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History of the Database
Ursula Hoffmann started the database in the early 1980's using floppy disks and DOS-based Foxbase software, inputting the first few years of forays retrospectively. Ursula established the practice of providing a printed list with cumulative total number of species collected at the end of each collection day, with assistance at the foray provided by Anita Björk. Gene Yetter took over supervision of the database around 1987 and redeveloped the application for Microsoft Access in the mid 1990's. Delmar Small has been the manager of the database since 2010.
In addition to the technical aspects of the database project (design, output, etc.), the work involves constant interaction with forayers and expert identifiers to verify specimen information, taxonomy research, and proofreading of database reports. At forays, Delmar works the keyboard while recorder Dorothy Smullen and assistant Paula DeSanto supervise checklist and display activities. Dorothy has been the recorder at every NEMF foray. Dorothy and Gene were recognized at the 2001 Foray as recipients of the annual Eximia Award, and we must continue to thank them for their invaluable contributions.
Collection and Identification
A team of mycologists is engaged to attend each foray, and includes both generalists and specialists. After each foray walk, participants bring specimens to the sorting tables, where multiple examples of the same species or variety are grouped together. From there, the taxa are either confirmed by a mycologist or taken for further analysis. Once a specimen has been identified, it is taken to the Recorder (currently Dorothy Smullen) who checks the name against the master list to make sure the name is current, and records the walk number and the identifying mycologist's initials. The information is then entered into the database from which are generated daily lists.
Some species are not positively ID'ed until some weeks after the foray, and there is an occasional specimen that can only be determined to genus (indicated in the lists by the genus name followed by "sp."), or that resembles a species, but may or may not be that species (indicated by the genus and species names followed by "cf.").
The individual foray collection lists have not been modified since they were finalized after the forays they represent. The information in the lists was prepared yearly on site at forays, and subsequently appended to the master database. Where corrections or taxonomic changes were found to be necessary, corrections or changes were made to the master database only. "Corrections" mean typographic errors or other mistakes; "Changes" mean genus or species name changes after research in the mycological literature to determine a current name. Experts initialing a NEMF collection slip may not realize a familiar name has been superceded; or the identifier may not accept a revised name. Rules governing the status of names is explained in the International Code of Binomial Nomenclature. Disputed names are resolved on precedent where possible. Arbitrating a disputed name for database purposes is sometimes as much art as it is science! However to trace the evolution of current fungal names the NEMF database includes a synonymy. It used to be that research in the mycological literature meant a trip to the New York Botanical Garden library, or telephone calls to individuals who might be in possession of relevant books and journals. Nowadays most checking can be accomplished at the Index Fungorum Web site, where current names, synonymy and basionym are conveniently presented. Indexfungorum is maintained by CAB International, a non-profit organization that also publishes The Dictionary of the Fungi.
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