A directed study, by definition, is an individualized course designed to offer an in-depth study in an area not covered by the Faculty’s regular course offerings. To enroll in any directed study in Mycology a student must have taken BLY 435. Depending on circumstances a student may be accepted as long as she/he has taken similar classes (i.e. BLY 433).


Number of credits

1 credits equals 4(8) hrs/week

2 credits equals 8(12) hrs/week

3 credits equals 12(16) hrs/week

2 credits equals 16(20) hrs/week


Here, it is important to mention that the above hours translate to the amount of time a student needs to put into her/his work. As stated below, a lot of the time in directed studies in mycology accounts for actual time in the field or laboratory and therefore students are expected to be ‘seen working.’ Also, it follows that students are expected to work a minimum of hours per credit, but most likely they will need to work more than the required minimum.


Final Report

All biology students taking directed studies must produce a final report of their work and findings. This report will be scored and will be used as the final grade. The format of this document is in the scientific format including introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion (conclusion), and references. The volume (in terms of number of pages or words) of the final report is in direct relation with the amount of credits. Students can consult previous reports at the Biology conference room.


Red Tape

Students wanting to enroll in directed studies need to fill out a special form to be approved and then signed by Dr. Mata and the chair of the Biology department.


Available Projects

a-      Taxonomic studies on selected genera of macrofungi

The student has the opportunity to carry on with in-depth micro-morphological studies of herbarium specimens. Dr. Mata has collected many macrofungi from the Gulf Coast requiring microscopic analysis, such as measurement of spores and cystidia. This type of work will allow the student to develop skills with light microscopes, imaging, and illustration. The student is encouraged to collect own specimens for study.


b-      Ecological surveys

The student will be involved in field trips to collect macrofungi in established plots. Plot visitation would be every other week (or once a month) and the student would have to generate field descriptions of the specimens. A field description includes a digital image, a thorough macro-morphological description, preservation, and databasing of the specimen. Field trips need to be coordinated with Dr. Mata. For this kind of project, the student needs to invest a full day so she/he can process specimens the same day to avoid spoilage and loss of information. This project requires a minimum of 2 credits.

Several places need continuous inventorying:

      Plot sampling

-         Blakely Historic State Park

-         Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary

-         University campus (plot to be established)

      Opportunistic survey

-         Sand Dune Macrofungi: this is a project of high interest. The target time frame for collecting is Winter to early Spring (January – March).

      Other areas can be surveyed by the student but need approval from Dr. Mata.


c-      Mating studies of Agaricales

The student will be involved in laboratory work only. This project is dependent upon culture availability generated by collections from Dr. Mata or other students. The goal is to construct self-crosses and/or recognition crosses to test the biological species concept applied to macrofungi. Depending on time and other factors the student may apply skills in axenic culture handling such as: preparing media, isolation of germinating spores, setting of mating crosses, and other laboratory tasks.


d-      Studies on American Shiitake

A stock of cultures of the American Shiitake, Lentinula raphanica, from the Gulf Coast has been procured. Additionally, Dr. Mata will acquire cultures from L. boryana (the other American Shiitake), L. aciculospora (Costa Rican Shiitake), and L. edodes (Shiitake). While many studies in the areas of physiology, nutrition, protein structure and function have been done with L. edodes and L. boryana nothing is known for the two other species.

This project is just starting and so the student will be initially involved with basic physiology such as optimum growth curves, substrate preference, fruiting conditions and patterns, most requiring laboratory work. The student will perform studies according to requirements of project.


e-      Fungal pathogens on exotic plants

This project is in development and would need to be carried in collaboration with Dr. Kelly Major and MSc. Smoot Major, who are in charge of inventorying exotic and invasive plants in Mobile Co. The question is: are there any fungal pathogens on these exotic and invasive plants? If so, what is their identity? Can we isolate them in pure culture?

The student will need to spend some time collecting exotics in search of pathogens, and will need to coordinate with the Majors for access to collecting sites and plant identification. Also, this project requires lab work to make dissections for microscopic analysis and determination of fungal identity.


f-       Illustrated online dictionary mycological terms

The World Wide Web is a vehicle providing many opportunities for educational purposes. Here, the student has the task to generate, and implement, illustrations (image, drawing, graphic) of mycological terms, especially those related to macro- and micro-morphology of macrofungi. No such online image library exists (to Dr. Mata’s knowledge) and a webpage within the USA domain will be available. This project can start anytime.


g-      Molecular systematics

The student will extract, isolate, purify, and amplify DNA from fungal cultures or directly from field samples. Sequencing of specific DNA regions will be done away from campus. Depending on time and other factors sequence alignment and phylogenetic analysis, to test evolutionary species concepts, may be possible. This project is being developed and first, protocols have to be implemented and refined by Dr Mata.



Working Environment

      Work space: room LSCB 31 (Mycology) is equipped with the necessary materials to complete field work and microscopic observation. LSCB 31 is divided into three units: a) entrance room where field specimens are processed, and microscopes are located; b) computer room, where a computer (with printer) for use in herbarium databasing, and any directed study project in mycology, is found; also reference mycology books are shelved here; c) the herbarium unit where all collections are housed.

      Lab space: this is room LSCB 12 (Mycology Lab). All culture work and molecular techniques will be handled here.

      Dr. Mata’s office, LSCB 53, has selected books and article reprints (or photocopies) to get students started in their directed studies. A microscope equipped with a drawing tube may be used in certain cases.

      Other biology facilities are accessible depending on needs, and as long as there is no interference with classes or other type of research. For example, digital microscopy images may be completed in LSCB 240.

For more information send email to Juan Luis Mata.

Last updated June 28, 2006

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