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TECHNICAL SESSION: Plant Science Outreach and Education

The “Fungal Selfie”: Integrating a social media collection in higher education courses
Emma Wallace - Penn State University. Christina Call- Penn State University, David Geiser- Penn State University

Although social media are an essential component in the communication of younger and next generation scientists, these tools are underutilized in the classroom. Platforms that focus on images, such as Instagram, provide exciting opportunities for students to share their findings and learn from others. Undergraduate and graduate courses aimed at fungal biology are particularly well-suited for this integration. In the fall semester of 2018, we implemented the “Fungal Selfie” project in an undergraduate/graduate “Biology of Fungi” course at Penn State. Students created a free account through the Instagram application and documented their findings of fungal specimens and other mycologically relevant objects in their environment through the use of images and text in a series of searchable posts. For some posts, students were required to collect and identify the specimen. As a result, students were able to apply their familiarity with social media to the skills of fungal identification and characterization that they would typically present in such a course, thus providing a unique dimension encouraging the students to connect concepts of fungal biology to their lives. This approach could be easily adapted to courses that involve field observation of plant diseases. Additionally, this tool has the potential to allow the product of student learning to reach many more people than just the target audience.