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Building Mycological Capacity for Sustainable Resource Management: Project Workshop May 2015

Project workshop: The project partners [Andy Taylor (UK), Mark Newman (UK), Urmas Kõljalg (Estonia), Thomas Laessoe (Denmark), and Mieke Verbeken (Belgium)] ran a workshop in Vientiane from the 4-8th of May 2015. The course was held at The Biotechnology and Ecology Institute (BEI) in collaboration with Kongchay Phimmakong and her team. The workshop covered many basic concepts and areas within Mycology, including taxonomy, classification, and fungal ecology. There were 8 attendees with representatives from the National University of Laos (NUoL), BEI, and The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). The course participants included MSc students and a lecturer from NUoL, professional plant pathologists (MAF), herbarium staff from BEI.

The course was arranged around interactive seminars in the morning and a field excursion to collect material for a lab session in the afternoon. Unfortunately, part of the local electricity transformer was stolen on the Tuesday night and BEI was without electricity from then onwards. Due to the high temperatures (ca. 38 degrees), this made it uncomfortable to have the mornings indoors without air conditioning and there was no electricity for the projector we couldn’t have the seminars. However, we came up with some excellent improvised teaching approaches. One example of these was when Mieke Verbeken, who is an excellent technical drawer, drew features of the structures of fungal fruit bodies used in identification on the large blackboard in one of the meeting rooms at BEI and the participants named them. Once we had named them in English, Mark Newman then asked the participants what they would be called in Lao and, as he has reasonable Lao, Mark wrote the names on the board – aided by the much impressed participants. In this way the participants learned to associate the English and the Lao names for the features. In addition, since there are few recognized mycological terms in Lao, this exercise gave us the start of glossary for mycologists. On the final day we all transferred to the University to use one of their teaching rooms. In the afternoon we gave the participants a small exam by showing them photos of fungi and asking them to answer a set of questions relating to which taxonomic group they were in and why. The participants were very excited by this exercise as competition seemed to be something of a novel concept for them.


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.