Tom Volk's Mycology Research

Tom Volk with a reindeer (caribou) in Alaska.  Photo by Sean WestmorelandDuring my research career, I have been lucky to work on a variety of interesting projects on interesting fungi. I have also had the opportunity to travel a great deal. I love to give lecture to departments, as well as Professional and amateur mycologists. So far I have presented lectures and/ or workshops in 32 states. You can read my curriculum vitae online to learn the details of my academic and research career. I always need to update it, but here's a summary of my research so far.

At UW-Madison

In graduate school at UW- Madison with Dr. Tom Leonard, I worked for 3 years on a tumor-inducing gene in Schizophyllum commune, then switched my thesis work to research on morels. My thesis, completed in 1988, was entitled "Experimental Studies on the morel." I worked out a life cycle for the morel using cytology and genetics, then did some experiments with sclerotia formation. We also worked on cultivation of various other edible mushrooms, such as shiitake and oysters. All that has been published. I have provided a page of the Life Cycle of the Morel, which includes a paper originally published in McIlvainea; it lists all the research papers from my thesis.

At the Forest Products Lab

After I received my PhD in 1988, I moved to the Center for Forest Mycology Research at the Forest Products Lab in Madison, Wisconsin for a 6.5 year postdoc and "temporary" job with Dr. Hal Burdsall. There I worked on a variety of biosystematic and ecological studies of wood decay fungi, mostly in the Polyporaceae s.l., Corticiaceae s.l. and Agaricales, as well as root- and butt-rot fungi in those groups. I have continued to collaborate with other researchers there, including Dan Czederpiltz, since Madison is only a 2.5 hour drive fromLa Crosse. Current research programs there include the systematics, ecology and taxonomy in the genera Armillaria, Laetiporus, Bridgeoporus, Phlebia, and Phellinus, and also the study of ecology and pathogenesis of fungi in temperate and tropical ecosystems. I have also collaborated with CFMR personnel and with Dr. Karen Wikler on a project involving biodiversity of wood decay fungi of Israeli forests.

In addition, the CFMR houses the world's largest culture collection of wood-inhabiting fungi, with approximately 15,000 isolates of about 2500 species, ~90% of which are basidiomycetes. I am continuing to work with Hal Burdsall on a monograph of the North American Armillaria species. We have already published the taxonomic part as a book: "A nomenclatural study of Armillaria and Armillariella species" Fungiflora, Oslo Norway: Synopsis Fungorum 8, 121 pp. (1995). In this book we have determined the current taxonomic placement of the ~270 species that were once placed in either or both of these genera. Approximately 30 species are currently accepted in Armillaria; the rest belong in 43 other modern genera. We have also published a Key to North American species of Armillaria. In 1996, we described North American Biological Species (NABS) IX as a new species, Armillaria nabsnona Volk & Burdsall. (in Volk, Burdsall & Banik, Mycologia 88 : 484-491, 1996). As promised in that paper here are some color images of Armillaria nabsnona. Or now you can read about the discovery and description of this species here.

My students and former students at the 2003 MSA meeting in Asilomar, CA

At UW-La Crosse

Since 1996 I have been a Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where I teach courses on General Mycology, Medical Mycology, Organismal Biology (with Greg Sandland, Plant-Microbe Interactions, Advanced Mycology, Food & Industrial Mycology (with S.N. Rajagopal), Organismal Biology, Latin & Greek for Scientists, as well as Plant Biology. La Crosse is located in western Wisconsin on the Mississippi River in the beautiful driftless (unglaciated) area, between the river and spectacular 500-600 ft. bluffs.

Besides continuing some work with Armillaria and other wood inhabiting fungi, I once again get to work on morels! We also do a variety of other interesting projects in my lab. My students and I also work on some interesting projects. To the left you can see some of my students and former students at the MSA meeting in Asilomar, CA in the summer of 2003 as I received the William H. Weston award for Excellence in Teaching Mycology. You can see my students' names if you put your cursor over their faces. For a list of my publications and what I'm working on now, including Armillaria, Laetiporus, Bridgeoporus, Morchella, medically important fungi, fungal ecology, bioremediation with fungi, and a number of fungal biodiversity studies, check out my Curriculum vitae, or résumé if you prefer.

My students' projects

Students in my lab work on a variety of interesting projects. Whenever possible, I like to have my students choose their own projects, to make sure they're working on something they like. Of course, there are a few constraints placed on their choices; their projects have to involve topics that I know something about, or that I am interested in learning about. I have a pretty broad background in mycology, so the choices for my students are really quite broad, as you can see in their choices of topics below.

