Media Review

MycoAlbum CD: Introductory Mycology—Laboratory Review

By George L. Barron
2006; Mycographics, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Standard Version, ISBN 0-920370-01-2 at US $25
Instructor’s Version, ISBN 0-920370-02-0, at US $35.

Although George Barron’s MycoAlbum CD came out a couple of years ago, it’s every bit as useful to me as ever and warranted a review for the readers of Fungi. Billed as an “E-book,” MycoAlbum CD is probably better described as a hybrid of an introductory Mycology textbook and a brief field guide to all the groups of fungi (and other organisms, historically classified as fungi). If rating it as a textbook, it gets superior marks. Ditto, with regards to it as a field guide, because it’s so easy to use and the images are terrific. And considering the pittance that one needs to pay to purchase a copy—anyone with any interest in any facet of Mycology (student, professional, amateur mushroom hunter, et al.) would be delighted to own a copy.

Although it is pitched to instructors, you certainly do not need to be an academic to thoroughly enjoy this product. MycoAlbum is not truly a stand-alone E-book, but an album (on CD-ROM) with more than a thousand (!) annotated illustrations of fungi and their morphological structures that would usually be covered in a classical introductory Mycology lab course. The album is a visual resource that students can use to interpret their own microscopic mounts or specimens. Dr. Barron’s impetus here, was that he feels it nearly impossible for students to listen to a lecture, see tons and tons of images (Mycology is a very visual subject, isn’t it?), and retain much of the information. MycoAlbum allows students to review the same material over and over again, thus reinforcing the material covered in the classroom.

Most image files are at 1024 x 768 pixel format and will go to full screen size on a 17" LCD screen with excellent clarity. At the beginning of each major section there is a few pages of MiniNotes to give students some background on the area under study.
The Instructor’s Version of the CD has an Image Folder with an Image Album containing 600 non-encrypted downloadable images at 800 x 600 pixels accessible by instructors for use in power point lectures, reviews, quizzes etc. (I found this a particularly good idea and very easy to use; for details see www.uoguelph.ca/~gbarron).

Besides instructors for strict Mycology courses, MycoAlbum is valuable as a source of information and images for Microbiology and General Biology instructors wishing to augment the fungal component of their courses. Graduate students of Mycology, Plant Pathology and Microbiology will find the album a convenient way to review or supplement their knowledge of fungi.

The classification system followed is simple and non-detailed to permit instructors to impose their own preferred system without conflict. The bulk of the album covers major divisions of fungi and fungus-like organisms. Each major section is tagged in the album for easy “flip” access. The album uses a software program called FlipAlbum that allows rapid access to all the content of the album in several different ways outlined in album instructions.

Major sections cover the following divisions with the number of illustrations in each section in parenthesis: Myxomycota and Acrasiomycota (61), Hyphae and Hyphal Modifications (45), Chytridiomycota (12), Oomycota (30), Zygomycota + Trichomycetes (62), Ascomycota (135), Deuteromycota (95), Basidiomycota (170), Lichens (14). These sections take up 2/3 of the Album.

The remaining 1/3 of the album contains illustrations and information on general aspects of fungus biology including Fungi in Homes and Gardens, Antibiotics, Wood Decay, Mycorrhizae, Sporophagy and Mycophagy, Bioluminescence, Dutch Elm Disease, Parasexual Cycle, Ingoldian Fungi, Stored Cereals, Biocontrol etc. An Appendix section covers some interesting but nonessential areas such as Mushroom Identification, Parasites and Predators of Microscopic Animals, Mushroom Toxins, Photography, etc.

MycoAlbum is very user friendly and takes only a minute or two to load onto a computer; the album needs Windows 2000, ME, or XP but does not work with MacIntosh computers.

I, for one, applaud George Barron for developing such a handy and easy to use tool for mycological instruction. Of course he knows a thing or two on the topic. He is a leading expert in the study of mushrooms and other fungi and has been honored by the British Mycological Society as one of its elite Centenary Fellows. Dr. Barron also has been awarded the honor of “Distinguished Mycologist” from the Mycological Society of America. He devotes much of his time to collecting and photographing mushrooms and other macrofungi found across the northern United States and Canada. He has written one of the best and most widely used guidebooks on mushrooms of North America and his website is fabulous. Do yourself a favor and check out his website…while there, pick up a copy of MycoAlbum. You’ll be very glad you did!

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi