In Memoriam: Steven E. Carpenter, 1951 – June 9, 2020

In Memoriam: Steven E. Carpenter, 1951 - June 9, 2020

Steve Carpenter with collecting equipment on the bridge at Ona Beach, Oregon, October, 2019

Steve Carpenter loved the outdoors and communicated this love through his knowledge of fungi to everyone from the academic world to local laypersons and his beloved family. He grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon, where he roamed the woods with his Boy Scout troop and developed a love of natural history. His love of mushrooms first started while attending and serving as a youth counselor at the Boy Scout camp at Spirit Lake on Mt. St. Helens. Later he was to study the fungi that appeared on the devastated slopes of Mt. St. Helens after it blew up in 1980. After receiving his Ph.D. Steve returned to Oregon, where he spent the rest of his life educating children and adults about the wonders of fungi and plants.

Steve arrived at Oregon State University, Corvallis, as an undergraduate, knowing that he wanted to study fungi and took all the courses in mycology as well as participating in the semiannual fungus forays throughout the Pacific Northwest and northern California. He attended Cornell University for a master’s degree issued in 1975 working with Richard Korf on the taxonomy of an unusual Pacific Northwest fungus, a little green inoperculate discomycete, Gelatinodiscus flavidus (now known as Chloroscypha flavida, although he disagreed with that determination) that decomposes needles of Chamaecyperis nootkatensis (Carpenter 1976). From Cornell he moved to the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), Bronx, New York, where he studied a large genus of little yellow inoperculate discomycetes, Crocicreas including Cyathicula with Kent Dumont and Clark T. Rogerson. This research culminated in receipt of a Ph.D. in 1980 from the City University of New York and publication of his monograph on Crocicreas, which stands today as the only comprehensive account of that genus (Carpenter 1981). While at NYBG, he had opportunities to collect fungi from Central and South America including Colombia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

After Steve received his Ph.D., there was no place in the world for him to live but Corvallis, Oregon, but given the scarcity of jobs in mycology, he had to draw on his scientific ingenuity and enthusiasm for fungi to find his way there. He worked at the USDA Forestry Sciences Lab from 1980–1984 looking at the fungi and insects involved in the decay processes in logs in the forests of the Cascades (Carpenter & Kropp 1984, Crawford et al. 1990, Kropp & Carpenter 1984, Seifert & Carpenter 1987). He and Jim Trappe coined the term phoenicoid fungi for the fungi that sporulate on soil or wood after it has been burned (Carpenter & Trappe 1985). He was a co-investigator on an NSF-funded project to study the mycorrhizal fungi that appeared in the years after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens (Carpenter et al. 1987). In 1988 Steve obtained a job as a micro-contamination engineer at Hewlett-Packard, Corvallis, in charge of clean rooms where he was known as Dr. Dust. He also founded and developed a business, Abbey Lane Laboratory, to help solve a broad variety of problems involving fungi. He responded to those working with indoor air fungi and had a contract with a government agency to study the disease caused by Saprolegnia on salmon. After taking early retirement from Hewlett-Packard, he returned to school for an education degree in 2007 and taught forensic science, food science, and biology at Philomath High School in Philomath, Oregon. Later, he and his wife Patty purchased and operated Pacific

Steve Carpenter with 1-year old grandchild Liam in Philomath, Oregon, April, 2019

Analytical Laboratory, a state-certified water, soil, and mold testing lab.

Steve was interested in everything outdoors especially at nearby Bald Hill and Marys Peak, the highest peak in the Coast Range of western Oregon. Seeing a need for field guides for the region, he wrote a locally popular pocket guide to the Wildflowers of Marys Peak Meadows (Carpenter 2009) that has gone through several printings and a second edition as well as Wildflowers of Bald Hill Meadows (Carpenter 2012, 2014). He followed these with a similar book on the common Mushrooms of Marys Peak and Vicinity (Carpenter 2016), which served as the basis for his local mushroom classes and lectures. Steve always wanted to excite others about the natural world and did so with these publications.

When Steve returned to Corvallis, he had met the love of his life Patty with whom he had three children, and they now have grandchildren living nearby. After his retirement, they enjoyed trips with their trailer from Alaska to Iowa and the southwestern U.S., always taking photographs of flowers and mushrooms. Belonging to the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Oregon and to the Corvallis Elks Lodge, they had a ready-made community of other members to stay with wherever they went.

What a shock to receive the phone call from Patty that Tuesday with the distressing news that Steve had died unexpectantly that morning. He is gone too soon while there are many more fungi to be discovered and many more children and adults who need to know about the wonders of nature.

Literature cited:

Carpenter, S.E. 1976. Taxonomy, morphology and ontogeny of Gelatinodiscus flavidus. Mycotaxon 3: 209–232.

Carpenter, S.E. 1981. Monograph of Crocicreas (Ascomycetes, Helotiales, Leotiaceae). Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 33: 1–290.

Carpenter, S.E. and Kropp, B. 1984. A North American record of Myriogonium odontiae. Mycotaxon 21: 487–490.

Carpenter, S.E. and J.M. Trappe. 1985. Phoenicoid fungi: a proposed term for fungi that fruit after heat treatment of substrates. Mycotaxon 23: 203–206.

Carpenter, S.E. 2009. Wildflowers of Marys Peak Meadows. Abbey Lane, Philomath, Oregon. 136 pp. (revised 2017, 176 pp.)

Carpenter, SE. 2012. Wildflowers of Bald Hill Meadows. Steven E. Carpenter, Corvallis, Oregon. 136 pp. (revised 2014, 176 pp.)

Carpenter, S.E. 2016. Mushrooms of Marys Peak and Vicinity. Pacific Analytical Laboratory, Philomath, Oregon. 124 pp.

Crawford RH, SE Carpenter and ME Harmon 1990. Communities of filamentous fungi and yeast in decomposing logs of Pseudotsuga menziesii. Mycologia 82: 759–765.

Kropp, B.R., and Carpenter, S.E. 1984. Mytilodiscus a new genus of inoperculate discomycetes. Mycotaxon 20: 365–371.

Seifert, K.A., and Carpenter, S.E. 1987. Bisporella resinicola comb. nov. and its Eustilbum anamorph. Canadian Journal of Botany 65: 1262–1267.

Amy Y. Rossman

Botany and Plant Pathology Department

Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR 97333