After a busy week, it’s time for some reflection

We’ve finally set up and inoculated all of the Agaricus pots, but now it’s time to go back and think about the big picture and all of the fundamental concepts driving our project.


First, we discussed the Strong (2008) paper (Food Chains and Food Webs) with the help of discussion facilitator Jas. The paper defines some useful terminology (i.e. chemoautotrophs, photoautotrophs, biotrophs, and saprotrophs). It also covers a lot of bottom up and top down effects in different food webs, but, as Jas pointed out, it also discusses something very relevant to our project: that bottom up effects or much more prevalent than top down ones in saprotrophic food chains. This is great news because we are looking at the bottom up effect of galls in a saprophytic food chain! Some interesting points of discussion brought up in class were:

  • How changes in the carbon/nitrogen ratio by adding galls might have effects
  • What effects might there be on the primary and secondary decomposers already in the mushroom compost and what effects would this have higher up in the system?
  • How would these bottom up effects differ between Oyster and Button Mushrooms
  • Sometimes changes in resource shift which organism has a competitive advantage: could the addition of galls lead to a shift like this?

This paper is a great reminder to think about the whole trophic system we are trying to study in our project.

We also discussed Moria Robinson’s presentation last week for the CPB seminar. She’s studying how resource availability in an environment can have effects up the trophic system. Clearly, there are parallels with our project. Avery shared some of the deets of her research:

  • She is comparing serpentine (low resource) and non-serpentine (high resource) habitats
  • It is often thought that plants invest more in protecting leaves in low resource environments because it is so costly to lose a leaf.
  • She is looking at herbivory by caterpillars in each habitat and predicted that more specialists occur in serpentine habitats because plants have more defensive leaf traits and are harder to consume.
  • She finds that species composition didn’t shift much between habitats, but that species behaved more like specialist in serpentine and more like generalists in non-serpentine.

This is another reminder to think about our system and what effects we may see on the insect community.


Next we did a project check-in with the five projects currently underway.

Pot experiment:

All of the pots have been inoculated! Yay!

To do:

  • Every two days the pots need to be aired out. Sonja created a calendar to be signed in class. This has also been added to the google calendar.
  • Bonnie is in charge of assessing how much space we have and if we need another growth chamber

Field Plots:

All 50 plots have been set up! Yay! We have four in the west side of the oak savannah. Two are no gall and two are high gall.

To do:

  • Kate and I will clean up the GPS so all of the necessary trees are on there and labeled in a not confusing way.
  • Determine our threshold for mushroom collecting if rain never comes.
  • Flag poison oak on one tree with poison oak.


Need to coordinate with Tyler to set up a time. Discussion occurred about if galls should be autoclaved. We should do both to see the effects of galls isolated from microbial community and one to see how microbial community inhibits fungal growth. Concerns arose about what the proper control was since galls take up space and may displace a significant amount of nutrients. Should we adjust no-gall agar to have same concentration of nutrients as gall agar?

To do:

  • Set up time with Tyler (hopefully start this week).
  • Kendra will discuss with Tyler what our control for the plating experiment should be.

Emergence Traps:

The group is testing three prototypes with mushrooms collected from the field.


To do:

  • We need to figure out supplies that we need, but this is dependent on what prototype we go with.
  • Kiely will check with Ian at the greenhouse about getting more pots.
  • Sean will check around town at stores to find the biggest cheapest water bottles he can.

Oyster Mushrooms:

Sonja and Jason contacted Fungi Perfecti, and they can provide us with Pleurotus spawn in a timely fashion. We will order it later so it arrives right before we want to start growing oyster mushrooms.


Most of the rest of class was well spent concept mapping.

Like Kara said in class, some of what we mapped may seem really obvious, but we were able to identify pieces of our project where we lacked understanding and see how everything flowed toward the BIG IDEA.

Concept Map

The concept map is a little messy, but we will spend more time next class further organizing our thoughts and filling out what we haven’t yet thought about. For the most part, grey represents our experiments, green represents what we are measuring for these experiments, the off-white circles contain our covariates, and the blue squares address the questions we are trying to answer. Like I said, it isn’t totally finished so come back in a few days to see the real deal. However, I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say this was a great start.

Agenda for next class Wednesday March 4:

2:10-2:15- Sonja will introduce her draft of the potting methods. Everyone should read through it and add missing details after class.

2:15-2:30- Kara will spend some time discussing what she expects of us when writing our Introduction (due Monday March 9).

2:30-3:30- We will have a stats workshop using R with some mock data that Kara will provide.

3:30-3:40- Break

3:40-4:50- Continue concept mapping

4:50-5:00- Figure out what needs to get done by Monday and what we are going to be doing Monday.

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