Focus: Fungi and Lichens

Focus: Fungi and Lichens

Field Museum mycologists are interested in documenting and understanding the diversity and biogeography of fungi, the effect of human activity on this diversity, the evolutionary relationships among the fungi, and the mutually beneficial symbioses (mutualisms) such as lichens and mycorrhizae that fungi form with plants. To do this they travel the world collecting new species, documenting diversity, and studying fungal ecology. Back at the museum they study the museum's collections using computer-assisted microscopy, high speed computers, and molecular biology techniques to further investigate these questions. They also are actively involved with developing the next generation of mycologists by training undergraduate and graduate students.

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    Thorsten Lumbsch

    Vice President, Science and Education; Curator, Lichenized Fungi Science and Education
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    Robert Luecking

    Research Associate Gantz Family Collections Center

Focus: Fungi and Lichens Collections

Botany Specimens

Botany is the scientific study of plants and fungi. Scientists in the Department of Botany at The Field Museum are interested in learning why there are so many different plants and fungi in the world, how this diversity is distributed across the globe and how best to classify it, and what important roles these organisms play in the environment and in human cultures.

Botany Taxonomy

Presently, the Taxonomy module holds a complete classification for higher fungi and lichens (Ascomycota, Basidiomycota), liverworts (Marchantiphyta), and hornworts (Anthocerophyta), from genus up to division/phylum level, and a partial classification for mosses (Bryophyta), ferns and their relatives (Pteridophyta), and seed plants (Spermatophyta), up to family level.

Costa Rican Fungi

At present, the searchable database houses about 10,000 records of macrofungi and 20,000 records of lichens (including duplicates), distributed among F, INB, CR, USJ, NY, WIS, B, and other institutions. Data on microfungi are expected to be added soon. You can search the database for particular taxa and get data on their distribution and ecology, or you can search specific regions or sites within Costa Rica to get a list of the taxa present in the area.


Lichens occur in virtually all ecosystems, where they play an important role in water and nutrient cycles and in the vegetation succession on soil, rock, and bark surfaces. This project is the first inventory of tropical lichens on a continental scale, focusing on small epiphytic lichens. The inventory is expected to document approximately 3,000 species in 160 genera and 30 families.

NAMA Voucher Collection

The diversity and distribution of mushrooms and other macrofungi intrigue both amateur mushroom hunters and professional mycologists. For over 40 years the North American Mycological Association (NAMA) has sponsored forays that have recorded species occurrence across this continent.

Singer Index

Rolf Singer was a leading figure in mycology. He was a prolific writer and held important academic and research positions in Europe, North America and South America. He was a Research Associate in the Department of Botany, The Field Museum, from 1968-1994. Singer developed the nearly universally used classification for the Agaricales (mushrooms and related fungi) and named 86 genera, over 2460 species and infraspecies of fungi distributed in 222 genera.

Tropical Lichen Types (TROPILIT)

This database contains information on type specimens of tropical lichens, with emphasis on corticolous crustose species in the orders Arthoniales (Arthoniaceae, Roccellaceae), Dothideales (Trypetheliaceae), Pyrenulales (Pyrenulaceae), Ostropales (Graphidaceae, Porinaceae, Thelotremataceae), and Lecanorales (Lecanoraceae, Pilocarpaceae, Ramalinaceae).