38th Annual Telluride Mushroom Festival: Overview

The 38th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival takes place Thursday, August 16 – Sunday, August 19. The full schedule is here. Migrate around the site to find info on presenters, venues, book-signings etc. Or simply filter by topic or venue. Tickets/passes here. 

The Gondola Plaza Mushroom Extravaganza, formerly known as the Chef’s Cook-off, takes place Friday, noon, at Gondola Plaza. This year, Olga Cotter coordinates the event.

The Telluride Mushroom Festival parade, which takes place on Saturday, August 18, 4 p.m., is open to the general public. The over-the-top spectacle is not to be missed.

Simply put, molecular biology is the study of biology at a molecular level. The field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry.

Molecular biology is chiefly concerned with understanding the interactions between the various systems of a cell, including the interrelationship of DNA, RNA and protein synthesis – and learning how these interactions are regulated.

Meet David Hibbett.

As a professor of biology at Clark University, in Worcester, Massachusetts, Hibbett is an evolutionary biologist specializing in the study of fungi (mycology), particularly mushrooms. His current research emphasizes genomics and molecular evolution, but also draws on morphology, developmental biology, and paleo-mycology.

And David Hibbett is one of the keynote lecturers at the 38th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival, Wednesday, August 15 – Sunday, August 19.

Fungi come in a wondrous variety of shapes, sizes and colors, from tiny cup fungi to puffballs the size of basketballs. Fungi used to be classified as part of the plant kingdom, but became a kingdom of their own because they differ in biochemistry and structure from plants and cannot synthesize their own food. The mushrooms people collect are just the fruiting bodies of mycelium, a sentient cobweb-like web of cells. These “fruits” are created in order to manufacture spores for reproduction. Because so much activity occurs underground in the fungal version of the World Wide Web, mushrooms themselves appear to pop up suddenly over night.

Hibbett’s talk on Thursday, August 16, is titled “Mushrooms in the Tree of Life,” a subject designed to unwrap this year’s Festival theme: “Mycology in the Molecular Biology Era.”

“Ever since Darwin showed that all organisms are linked by descent in a Great Tree of Life, taxonomists have sought to reconstruct the tree and translate it into taxonomy. In this discussion, Dr. Hibbett will present a brief history of ‘ tree-thinking’ in mycology and the challenges it poses for taxonomy,” explains returning Mushroom Festival director Britt Bunyard.

Since 1981, fungophiles of all sorts have come to our mining-camp-turned-resort-mecca to talk about identification, growing methods, medicinal uses, forest remediation, drug scapegoating, culinary recipes, biological theory, entheogenic practice, and the way of the psychonaut and this year is no exception.

Bunyard goes on to say:

“Welcome to the largest wild mushroom happening in North America. The week includes events ranging from forays and mushroom ID sessions to hands-on demonstrations, lectures (all led by regionally, nationally, and internationally-known experts), so there is plenty for everyone each and every single day. Some of the presenters and topics are familiar to you; some will be new. A partial list of the world-renowned presenters this year includes Cathy Aime (Purdue University); Andy Wilson (Denver Botanic Garden), Paul Stamets (Fungi Perfecti); author Eugenia Bone; and David Hibbett (Clark University). The use of molecular biology has many applications for the study of fungi, as well as for everyday life, and indeed this is a hot topic right now.

“Sadly, this year we lost our guiding light: Gary Lincoff, who passed away and will be forever missed. Whether you were a close friend or never got the chance to meet the man, the 2018 Mushroom urges everyone to celebrate Lincoff’s life at the planned Memorial program.

A further tribute: the next issue of Bunyard’s FUNGI Magazine is entirely devoted to Gary Lincoff.

“Gary was so loved by the Festival community and beyond,” say Bunyard. “No doubt his memorial at this year’s event is a big reason why all the full passes are already sold out.

Gary Lincoff will be sorely missed at the Mushroom Festival.


Bunyard adds the following about Hibbett and the 2018 theme:

“David Hibbett is THE molecular biology guru (and he’s a rare one that knows mushrooms too!) spearheading the study of the entire fungal tree of life to figure out the entire taxonomy of all fungi. His lab is the incubator of pretty much all the up-and-coming, next-generation of molecular biology as relates to fungi. Hibbett’s keynote will look at how our understanding of mushroom evolution has changed (and not changed) as we’ve come up with better tools for investigation…like molecular mycology.”