We are proud to have had a visiting Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Ayman Daba from Egypt, join our lab for six months. Ayman has returned to his home in Egypt, and we hope he can visit again soon.

Dr. Hee Kyu Kim, a plant pathology professor from South Korea, has completed his sabbatical in my lab, September 2007-May 2008. We enjoyed his visit, and we hope to see him again soon.

Current M.S. Graduate students

  • Beth Jarvis (B.S. from Elmhurst College, naturalist for 8 years in Illinois) Endomycorrhizae in prairie restoration
  • Eric Walberg (B.S. from Juniata College, PA, originally from CT) Fungi in ionizing radiation.
  • Matt Foltz (B.S. from Oakland University in Michigan) Chanterelle systematics
  • Angie Ratekin (B.S. from Mount Mercy College in Iowa. Medical Technician for many years. Lab Prep specialist many years. ) Immonological aspects of fungal infections.
  • Jon Carver (B.S from the College of the Atlantic [Bar Harbor, ME], originally from Vermont), started Fall 2010.
  • Paul Dean (B.S. from UW- La Crosse), started Fall 2010.

    Former M.S. Graduate students

    1. Marsha Harbin.(B.S. from UW-La Crosse) M.S. 1999. "The relationship of Morchella (morels) with plant roots." Marsha has received her PhD in Psychology from the University of Minnesota
    2. Sean Westmoreland. (B.S. from Appalachian State University in North Carolina) M.S. 2003. "Morphological and molecular studies in Hydnellum (Basidiomycota, Thelephoraceae), reinforced with a new method, Chemosystematics with HPLC Using Mass Spectroscopy (CHUMS)." Sean is now working on independent projects in Oconto, Wisconsin.
    3. Nik Zitomer.(B.S. from Penn State) M.S. 2003. "Isolation and characterization of antimicrobial compounds from mushrooms." Nik has received his PhD in mycology from Penn State University and is working for the USDA in Athens, Georgia.
    4. Joshua Burgess. (B.S. from UW-La Crosse) M.S. 2003. (with Bill Schwan) "Development of a rapid PCR-based method to identify Blastomyces dermatitidis from soil." Joshua has completed his Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Sciences at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, working on the human pathogen Pneumocystis carinii. He is now on a postdoctoral fellowship on Hitoplasma at the University of North Carolina.
    5. Adam Gusse (B.S. from UW-La Crosse) M.S. 2004. "Biodegradation of phenolic resins plastics by white-rot fungi." Adam worked for a while at the Entomology Department in UW-Madison on an ecological project, infusing some mycology into their research. He is now working at a company that designs and installs solar panel technology.
    6. Kelsea Jewell. (from Olympia, Washington via Scripps College in California) M.S. 2005. "Biocontrol of Candida infections with killer yeasts." Kelsea did a one year fellowship with the Center for Disease Control, working on coccidioidomycosis in Arizona and then moved back to Seattle, where she worked in a protein biology lab. She has now started a Ph.D. program in medical microbiology at UW- Madison.
    7. Jon Palmer (B.S. from UW-La Crosse) M.S. 2006. "Morphological and molecular characterization of mycorrhizal fungi associated with a disjunct stand of American chestnut (Castanea dentata) in Wisconsin." Jon is now in a PhD program in Plant Pathology at UW-Madison working on Aspergillus genetics.
    8. Bridget Pfaff. (B.S. from UW-La Crosse) M.S. January 2008 "An evaluation of the incidence of blastomycosis at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital and fluconazole treatment for brain stem blastomycosis." Bridget in now the head of infection control at the hospital.
    9. Maria Lee. (from Malaysia, B.S. Winona State University) M.S. May 2008 "Proteomic profiling of dimorphism in Penicillium marneffei, an opportunistic fungal pathogen of humans." Maria is now a mycology lab manager at the University of Michigan.
    10. Craig Dunek (B.S. from UW-La Crosse) M.S. Dec 2008. "Antifungal drugs from fungi." Craig is now head of Research and Development at Organic Valley Coop.
    11. Becky Curland (B.S from UW-La Crosse) M.S. May 2009. Prairie mycorrhizae and invasive plants. Becky is working in a Plant Pathology lab at the University of Minnesota.
    12. Carrie Lauer (B.S. from UW-Stevens Point) M.S. May 2009. "Ornamental plants as a source of Scedosporium apiospermum, an emerging fungal pathogen of humans." Carrie is working at a fungal genetics lab at UW- Madison.

