Myco-Ed: Mycological Curriculum for Education and Discovery

Submitted by: Sara Branco

We are thrilled to announce Myco-Ed! It is a program to enhance training in fungal biology and genomics in mycology classrooms around the country. The main idea of this curriculum is to have students isolate fungal cultures, and use these cultures to sequence, assemble, and annotate fungal genomes. The data generated will be used to teach genomics and to improve the quality of publicly available genome annotations. We are very excited about the prospect of having you, the mycological community, and your students participate.

We obtained funding from the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to pilot this program and have been compiling and testing protocols to implement Myco-Ed. In short:

  • Students obtain fungal cultures, identify them by generating ITS sequences and compiling morphological descriptions, then use these cultures to perform stress assays and gather phenotypic data (useful for genome annotations and for linking genomes to phenotypes).
  • Fungal tissue is sent to the Arizona Genomics Institute (AGI) for DNA extraction and then to the Joint Genome Institute for whole genome sequencing, assembly and annotation. Successful genome projects will then be made publicly available in the MycoCosm web portal. 
  • Classrooms implement comparative genomics modules, analyzing Myco-Ed generated data (e.g., identifying phylogenetic relationships and genes relevant to the stress assays etc.). We are currently developing these modules.

In this first phase, we focused on endophytes but our goal is to expand to other fungal guilds. Our preliminary protocol testing was very promising, and we have already obtained high quality DNA, resulting in long reads and assemblies for several test cultures. 

As we look to expand Myco-Ed, we ask for your input:

  • Please share your protocols for culturing a diverse array of fungi in the classroom (chytrids, zoopagales, and other understudied fungi included!)
  • Please let us know by November 5th if and when you’ll be teaching a class where you could implement Myco-Ed (email We currently have limited slots, so please provide a short description of your class, the student body you serve, and available resources (e.g., your ability to provide ITS sequences for fungi cultured in class). 

We are thrilled to implement this program and look forward to expanding Myco-Ed nationally over the next two years. To this end, we will be submitting additional funding applications for sequencing, project management, and lab reagents for participating classes. Community engagement and evidence of success will be instrumental, so your participation is crucial. We will post regular updates on Myco-Ed so we all know where we are at.