Digging deeper into Mushroom Festival 2018:

Interested in forays and wild mushroom identification?

Forays, which depart in the morning and mid-morning, are a great way to learn from local experts, as well as to get up- close-and-personal with nationally famous field mycologists.

For IDs, head to the big tents in Elks Park. Along with learning how to know your mushrooms, try tasting a few too.

Mushroom Festival 2018 also hosts a number of culinary events, some for a small fee; others are totally free.


Each year attendees ask about growing mushrooms at home, some on a small scale for fun; others with dreams of ramping up and going commercial. This year the Festival also features courses and lectures on skills ranging from basic cultivation for beginners to how to do lab tissue cultures; from building basic lab equipment to large-scale operations. Presenters even offer marketing advice.

Interested in becoming involved in a scientific project locally or on the national level? Mushroom Festival 2018 hosts several presentations about how citizen scientists can get involved and what they need to know.

Then, of course, there is the infamous Telluride Mushroom Festival parade.


Art Goodtimes is a long-time fixture at the Telluride Mushroom Fest – and in its over-the-top parade. Goodtimes is also the event’s poet-in-residence and assistant to Britt Bunyard.

Spotlight on a few 2018 Telluride Mushroom Festival presenters:

Cathie Aime, Purdue University, is a major co-conspirator in the “Tree of Life” project. And, like Hibbett, she knows mushrooms really well.

Aime has been involved with many studies of fungi in North America and in other far-flung regions. One of her talks focuses on South American fungi and features many thrills, twists and turns. Aime will also lecture on rust fungi, fascinating close relatives of mushrooms.

Cathe Aime at work.

Eugenia Bone is a nationally known nature and food writer. Her work has appeared in many  high-profile magazines and newspaper, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Saveur, Food, Wine, Gourmet, Sunset and The Denver Post. She also author of six books, including “Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms.” Her latest work is “Microbia: A Journey into the Unseen World Around You.”

While we are on the subject of mushroom and food, for the record, wild mushrooms have always prompted wild debate because they make great eats – but they also can kill you.

In some parts of the world – Telluride is one such address – mushrooms are prized for their culinary properties and that is a good thing because, as described above, mushrooms contain some of the most potent natural medicines on the planet. Elsewhere on the map, not so much: mycophobes associate fungi with witches and serpents and death oh my.

However, for all you fearless fungophiles, foodies and chefs – or nearly every Festival attendee – over the weekend, Bone offers two cooking classes.

She is also lecturing about some of the findings about our microbiome and more in her latest book, which gives her talk its title: “Ten Insights Into the Unseen World.

Tradd Cotter is an EPA Fellow and author of “Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation,” (Chelsea Green 2014), a best-seller on cultivation and experimenting with fungi.

Tradd Cotter


His Mushroom Mountain first began in 1996 as a concept for a farm of the future. It was not until 2005, when Tradd Cotter and Olga Katic met, that the place began to develop into what would become one of the coolest privately owned mushroom research facilities in the country, if not, the world.

Olga Cotter a force of nature and presenters at the 2018 Telluride Mushroom Festival.

From humble beginnings, housing their laboratory in their two-bedroom apartment closet in Boynton Beach, Florida, the Cotters moved their operation to upstate South Carolina to begin the expansion has now become a world-class laboratory and research facility, with over 50,000 square feet of available space under the roof for cultivation, myco-remediation, and medicinal research projects. Mushroom Mountain now houses more than 250 species of fungi, most of them native isolates from the Eastern United States.

Tradd Cotter’s keynote is scheduled for Saturday night, August 18, 8 p.m. His focus: “Mycologists Without Borders, Missionaries of a Shifting Paradigm.”

Guiliana Furci has been devoted to mycology since 1999. Her passionate study of the fungi of her home country, Chile, motivated her to travel to other countries looking for fungi in different ecosystems.

A popular returning presenter, this year Furci will speak at Gary Lincoff’s memorial, Friday, August 17, 8 p.m. Hair on fire, she is also talking about what she thinks could be a game-changer, a fungal NGO.

“Red Hot Chile: Trigger Global Change” takes place Saturday, August 18, 11 a.m. – noon.

John Plischke and wife Kim Plischke are the dynamic duo of NAMA mycological societies. They founded the Western PA club which, in just a decade, is one of the largest and best organized in North America.

