s northernmost institution for higher education and research. As it was summertime, it was a 24hr light day – plenty of time to study fungi!!

We did study hard. The course was a combination of lectures, seminars, fieldwork, laboratory work, field trips and data analysis with main aim of introducing the participants to current mycological methods and research questions. The course covered a wide aspect of mycological aspects and was an introduction to Arctic mycology and the role and function of fungi in the cold ecosystems.

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Fieldwork – getting to the site
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Fieldwork in Svalbard – soil sampling








Students were introduced to:

– lichens

– identification of fungi in the field and in the laboratory

– different forms of symbiosis between fungi and plants present in the Arctic

– pathogenic fungi

– the role of fungi in cold ecosystems

– the role of environmental factors on distribution and composition of fungal communities

– molecular techniques used in mycology

– laboratory work – how to isolate and culture fungi in the laboratory conditions

However before we could head off and do any fieldwork, Arctic health and safety was a priority – beware of polar bears!

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Health and safety training in Svalbard
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Kvadehuken – fieldwork experiment location marked with a dot

Besides attending the course, some fieldwork was done at Kvadehuken, Ny-Ålesund. In particular, soil samples were collected. There is a field experiment set up, that looks at the effect of warming on polar soil fungi. Open top chambers were mounted at the site to increase soil temperature and water is applied, twice a year, to alter soil water potential. The experiment was designed in a fully factorial manner, so that a range of treatment is covered. Back in the laboratory, soil samples will be used for laboratory based experiments to investigate responses of polar soil fungi to warming.

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Open top chambers on the field site
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Cultured Morteriella sp. isolated from Arctic soil







All photos © Marta Misiak, 2015.