Fungus Fair 2024 - Speaker and Chef Bios

Here is an introduction to some of the speakers we are looking forward to seeing at the 50th Anniversary Fungus Fair.  The complete list with talk schedules and topics should be available soon.

Christian Schwarz

Christian Schwarz


Christian Schwarz is a naturalist based in California, the land of milk (caps) and honey (mushrooms). He teaches Natural History of Fungi at UC Santa Cruz and is co-author of "Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast”, & upcoming "Mushrooms of Cascadia". Fungi satisfy his curiosity with their seemingly endless forms; from the grotesque to the bizarre to the sublime. Besides dabbling in mushroom taxonomy, he loves fish, plants, nudibranchs, moths, and dragonflies. He is passionate about community science, especially through the use of iNaturalist. He is a Research Associate at the Norris Center for Natural History at UCSC as well as the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden.



Noah Seigel
Noah Seigel on right

Noah Seigel's field mycology skills are extensive – he has spent over two decades seeking, photographing, identifying, and furthering his knowledge about all aspects of macrofungi. He has hunted for mushrooms throughout the United States and Canada, as well as on multiple expeditions to New Zealand and Australia. He is one of the premier mushroom photographers in the nation, having won numerous awards from the North American Mycological Association (NAMA) photography contest. His technique and attention to detail are unrivaled, arising from a philosophy of maximizing utility for identification purposes while maintaining a high degree of aesthetic appeal. His photographs have appeared on the covers and have been featured in articles of multiple issues of FUNGI Magazine and Mushroom the Journal, the primary mushroom enthusiast magazines in the United States, numerous mushroom books, as well as many club publications. He just finished, along with Christian Schwarz, Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast, a comprehensive guide for the northern California coast. Noah travels and lectures extensively across America, following the mushrooms from coast to coast, and everywhere in between.

Christopher Hobbs
Christopher Hobbs

Dr. Christopher Hobbs, Ph.D., L.Ac. is a fourth generation, internationally known herbalist and mycologist, licensed acupuncturist, herbal clinician, research scientist, consultant to the dietary supplement industry, expert witness, botanist, public speaker, and author of over 20 books and numerous articles with over 40 years of experience.

He is the author of the recent book “Christopher Hobbs’s Medicinal Mushrooms, the Essential Guide,” with German and English editions.

He earned his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley with research and publication in evolutionary biology, biogeography, phylogenetics, the chemistry of plants and fungi, and ethnobotany. Now faculty at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Bill Schoenbart
Dr. Bill

Dr. Bill Schoenbart is a practitioner of Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture with 30 years of experience. He has been working with medicinal herbs since 1969, with a clinical practice in traditional Chinese herbal medicine since 1991. His work has taken him through every aspect of the herb industry: research, manufacturing, product safety, botanical identity, efficacy, label reviews, trade associations, teaching, and clinical practice. From a very young age, he has been fascinated by nature. He would spend hours each day exploring the forests, meadows, rivers, and ponds near his childhood home. Field guides to insects, animals, and plants were worn out from constant use. General science and biology classes were also his favorite subjects in school. So, it’s no coincidence that his career path led to a field that combines biology with botany.

Chef Chad Hyatt
Chad Hyatt

Chad Hyatt, the author of The Mushroom Hunter's Kitchen, is a classically trained chef who has taught about mushrooms and mushroom cookery all over the United States. He spent a decade working in restaurants and private clubs around the San Francisco Bay Area, and for the last 5 years has worked as a freelance chef. He spends his free time hunting for and learning about mushrooms, along with seeking out new techniques and traditional recipes to apply to them. Chad has a particular interest in exploring underappreciated edible species. He has worked with various mushroom clubs to give private classes, demos, and to cook special dinners focused on wild mushrooms. He loves seeking out new techniques and traditional ethnic recipes from all over the world to apply to his local mushrooms, and has earned a reputation for coming up with surprising, delicious new ways to use them.

Thea Chesney
Thea Chesney Thea Chesney is a lifelong Sierra Nevada foothill resident and naturalist. Her childhood interest in local mushrooms, wildlife, and flora has developed into an unending devotion to studying and understanding the natural world. She earned her BS in forestry from UC Berkeley while pursuing her passion for fungal taxonomy in the Berkeley mycology labs, and since then has spent her time exploring the California mountains and the organisms (including humans) that call them home.  She has worked as a botanist, a forester, and field mycologist, and is always happiest working in the field. Her fieldwork and her own studies are centered in the Sierra Nevada and other mountains of California, and include occasional workshops in plant and mushroom identification, a future field guide to montane mushrooms, and efforts to catalog the diversity of both plants and fungi in these understudied regions.

Phil Carpenter

Dr. Phil Carpenter

Dr. Phil Carpenter has been a member of the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz (CA) (FFSC) since the club was founded in 1984. He has been very active in the FFSC since joining, acting as President for many years as well as several other offices, including Minister of Science for many years. He is also currently a Regional Trustee for the North American Mushroom Association (NAMA). Phil has conducted mushroom identification classes for FFSC members for over ten years. In addition, he has taught mushroom foraging and identification at the University of California, Santa Cruz for over 25 years; for local park districts; for private resorts; for food events such as the Masters of Food and Wine and the Gourmet Fest in nearby Carmel; and for private parties. He heads up the mushroom identification service provided at the well-known and highly-attended annual Fungus Fair presented by the FFSC. He has been and continues to be a resource of mushroom identification for monthly FFSC meetings and periodic local and long distance forays. He provides identification and consulting for mushroom poisonings for hospitals and veterinarians.

Phil was the 2023 recipient of the Harry and Elsie Knighton Service Award given by the North American Mycological Association (NAMA)  in recognition of his many years of distinguished service to the mycology community.

Vellany Pierce
Vellany Pierce

Vellany Pierce is the Prime Minister of the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz.

She grew up in Santa Cruz County and, always having had an interest in fungi, is a self taught mushroom cultivator who currently works at Far West Fungi, propagating mushroom spawn from cultures grown in petri dishes.  She serves the Fungus Federation as minister of digital media, helps lead local forays, and has taught cultivation classes with the Fungus Federation for many years.  





Douglas Smith

Douglas Smith has been involved in mycology for many years, looking for and photographing mushrooms on several continents.  His photographs have been featured in many field guides, journals, and magazines, such as National Geographic.  A constant figure in the Bay Area mycology scene, he is an expert in many fungus fairs, and organized forays.






Chef Bob Wynn

Bob Wynn


"Growing up on a farm in upstate New York, my job of making mashed potatoes for Sunday dinner began my love for food and tools. Nothing like newly-dug spuds, butter, cream and a Sunbeam Mixmaster to whip them to perfection. As a child, I also enjoyed hunting mushrooms with my aunt. It wasn't until we moved to Santa Cruz in 1985, that I discovered the Promised Land of mushrooms." Since then Bob has been an active FFSC member, sold food at the this fair for 25 years, cooked at many club activities, and provided snacks at our monthly meetings. Bob is currently the FFSC Minister of Culinary Events and Minister of Sustenance.



Melany Kahn

Christian Schwarz

Melany Kahn started hunting for mushrooms in Vermont in 1968 when her family bought a farm in West Brattleboro. For the last 22 years she has taught children how to forage for wild mushrooms. Recently, Melany presented a talk to children at TEDxBoston on planetary stewardship, "You're never too young to learn or too old to start foraging" She is a member of the Education Committee for the North American Mycological Association  (NAMA), and a Board Member of the Monadnock Mushroomers Unlimited, her local NH mushroom club.