Introduction to Mushroom Identification in the Wrangells: August 14-16, 2015

with Dr. Gary Laursen

Explore the natural environment in the Wrangell-St. Elias from this unique perspective with mycologist Dr. Gary Laursen. In this 2.5 day course, we will collect, identify, prepare and/or preserve wild mushrooms of the Wrangells. We will cover information on Interior Alaskan wild and/or edible mushrooms, their eco-physiological roles and associated laboratory activities directed toward their identification. Participants will gain experience using field guides and learn how making spore prints assists in mushroom identification. Participants will learn about myriad roles mushrooms play in Wrangell's vastly different environments and gain an appreciation for wild mushrooms and how they influence our lives. The course provides available resources to those within the Interior as an outreach program for continuing education on mushroom photography, spore printing, identification using keys, mycophagy, preservation, labeling and herbarium accessioning.


All levels of interest are welcome and no experience is necessary. Participants should be in good physical condition and able to hike 2-3 miles. 

Photos by Jeremy Pataky and Brita Mjos

Instructor:  Dr. Laursen is the author of Common Interior Alaska Cryptogams. He has taught and conducted research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for 40 years and is the Director of the High Latitude Mycological Research Institute. Dr. Laursen’s 47-year love affair and afflictions for mushroom studies have taken him throughout Alaska, the circumpolar Arctic, circum-Subarctic and the circum-Sub-Antarctic Island archipelago within the huge Southern Ocean. Intense interests in STEM education for nationwide high school, and university undergraduate and graduate students, have resulted in myriad educational affiliations and associations worldwide. His focus is on providing student centric opportunity, program development, and sequestering finances to fund student initiatives. He has taught at and through the University Alaska Fairbanks since 1976.

Schedule:  Participants should plan to arrive in McCarthy by 5 p.m. in time to get settled and enjoy dinner on Friday, August 14th. Dinner will be followed by a public lecture. Saturday and Sunday will involve time in the field collecting, observing and talking about mushrooms. The workshop ends after dinner on Sunday, August 16th. A detailed schedule will be provided with the welcome packet upon registration.

Cost:  $325/person if you register by May 15, 2015; $355/person after May 15. Current WMC Members receive a 10% discount (not applicable to the early bird discount). The workshop price includes lunches and dinners and optional camping and food storage facilities

Meals and Accommodations:  Lunch and dinner will be provided and shared communally; workshop participants are responsible for the breakfast meal. Breakfast can be purchased from a limited number of local vendors or participants can bring breakfast provisions to store and cook in the Hardware Store facilities. Hot water will be provided for coffee and tea. Every effort will be made to accommodate dietary needs and restrictions with advanced notice. Primitive camping is available at no cost to workshop participants. The private site is located just a short walk away from the Wrangell Mountains Center campus. Those who camp are welcome to store gear and food, borrow bear barrels, and use our rustic shower and other facilities at the Hardware Store. WMC staff will direct you to the campsite and orient you there upon your arrival. 

Other lodging options within McCarthy include the full service McCarthy Lodge and Lancaster's Backpacker Hotel, located just down the street. The Kennicott River Lodge and Hostel is another great option outside of town; it's a short bicycle ride or twenty minute walk each way. If you bring a vehicle with you, Currant Ridge Cabins is located on the McCarthy Road about three miles from the road's end; it's about a half mile walk between the parking area there and the Old Hardware Store. Free shuttles run between the river and McCarthy on a rotation with limited hours. If you bring a camper in or would otherwise like to camp out with your vehicle, there are two commercial campgrounds near the end of the McCarthy Road that will accommodate you without advance reservations.

Location and Venue: This course is a Wrangell Mountains Center (WMC) program. The WMC is a private nonprofit institute whose mission is connecting people with wildlands through art, science and education in the Wrangell Mountains. The workshop is based at the WMC's headquarters in the Old Hardware Store in McCarthy, Alaska. The town of McCarthy is set in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest national park in the U.S. Over 23% larger than Switzerland, Wrangell-St. Elias is world renowned for its wild landscapes, high peaks, massive glaciers and rivers, healthy ecosystems, dramatic scenery, and unique cultural history.

McCarthy is approximately a seven hour drive from either Anchorage or Fairbanks (plus time for sightseeing) by way of Copper Center, Chitina, and the famed McCarthy Road (significantly improved by Alaska DOT in the last few years). It's also possible to fly or arrange shuttles from Anchorage to McCarthy.

McCarthy and neighboring Kennecott, a national historic landmark, are situated within the Kennicott Valley (note the different spellings between the natural features and historical features.) McCarthy and Kennecott serve locals and travelers alike as a gateway to world-class backcountry opportunities and amazing frontcountry hikes and walks (including access to the Root Glacier); the Kennicott Valley also provides a window into some of the most unique chapters in Alaska's history and an authentic, lively contemporary community.

Dr. Laursen

Dr. Laursen

Common Interior Alaska Crypyogams

Common Interior Alaska Crypyogams

If you prefer to register by phone or on paper please call Kristin Link at 907-554-4464 or send us a message here.