Through education sessions, foraging trips, mushroom-growing events and guest speakers, The Shroom Society club at ASU educates members on mycology, a branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi.
Since its founding in April 2022, the society has been working to spread awareness and connect students about the multi-purpose and technological benefits of fungi. The club meets once a month and hosts activities every other week.
"A lot of people, the moment they think of mushrooms, they think 'yeah, that's gross, I don't want to touch that,'" said Jackson Parrish, president and founder of the club and sophomore microbiology major.
The Shroom Society also goes on overnight camping trips for foraging mushrooms. The Shroom Society teams up with the Arizona Mushroom Society, which is an affiliate of the North American Mycological Association.
President of the Arizona Mushroom Society, Mike Dechter, joins these trips as an expert "to make sure we didn't like kill ourselves with a toxic mushroom on accident," Jackson Parrish said.
"The last forage we went on, we went to the lava tubes, which was so cool. It was awesome; it was like a cave underground," said Maxwell Parrish, chair of finance and committee member, a freshman actuarial science major and brother to Jackson.
“(Mike) brought this book with him, and he called it the mushroom bible. And it was like every edible and toxic and non-edible mushroom that you can find in Arizona, and he carries it around with him everywhere he goes, and he will point at any single mushroom and be like that is blank," Maxwell Parish said.
For Shroom Society members, the foraging sessions are a chance to learn more about the environment and the plans within them.
"You don't really bother looking at the ground and try to analyze every little plant, berry, bush you see," said Christian Enwia, PR committee member and freshman animation major.
After foraging, the members hosted a cookout with the mushrooms they found.
"We had really good tacos with the amanita caesarea. We chopped them up and then put them in like adobo seasoning," Jackson Parrish said.
The club also has a large bonding aspect. "I think most of my friends that I've made this year are through Shroom Society," Maxwell Parrish said.
The society has also hosted events such as making a blue oyster mushroom grow kit. Owner and founder of Arizona business Southwest Mushrooms, Michael B. Crowe, also known as "Mushroom Mike," presented to the club about oyster mushroom benefits on Oct. 12.
To grow the mushrooms, "you mix the mycelium with the kitty litter, rabbit food and water and three weeks later, you cut it open and then mushrooms start to pop out, which is just nuts," Jackson Parrish said. "It's easier than growing plants."
Jackson Parrish said Bungartz will speak about the symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae as they observe the herbarium.
He highlighted how mushrooms have been beneficial. He said research has found turkey tail mushroom supplements can increase the efficacy of chemotherapy in cancer patients. He also said that 50% to 70% of carbon dioxide absorbed by trees through photosynthesis is actually stored underground by mycelium, which grows on tree roots.
"I personally want to research that (root fungus) one day and see if there's any applications for that. That's my personal interest and that's why I have a passion for it," Jackson Parrish said.
Edited by Jasmine Kabiri, Wyatt Myskow and Kristen Apolline Castillo.
Sherry Fan is a journalism student hoping to educate audiences on underrepresented communities. She has previously worked producer roles for the film company, Summery Productions.