Mycologist Efrén Cázares (Forest Science) is acquainted with mushrooms and truffles from all over the world. Over the past 15 years, his scientific fungal explorations have taken him from Mexico to Costa Rica, Thailand, China, Singapore, Australia, Sweden, Norway, New Caledonia, Argentina, Chile, and Belgium. But it was a meeting with Professor James Trappe (Forest Science) that would ultimately bring Cázares to Corvallis.
After receiving his Bachelor of Science from Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León in Monterrey, México, Cázares met Jim Trappe at a mycorrhiza workshop in Texcoco, Mexico, in 1985. Thus began a symbiotic relationship between Cázares and the College of Forestry.
Cázares became a Graduate Research Assistant for Trappe after receiving an NSF grant, and then began his PhD studies at Oregon State University. His studies focused on mycorrhizal fungi and their relationship to plant succession in subalpine habitats. He graduated and moved back to México in the winter of 1992. Now, after teaching positions at two universities in Tamaulipas, Mexico, Cázares has once again put down roots at OSU. He became a Research Associate with Dan Luoma in 1994 and is now a Senior Research Assistant Professor.
Cázares recent research focuses on how disturbance impacts beneficial mycorrhizal fungi in the Crater Lake and Mt. Rainier areas. This research is linked to earlier work by Luoma, who found that leaving living trees in logged sites created less disruption than total clear-cutting for the mycorrhiza population, because mycorrhizae have a symbiotic relationship with tree roots. Cázares compared species in disturbed areas, such as campgrounds, with undisturbed areas.
Whenever Cázares researches environmental impacts of fungi, though, taxonomy work is usually involved as well, because most of the existing mycorrhizal fungi are not well known, and many have not yet been classified. There are more than 1.5 million species of fungi worldwide, and thus far only about 200,000 have been identified.
Cázares explains, "Any time we try to get into the endeavor of doing a study, some way or another it involves the taxonomy of the fungi. We have to sit down at the microscope and put a name on specimens; then we correlate them with specific ecological parameters. Every fungal collection reflects 6 to 8 hours of lab work." He adds, "Thousands of fungal species are yet to be discovered. . . . So many fungi, so little time, so little funding."
Bio of Efrén Cázares written by Emily Thomas, Editorial Assistant, Forestry Communications Group, College of Forestry