The UA’s MycoCats club offers nature exploration with a focus on mushrooms and more


Members of UA MycoCats gather in Coronado National Forest during one of their monthly hikes. MycoCats is an on-campus group that aims to educate members about mycology, the study of fungi, and create strong bonds among members. (Courtesy Cait Dowd)

Samuel Ellis

The University of Arizona’s MycoCats club primarily aims to educate members on mycology — the study of fungi — and also give members opportunities to cultivate and forage mushrooms through biweekly meetings, monthly hikes and the maintenance of a cultivation shed where mushrooms are grown.

The group holds general meetings on campus every first and third Monday of the month at 6 p.m. in room 203 of the Gould-Simpson building. In the past, they have held cultivation workshops, talked about folklore surrounding mushrooms and, after learning about edible mushrooms found in Arizona, proceeded to cook and eat different edible mushrooms at the meeting. 

Fungi play a vital role in many ecosystems and have many uses relevant to people today. However, Ariel Heinrich, the vice president of education and outreach for MycoCats, said that fungi are an “underrated kingdom of life.” In recent years, researchers have explored their uses as fuels, medicines and building materials.

Members of MycoCats are able to see firsthand how fungi plays a role in their ecosystems through the club’s monthly hikes. They will normally go to different parts of Mount Lemmon to hike and forage for mushrooms. Although members do hope to see some fruiting bodies, these outings are also about getting out in nature with a group of friends.

The president of the club, Cait Dowd, said the hikes are “basically just a group of college kids getting out in nature.” Dowd also hands out trash bags to attending members so that they can pick up any garbage along the way.

If members do find any mushrooms, they’ll usually only pick one or two, leaving the rest for the ecosystem. Most finds don’t have any uses so they’re usually dried and put on a shelf somewhere. Some are edible and can be used in a tea, but Heinrich clarified that, “I’ve heard the term ‘everything is edible once.’ No. Some mushrooms are not edible.”

Alondra Cardona, the vice president of the club, described MycoCats as “the one and only U of A mushroom club,” but this group of mushroom lovers is more than just a mushroom club; it’s about members getting better connected with each other and the world around them.

When talking about her favorite aspects of MycoCats, Dowd said, “The community, 100 percent. I feel like all the people in MycoCats are such amazing and kindhearted people. Something about being connected with others, like mycelium.”

To find more information about the club, go to or check out the group’s Instagram @ua_mycocats.

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