    Honors bestowed on my graduate students

    I'm proud to announce that four of my students have won graduate student poster awards at the Mycological Society of America meeting.
    • My first graduate student, Marsha Harbin, won one of four graduate student research prizes for her poster presentation at the International Botanical Congress/ Mycological Society of America meeting in St. Louis, August 1999. Her poster, co-authored with me, was entitled "The relationship of Morchella (morels) with plant roots." Marsha was also presented with the "2000 Outstanding Thesis Award for the Department of Biology and the College of Science and Allied Health at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse." Congratulations to Marsha! She finished her M.S. degree in December 1999.
    • In July 2003, Joshua Burgess was one of three poster prize awardees for his poster (coauthored with Bill Schwan and me) entitled "Development of a rapid PCR-based assay to detect the human pathogen Blastomyces dermatitidis in soil samples." Joshua also won the Graduate student presentation award from the American Society for Microbiology North Central Branch meeting in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 2003. Joshua also was awarded the Graduate Student Achievement Award for 2003-2004 from the College of Science and Allied Health at UW-La Crosse. Congratulations to Joshua!
    • In July 2006, Craig Dunek won one of two poster prizes for his research on "Finding antifungal drugs from fungi" at the MSA/APS meeting in Quebec, Canada. Congratulations to Craig!
    • In August 2007, Maria Lee won one of two poster awards for her research on "Proteomic profiling of dimorphism in Penicillium marneffei, an opportunistic fungal pathogen of humans" at the MSA meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Congratulations to Maria!

    Sean Westmoreland was awarded the "Outstanding Thesis Award for the Department of Biology and the College of Science and Allied Health at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse" for 2003-2004. Congratulations to Sean!

    Adam Gusse was awarded the "Outstanding Thesis Award for the Department of Biology and the College of Science and Allied Health at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse" for 2004-2005. Congratulations to Adam!

    Kelsea Jewel was awarded the "Outstanding Thesis Award at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse" for 2005-2006. Congratulations to Kelsea!

    Jon Palmer was awarded the "Outstanding Thesis Award at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse" for 2006-2007. Congratulations to Jon!

    Many of my students have also won travel awards to meetings. Nik Zitomer and Sean Westmoreland each won two travel awards (2002, 2003) from the Mycological Society of America to attend the MSA meetings, while Joshua Burgess won once (2003). Joshua also won a travel award from the International Society of Human and Animal Mycology to attend the ISHAM meeting in San Antonio (2003). Adam Gusse, Bernadette O'Reilly, and Maria Lee won travel awards to the MSA meeting in Asheville NC in 2004. Kelsea Jewell and Bernadette O'Reilly won travel awards to the MSA meeting in Hilo, Hawaii in 2005. Jon Palmer won a travel award to the MSA meeting in Quebec in 2006. Craig Dunek won a travel award to the MSA meeting in Baton Rouge, LA in 2007. Eric Walberg won a travel award to the MSA meeting in Utah in 2009.

