Cornell University

small things

a fungus in amber

Paleomycology: Discovering the fungal contemporaries of dinosaurs

Fungi tend to be small, soft, and ephemeral — properties that don’t exactly help establish a strong presence in the fossil record. But they certainly have been around for a long time (perhaps 4 billion years?). Here we explore some of the fungi of the distant past, including some molds preserved perfectly in amber for tens of millions of years.

Beneath Notice

Beneath Notice

Our new book is now available! It’s a self-published catalog of our last two years of art shows, which featured the use of a borescope to get up close and personal with small fungi. The borescope gives a fabulous, bug’s eye view of small things in the field, at a scale more fitting to their small majesty than a squinty hand lens or a sober microscope. We think you’ll like the book.

Fungi of China

Homeward Bound: Fungi of China

The Fungi of China collection at the Cornell Plant Pathology Herbarium has a poignant history. Rescued from destruction during the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, many of its fragile specimens traveled by oxcart and by ship to the US, where we have been safeguarding them for about 70 years. Now we’ve divided them and will be sending the new duplicates back to the Herbarium of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It is our gift to the people of China.


borescopic mycology

We’re so excited about small things, we devised a whole new way to look at them. ‘Beneath Notice’ was our 2009 art show, which hung at Mann Library’s 2nd floor gallery Jan 12 – Feb 27. It featured Kent Loeffler’s stupendous photographs of fungi, all taken with a borescope. This allows us to get all up close and personal with mushrooms and less-often-seen tiny fungi. As if that wasn’t enough, the photos were annotated with fungal outbursts by Kathie Hodge, and Kent’s famous time lapse videos were running on nearby hi-def monitors. Missed the show? Buy the catalog.

foam from the stream

Fungi in streams: a leaf nightmare

The fungi that live in burbling streams are full of surprises. They’re shockingly pronged and elegant–not the kind of thing you’d expect to find in a spoonful of filthy-looking foam. And they’re surprisingly important as foundation members of aquatic ecosystems.

spore discharge

The Perfect Pitch

This delightful guest post by Moselio Schaechter and Merry Youle explains the mechanism by which mushrooms discharge their spores. You always wanted to know why mushrooms are associated with dank and humid places–this clever water-assisted mechanism is the explanation.

Furia ithacensis

Furia ithacensis

Well now, everyone likes a dead fly, but I’m here to tell you that some dead flies are more spectacular than others. Like these gloriously dead snipe flies, exploded by a fungus that is named after my home town. If I were a birder, I’d call this find a “good bird,” and tick it off on my life list. Do you have a life list?

nematode with spores

The Dancing Nematode and the Helicospore

Lots of small twisty things, entwined. Some of them are moving. What the heck is going on here?


Bioblitz Final Report

Back in 2007 I hosted a Bioblitz. Bioblitzes aim to inventory the organisms living on a patch of the planet. For fungi, this is frustratingly impossible.


Most people don't pay much attention to fungi, which include things like mushrooms, molds, yeasts, and mildews. Here at Cornell we think they're pretty fascinating. In fact, even the most disgusting foot diseases and moldy strawberries are dear to our hearts. We'd like to talk to you about fungi, so that like us, you too can tell gross stories at the dinner table. Afterwards, maybe you'll notice some things you would have overlooked before, and we think this could be good for the planet.

Kathie T. Hodge, Editor

Beneath Notice, our book of borescopic mycology.


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