September is the busiest month at work and in family-life, when kids start their school and training sessions, and everything is yet to be settled. Surprise! September is also one of my favourite months, because it is the season of fruits in the garden and mushrooms in the forest, which I study. My 4-year-old son just asked me: “Daddy, why are you a mushroom freak”. With a bit of hesitation, I replied: “Your daddy just is, as much as you are addicted to frogs”.
A few weeks ago, I led a course called “Mushroom trip” for freshmen Bachelor students to kill two birds with one stone – to deliver students their first amazing credits, and to encourage them to consider “green biology” for their further studies amongst the lure of molecules and hurdles of higher maths and physics. No, we did not boil the fly-agarics and dance around the kettle, but just walked in the forests and learned the various fungal species, their dos and don’ts, as well as their essential role in forest functioning. As the weather was nice for most of the time, I took it as a vacation and a possibility to add more jars of pickled mushrooms to my collection.
My everyday work as a mycologist is not that flowery and mushroomy. Sitting much of the day behind the computer by writing scientific articles and proofreading those of students and preparing project applications are not that much fun. However, these are parts of the research and teaching processes. New and interesting knowledge about the secrets of mushroom life from all over the world keeps me still working hands-on, but also supervising 10 doctoral students, for finding answers to exciting questions.
After going home and putting the kids to sleep, I re-open my laptop and reply to emails from American colleagues, which tend to accumulate in the evenings. I excuse myself to my wife that she deliberately got married to a 24/7 scientist, a mad mycologist.
Leho Tedersoo is a research professor in mycorrhizal studies at the University of Tartu. Analyses of biogeography of fungi and other microorganisms and their response to climate change factors form a part of his everyday life. He is one of the nine Estonian top-cited researchers.