    Undergraduate projects

  • Daniel Lindner. Fall 1995- Summer 1996, resulted in publication "Czederpiltz, Daniel L., Thomas J. Volk, and Harold H. Burdsall, Jr. 2001. Field observations and inoculation experiments to determine the nature of carpophoroids associated with Entoloma abortivum and Armillaria. MYCOLOGIA 93: 841-851." Dan received his Ph.D. in Mycology from UW-Madison in December 2001 and is now a Mycologist at.the Center for Forest Mycology Research at the Forest Products Lab in Madison.
  • Andy Hart Sept. 2009-present. "Screening a library of fungal extracts for antifungal activity" "Survey of fungi in the driftless area of Wisconsin"
  • Jeremy Knoble May 2010- present. Dean's Distinguished Fellowship. "Screening a library of fungal extracts for antibacterial activity"
  • Kelly Collins. 1995-1996. "Biochemical studies in the genus Omphalotus" Kelly has earned her Ph.D. in Mycology (Forest Ecology) from Oregon State University and is now a diagnostic mycologist in Corvallis OR
  • Bernadette O'Reilly. Sept. 2000- May 2006. "Hyphal interactions of Armillaria with Entoloma abortivum" and "Contaminants associated with morel fruiting." Bernadette has earned her MS degree from Duke University and is now working as a forensic microscopist in Chicago.
  • Jake Cox Sep. 2008-May 2009. Cultivation of mushrooms
  • Abby Winkler and Andy Hart Sep. 2008-May 2009. Antifungal Drugs from fungi
  • Dan Hamilton Jan. 2007- May 2009. "Cultivation of Clitocybe nuda.
  • Bashirat Oluwakemi Jan-Aug. 2008. "PCR for identification of fungi"
  • Becky O'Brien Summer 2007. Dean's Distinguished Fellowship. Becky pressented our poster "Mycodiversity of the Driftless area around La Crosse, Wisconsin" at the Posters in the Rotunda at the state capitol in Madison in March 2008.
  • Naveed Davoodian Summer 2007. REU student from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.
  • Adam Gusse. June-Dec 2002. "Fungi of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska."
  • Laura Marie Appleman. Sept 2002-June 2003 (with Debby Hanmer). "Biocontrol of plant pathogenic nematodes using wood decay fungi."
  • Jon Palmer. Summer 2003-summer 2004. "Fungi associated with American Chestnut"
  • Chau Nguyen and Nicole Aubart. Fall 2003. "Isolation and Identification of novel compounds from mushrooms."
  • Dan Kinney. Summer-Fall 2001. "Fungi associated with a disjunct population of American chestnuts in Wisconsin."
  • Sarah Wiederhoft. Fall 2001-Spring 2002. "Testing herbal remedies for antifungal compounds."
  • Hamptony Guridy. Fall 2001. "Growth of oyster mushrooms on straw."
  • Jaime Tietz. Spring 2001. "Experimental evolution in a population of Candida albicans."
  • William Gillette. Spring 2000. "Systematic review of Fungi in Cultures at UW-La Crosse."
  • Dija Selimi . Spring 1999. "Bean anthracnose caused by Colletotrichum." Dija has earned a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from UW-Madison.
  • Jennifer Kleman. Spring 2000. "Fungi contaminating air ducts in Cowley Hall at UW-La Crosse"
  • Hazel Puzon Centano. Spring 1999. "Natural plant products used against yeast infections."
  • A.J. Basseneur. Fall 1998. "Comparison of eastern and western morel species."
  • Jeff Fisher. Fall 1997. "Speciation of morels."

    Would you like to do graduate or undergraduate research in my lab? Contact me!

    Tom Volk's awards

    In August 2008 I was named a Fellow of the Mycological Society of America.

    In July 2003 it was my honor to receive the "William H. Weston award for excellence in teaching Mycology" from the Mycological Society of America. I am very grateful to my former student, Dr. Dan Czederpiltz, who nominated me, and the rest my students and others who wrote letters on my behalf. You can read more about this award at and scroll to page 19.

    In July 2005 I was honored to be presented with the North American Mycological Association's highest award, for Lifetime Contributions to Amateur Mycology. Thank you to the Minnesota Mycological Society and Dr. Dan Czederpiltz for nominating me, and thank you to NAMA for the honor.

    I have received some awards for my world wide web page My main page is downloaded 8000-19,000 times per month by people from all over the world, with more than 156,000 hits in the past year and more than 990,000 times in the past 14 years. I have received email from every continent, including Antarctica, regarding my web page, with visitors from at least 197 countries. My "Fungi that are necessary for a merry Christmas" page was the featured web site in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec 19, 1997. Entire site featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education March 1998. Named as one of the 500 "Best of the Web" in "The Web" magazine, Feb. 1998. Links2Go Key Resource Award July 1998, ACS (Aspire Communications Service) Link of the Day Oct 22, 1998. Discover It! - The Best of the Web. January 15, 1999. Cool image of the Day March 24, 1999. from, a website for family-oriented links. Mullein Award for Nature Web Excellence. NetMom Approved 2001, The Internet Kids & Family Yellow Pages Science magazine "Cool Images" site February 5, 1999.

    For the rest of my pages on fungi, please click

    This page and other pages are © Copyright 1995-2010 by Thomas J. Volk.

    It would be great to hear from you. Let me know what you think about these pages.

    my email address

    or you can write to my snailmail address at:
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    updated August 25, 2010 Maria Lee Adam Gusse Nik Zitomer Bernadette O'Reilly Joshua Burgess Tom Volk Kelly Collins Daniel Czederpiltz Sean Westmoreland