• Darvin DeShazer is the fungi fun guy, the lord of the yeasty beasties, the master of the mushrooms.

    Seriously, he is.

    Amancita muscaria – photo by Darvin DeShazer

    By day, DeShazer is the chairman of the Science Department at St. Vincent High School where he teaches Biology and Advanced Placement Biology.  One look at his classroom walls will reveal his passion for mushrooms and fungus.  On his own time, he is a co-founder of the Sonoma County Mycological Association (SOMA) and the group’s science advisor.  The group’s goals are to appreciate and learn about local mushrooms and to educate the public about the vast world of fungi.  DeShazer has over 30 years of experience in this field and a library of over 1,000 books on mushrooms!!!  He has co-authored many publications about fungi, including 100 Edible Mushrooms.

    Just get him started on mushroom hunting (oh yes – there’s such thing as mushroom hunting), and he lights up like a Christmas tree and will tell you stories for hours about his adventures with mushrooms.  (Note: that’s “with” mushrooms not “on” mushrooms.)  He maintains a blog of beautiful photography from his mushroom hunts where he says, “The fun(gi) is in the hunt, but the thrill is not to kill.  The foray is the fun and it leads to learning by observing.  And to think, the incredible journey starts from a tiny spore.”  His website on gilled mushrooms states that every visible feature of these mushrooms has a microscopic reason – and he’ll tell you all about them.  At first this may seem boring, but it’s Neat Stuff!!

    And mushrooms are not just good for eating, one species is known for containing one of the only known chemicals that can help fight off small pox.  If the bioterrorism threats ever come to fruition, it will be handy to have a friend who is a fungus expert.

    Along with sponsoring nationally-recognized speakers, an annual mushroom fair, and local mushroom hunts, SOMA offers a valuable service to hospitals, veterinarians, and the community: free mushroom identification.  DeShazer is often the person that the hospital calls when someone shows up at the emergency room with a mushroom in their hand and says, “I ate one of these and now I don’t feel so good.”  When I was in his Advanced Placement Biology class, if there had been a story in the news about a local person being treated at the hospital for a eating wild mushrooms, DeShazer often had a story about going to the emergency room to identify it for the doctors.

    Mushroom hunting is a wonderful hobby, but as SOMA cautions, never eat a wild mushroom unless you’re absolutely certain of its identity. For me that means, I don’t eat it unless DeShazer picked it.

    Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Darvin and Jane DeShazer.   For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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