Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dunkard forum open to public

A forum on the Dunkard Creek fish kill and other water quality issues scheduled for Wednesday by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at WVU is open to the public.
The forum runs from 6:30-8 pm in OLLI classroom A in the Mountaineer Mall, Green Bag Road. Forum leaders are Barry Pallay, Frank Jernejcic and Wallace Venable.
This class will provide an opportunity to learn more about the total dissolved solids problem and methods of mitigation.
Pallay is a chemical engineer and vice-president of the Upper Monongahela River Association. Jernejcic works with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Venable is a mechanical engineer and technical coordinator of UMRA.
Members of the public who plan to attend should e-mail Don Strimbeck at Info on OLLI:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Volunteers needed for Coopers Rock workdays

The Coopers Rock Foundation will host volunteer trailwork sessions at Coopers Rock State Forest on Saturday and Sunday. Volunteer trailworkers will have the opportunity to work up to 13.1 hours during the weekend. All trail users are welcome to volunteer.
Scheduled work hours are from 9am -6pm Saturday and from 1 -5:15pm Sunday.
Tools and work gloves will be provided; boots are encouraged, and sandals are prohibited for safety reasons. Bring your own tools if you would like.
The meeting place at the start of each day will be the Roadside Trail Kiosk in the day-use parking lot, near the restrooms. Latecomers should go to the kiosk for a map and directions.
Trails to be worked on include Roadside Trail, the Connector Trail, between the Intermediate Loop and the Reservoir Area, the Rhodendron Trail and more, depending on the number of volunteers.
Info: Adam Polinksi, 304.296.4977;

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Arthurdale resident hosts butterfly count

Jaime Dixon, of Arthurdale, is hosting the 3rd annual Arthurdale Butterfly Count on Saturday. She is one of hundreds of volunteers who have organized and hosted a butterfly count to gather data for the North American Butterfly Association's annual Fourth of July Butterfly Count.
During this one day census, volunteers collect data about the numbers and different species of butterflies seen within a 15-mile count circle. Volunteers are needed to help count butterflies. Volunteers will visit several different habitats, including fields, wooded areas and roadside wildflower groupings that attract butterflies.
Info and to volunteer: Jaime Dixon,
The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) said scientists have found that butterflies can serve as an important indicator of the health of ecosystems. The NABA Butterfly Count has been held annually since 1975, when only 29 counts were conducted. In 2009, there were 463 counts in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Info on NABA:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Master Naturalist Conference, June 11-13, 2010.

The Mon group was well-represented at the first annual state-wide Master Naturalist Conference held in Elkins on June 11-13. Patricia Bunner, Dale Patton, Brad Field, Dave Ahrend and Ellie, Rob Vagnetti, John Bogan, Carolyn Nix, Randy (sorry I don't have last name), Ellen Hrabovsky and I attended. Free classes were offered were Astronomy, Appalachian Geologic Natural History, GIS/GPS, WV Wetlands, and Stream Animal Ecology. The classes and socials were well organized and just plain fun. It was great to meet like-minded folks from across the state. I recommend the 2011 event to everyone.


Occasionally at the mushroom sorting tables of a foray I attend, I overhear someone say that they do not want to pick up any amanitas because there is no place to wash their hands. I have heard such expressions of fear from being poisoned at other times. Also, when I take a taste of a russula for ID purposes without explaining what I am doing, there are usually a few looks of horror from any onlookers who are present. Given our Anglo-saxon, mycophobic heritage in this country, I suppose it is natural for people to have such reactions, but some common sense based on a solid foundation of some chemical facts may help dispel some of the fear concerning poisonous mushrooms.

First of all we should consider the amount of toxin present in the mushroom and then its relative potency. Few substances in the natural world are so toxic and present in such high concentration (and these the layman is quite unlikely to encounter) that one need worry about getting it on your hands or even tasting a smidgeon. Incidentally, when I taste a mushroom, I literally do just that, not swallow it. Mushroom toxins work by being adsorbed through the intestinal tract, not through the skin. Then the toxins need to be transported to places like the liver or the central nervous system to hurt you. If you have just picked a few Amanita virosa for the sorting tables, you needn't worry about sitting down and eating a sandwich with your bare fingers because the lethal amanitin toxins are simply not present in that great of a concentration in the fungal tissue.

It is commonly accepted that A. phalloides is one our most toxic mushroom. It has been found that the lethal amanitins are present in only 3-5 parts per thousand and indeed, some specimens of A virosa and A. verna have no detectable levels. In other words one ounce of fresh death angel might have less than a fifth of a gram of toxin, an amount meaningless unless we know something about how potent the toxin is. Relative toxicity is often expressed as an estimation of the least amount of poison that would cause death, or the minimum lethal dose (MLD). A better method is to express the dose in a statistical way to minimize the fact that individual people will vary in their susceptibility to a poison. Such an expression is calculated on how much toxin would be needed to kill half of the people, if each person ate the same amount, each weighed the same, and none had any predisposing illnesses. That amount per person would be called the lethal dose 50 % or LD50. Expressed in weight of toxin per weight of individual ingesting the toxin, the LD50 for amanitoxins comes out to be in the neighborhood of about one 2 ounce mushroom for a 150 pound man (LD50 = O.1 mg/kg). It would take 10 small Galerina autumnalis to equal this same dose. In other words, if you ate this much of one of these two mushrooms, you would have a 50-50 chance of succumbing. Much less would be needed of course to make you violently sick, but this would still be appreciably more than what trace amounts might stick to your fingers when handling A. phalloides.

Even so, I do not recommend tasting such species although I wouldn't hesitate to do so (BUT underline that word "taste"). IN SUMMARY: By all means exercise care in identifying, eating, and handling various mushrooms, but at the same time, use some common sense to avoid unwarranted fear of them. Simple handling of even the most toxic mushrooms won't hurt you.