June Educator Spotlight
June Educator Spotlight
Education in mycology is a vibrant and essential aspect of our activity in MSA. The new Educator Spotlight column in Inoculum aims to highlight our outstanding educators and their motivations, approaches, and educational content for mycology and related disciplines. For the inaugural spotlight, the MSA Education Committee has selected Terry Henkel, PhD. If you’d like to nominate someone to be “spotlighted”, please send names and email addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewed by Sara Gremillion of the MSA Education Committee
1. What is your name, and how long have you been teachnig mycology?
Terry W. Henkel. I’ve been teaching mycology for 20 years as faculty at Humboldt State University (HSU). I TA’d mycology before that as a graduate student, both at Duke and the University of Wyoming.
2. What is the title of your mycology-focused course and what is the level of your course?
I teach four mycology-related courses. These are for undergraduate botany majors primarily but are also taken by undergrads in forestry, wildlife, and environmental studies. Also graduate students from our Biological Sciences Department often take the courses.
The courses are lecture and lab/field and include: BOT 359: Biology of Ascomycetes and Basidiomycetes, BOT 358: Biology of Microfungi, BOT 360: Biology of Fleshy Fungi, and BOT 394: Forest Pathology. Note that Prof. Emeritus David Largent (previous MSA Weston Teaching Award winner) created all of these courses during his 31 years at HSU. I took them over when I got the job, and have since morphed them into my own. Dave Largent deserves the visionary credit, though!
3. What is your favorite activity taught in these courses and what is the goal of this activity?
I most like the learning dynamics that go on in the labs where students are working with live material and understanding the relationship between macro- and micro-morphology and function. For Biology of Fleshy Fungi and Forest Pathology, we do a lot of field work as a group, and the students have to make extensive identified collections on their own time.
4. How is this activity assessed? In other words, how do you know if it’s effective?
The most rewarding part for me is seeing the fungi in their natural habitat, recognizing them, and interpreting their ecologies. I give the students extensive exams in the field with questions orally delivered on the spot based on fungal phenomena encountered. Students write their answers on “write in the rain” notebooks, so we can do this rain or shine. This is stressful for them, but very fun for me!
5. What advice would you give to someone who is new to teaching a mycology-focused course or who is looking to update a course?
Well, I would say to make sure to have lab and field components based on live material (freshly collected specimens, living cultures, etc.) and also, as much as possible, to get the students out in the field. Students also have to get a fundamental feel for, and understanding of, the rampant convergent evolution in fungi that has historically so flummoxed morphology-based taxonomic schemes.
Also, any person new to teaching mycology will find that there is no textbook available that is both good and up to date enough, to include the most recent systematic organizations (and nomenclature changes). Therefore, be prepared to draw on several key systematics papers in which the “new” higher taxa names are laid out to compare and contrast with what is given in their textbook (for example, the modern class names in the Ascomycota as given by Schoch et al. 2009).