Fungi and Friends

Uncapping Ingredients for Better Living

Professor Tom Bruns, PMB; Professor John Taylor, PMB; and Iman Sylvain, PhD '18 PMB (Moderator), Data Analyst, Innovative Genomics Institute COVID-19 Diagnostics Lab

fungi from bot garden tour

Friday, April 23, 2021 | 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Virtual - recording of the live event below.

Perhaps you’ve been foraging for mushrooms this season? Or are you just casually curious about the world’s continuing appetite for, and fascination with, fungi? This moderated discussion featuring a panel of UC Berkeley experts will pore over the myriad ways modern civilization interacts with fungi. The panel will speak to our millennia-long appetite for them in cuisines throughout the world, as well as their evolving presence in commerce, medicine (including the use of psilocybin in modern mental health treatments), public health (including indoor air quality and the spread of opportunistic disease), as well as the impact climate change is having on the mushroom season.

From ectomycorrhizal fungi to its invasive relatives, we invite you to join us on this microbiological journey as we explore insights into these key ingredients for improved public health and wellbeing.

If you have any questions you can email Kassie Darling, Director of Events and Special Programs, at

Click here for a recording of the event. 

Professor Tom Bruns, PMB
Tom Bruns is a renowned expert in the field of mycology (that’s the study of fungi). He takes classes on field trips to Mendocino and Yosemite, has the respect of colleagues across campus and across the world, and earns overwhelming praise from UC Berkeley students. Tom's current research includes post-fire saprobic fungal communities,   mycorrhizal facilitation of invasive pines in the Southern Hemisphere, longevity of ectomycorrhizal spore banks, and mycorrhizal facilitation of bristlecone pine expansion in the white mountains. 

Iman Sylvain, PhD '18 PMB (Moderator), Data Analyst, Innovative Genomics Institute COVID-19 Diagnostics Lab
Iman Sylvain received her PhD in John Taylor’s lab, researching indoor air microbiology in public housing. Iman’s deep passion for social justice and health equity led her to complete a dissertation evaluating the presence of mold in low-income housing using next-generation sequencing. After completing her PhD, Iman went to work directly on policy issues and served as a Legislative Aide for Former Berkeley City Councilmember Cheryl Davila. Iman joined the Innovative Genomics Institute's COVID-19 Testing Lab last summer to be of service as a 'first responder behind the bench' during the pandemic. 

Professor John Taylor, PMB
John Taylor is in his fiftieth year of studying fungi as a profession and starting his fifth decade as a professor at Berkeley. He and Tom Bruns (with whom he has taught for more than 20 years) also take classes to wineries and mushroom farms.  John has been president of the Mycological Society of America and the International Mycological Association and his current research addresses the role of fungi when crop plants experience drought and the environmental reservoir of the fungus that causes San Joaquin Valley Fever.

The event will be introduced by Lew Feldman. Lew is a Professor of Plant Biology and the Executive Director of the UC Botanical Garden, UC Berkeley.  He investigates root development and has focused on how roots respond to different soil environments, such as high salts and drought. He also studies how roots respond to gravity, which generally translates into downward growth.