John Plischke

John Plischke is also a photographer, who has authored a number of books on mushrooms. He is also known to give some unusual talks on occasion, edgy stuff according to Bunyard, like “pirate” methods for doing research and getting myco-literature.

“All legal of course, but hardly known,” says Bunyard. “Also interesting talks like mycoparasites (fungal parasites of fungi), psychedelics, toxics, edibles, etc. John is eager for me to work him to death. And I will. (He’s worked me to death in the past.) As for Kim, she’s nationally known as a myco-dyer, myco-papermaker, and other really cool myco crafts. It’s a bargain to get them both and we’ll benefit by many unusual lectures and workshops.”

Paul Stamets, speaker, author, mycologist, medical researcher and entrepreneur, is considered an intellectual and industry leader in fungi, fluent on habitat, medicinal use, and production.

Paul Stamets with reishi block, courtesy, Fungi Perfecti.

Stamet’s philosophy can be summed up in the phrase “MycoDiversity is BioSecurity.” He sees the ancient old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest as a resource of incalculable value, especially in terms of its fungal genome. A dedicated hiker and explorer, Stamet’s passion is to preserve and protect as many ancestral strains of mushrooms as possible from those pristine woodlands.

Stamets is author of six books. He has discovered and named numerous new species of mushrooms and is the founder and owner of Fungi Perfecti, LLC (www.fungi.com), which makes the Host Defense Mushroom product line.

He is also the recipient of numerous awards:

“Lastly and for some most significantly … In the Star Trek Discovery series by CBS, the Science Officer, is portrayed by an Astromycologist named Lt. Paul Stamets!,” adds Bunyard.

Stamet’s keynote on “Mushrooms, Mycelium & The Mycology of Consciousness” An Immersion Lecture” takes place Friday, August 17, 6 p.m. It should be a no-miss event.

“We are so thrilled to have Paul Stamets back to Telluride this year! Be sure to join this author, mycologist, medical researcher, and entrepreneur for an immersion lecture on mushrooms that will deepen your understanding and respect for the organisms that exists under every footstep you take on this path of life.”

Andy Wilson has worked in many impressive labs (including Aime’s at Purdue), also at the Field Museum and Chicago Botanic Garden.

Andy Wilson

“I’m so thrilled to announce that my friend Andy is now the curator of fungi at the Denver Botanic Garden Sam Mitchel Myco Herbarium,” says Bunyard. “And Andy is now hoping to forge very long-lasting ties with Festival, perhaps overseeing and consulting on all mycological research matters. He and I plan to develop a voucher program (one that actually works this time), whereby specimens from future Fests will go to THE natural place: the Denver Botanical Garden. This will be an incredible boon to the Fest and, in turn, to the herbarium in Denver. Plus Andy’s close by and not difficult to get to come out annually. He and I have done other events in the past and work well together. Andy will present about a brand new just now starting up project to assess the mycoflora of Colorado. For the first time—at least done thoroughly and using modern methods.

More about Telluride Mushroom Festival director Britt Bunyard: 

Britt Bunyard is publisher and editor-in-chief of FUNGI Magazine.

He has also worked as a full-time biology professor in Ohio and Wisconsin, teaching a broad range of undergraduate and graduate courses in evolution, microbiology, mycology, invertebrate zoology, biochemistry and environmental science.

Additional scholarly achievements include publication of scientific papers in 16 different international research journals, one patent, and articles in popular science magazines. Bunyard also gives several invited lectures in North America and abroad each year.

Britt Bunyard has been a consultant for National Geographic Magazine and for an episode of PBS’s NOVA television program.

He is married and has three children.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks TIO- Thanks Susan for all the background on the speakers and topics ! It looks as if 2018 is going to be a remarkable Mushroom Festival !
    So sad to hear that TMF Founding father, Manny Salzman, has also moved on- at 100 years old! We will miss you Manny!

  2. for future reference:

    Art Goodtimes is Telluride Institute Trustee and Board Liason with the Telluride Mushroom Festival, as well as poet-in-residence and Britt’s assistant.

  3. For future reference:
    Art Goodtimes is Telluride Institute Trustee and Board Liaison to the Telluride Mushroom Festival, long-time poet-in-residence and parade-master, and assistant to the director