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Meet the PVMA Board of Directors

Dianna Smith

Dianna Smith, cofounder of PVMA and club mycologist

Dianna Smith did her doctoral work in a comparative analysis of pre-modern Chinese and European science and technology at Tufts University and with Professor Nathan 

Sivin of MIT. She taught history at Tufts and later the sciences for young people during summers at "Creative University" from her home in NY. She was later producer and editor of her community cable television program for twenty-two years called SCAPES, which featured half-hour shows on gardening, botany and mycology. At the Connecticut-Westchester Mycological Association’s (COMA) "Mushroom University," which she created and fostered with Gary Lincoff roughly ten years ago, she studied mycology with the master himself. She also studied with Alan and Arleen Bessette, authors of numerous field guides of mushrooms of the northeast as well as of individual mushroom genera. She taught introductory mycology lessons with Dr. Roz Lowen for two summers at Eagle Hill Research Center in Maine.Dianna is President Emeritus of COMA, past editor of The Mycophile, newsletter of the North American Mycological Association (NAMA); a mycology educator; winner of national photography awards for fungi photos; a frequently published mushroom photographer of numerous field guides in both Britain and the US; winner of 2012 NAMA Harry and Elsie Knighton Service Award for her extraordinary contributions to COMA; 2012 recipient of the NAMA President’s Award for her work on The Mycophile; creator of the website, where her collection of fungi photos and other educational materials reside; served as President of the Northeast Mycological Federation (NEMF) of clubs for four years until 2018; was webmaster of and a consultant to poison control centers and hospitals in Massachusetts. Currently she is Chairperson of NAMA’s Medicinal Mushroom Committee.


Peter Russell, Vice President

paul thomas

Paul Thomas,

citizen science committee

As he grew into his teens and early adulthood years, Paul was affectionately stricken by the first "from orbit" image of the Earth while simultaneously embracing his dad's Great Depression-informed lessons as to "this

(effectively 'organic' philosophy) is how you farm" approach to gardening. A geekishly excessive fascination with how composting worked ultimately moved him to focus on soil microbiology in graduate studies, but his ultimate focus on the "bacterial" aspect of how Nature recycles nutrients left a need to revisit what the heck all of those fungi were doing in the rhizosphere!? Subsequent to a long, strange trip through the study of legume microsymbionts and a move to Massachusetts, it was the science of why tree carcasses just don't keep piling up on themselves that re-tweaked his research muscles, near-contemporaneously with the formation of our wonderful Pioneer Valley Mycological Association.

Jonathan Kranz, newsletter

Jonathan is a relative mycological newbie who lives in Ayer with his wife, Eileen, the occasional visits from his adult daughters, and a vast collection of vinyl LPs. When he’s not learning about mushrooms, he runs his copywriting business (Kranz Communications) and serves on the Ayer Planning Board. He is also the Vice President of the Boston Mycological Club. 

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Jessica Benson Evans

Jess Benson Evans, president (2017 - present)

Jess grew up in Connecticut and moved to the Pioneer Valley in 2016 to finish her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education at UMass – a career change after ten years working in the medical field. Jess and her kiddo Ari live in Shutesbury.  Jessica grew up in a family that loved the outdoors; her dad would often bring in mushrooms to try to identify, and the Audubon guide was always on the bookshelf among many other nature guides. However, she didn’t become serious about fungi until just prior to moving to Massachusetts. A friend suggested she look up Dianna Smith’s club when she moved to the area, and Jess began seriously studying mushrooms after joining PVMA in 2016. Jess is passionate about mushrooms! She enjoys mushroom photography and collecting and identifying specimens for the citizen science project. Jessica loves leading walks that include family groups, as Ari, age 13, is an avid mushroomer as well! Although Jess enjoys some edible mushroom species, her primary interests are in broadening her skills at identifying fungi and learning more about fungal ecology. Beyond fungi, Jess is the assistant director at Morse Hill Outdoor Education Center in Shutesbury and enjoys vegetable gardening in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter.

Michael Ostrowski, cofounder of PVMA and treasurer/membership secretary

A Holyoke, MA, native and avid outdoor person, Mike enjoys hiking, walking, bicycling, cross country skiing, camping, kayaking, fishing, geocaching, and gardening. He epically enjoys going on mushroom

mike ostrowski

walks and meeting so many fascinating people who are interested in learning to identify mushrooms. Mike says, “It has been very satisfying to see PVMA grow from two to 142 members in such a short time. It speaks to the growing interest people in our area have for mushrooms and mycology.” Mike resides in South Hadley with his wife, Judy.

Stephanie Reitman, secretary

Stephanie has been a member of PVMA since early on and has been our hospitality chairperson since last spring. She can often be found riding her bicycle to club workshops and walks. She has also given presentations on mushroom topics at various events in

Stephanie reitman

the Pioneer Valley. Stephanie is interested in mushroom cultivation and remediation along with her study of wild fungi, and has attended the New Moon Mycology Summit which focuses on these topics and others. She is also a crafter who creates beautiful knitted mushrooms!

Mary Obrzut,

board member and past Vice President

Mary's favorite saying is, "If I have to be somewhere let it be outdoors." She has loved the outdoors since she was a young child. Her family would go on camping trips, go fishing and picnics out in nature. Today she enjoys all that plus hiking, birdwatching

mary obrzut

and mushrooming. She remembers some years ago borrowing an Audubon mushroom field guide and taking it with her hiking. She was more confused than ever, with so many look-alikes to puzzle through. In 2016 she came upon a post for a PVMA mushroom walk at the Federated Women's Club State Forest in Petersham. She joined the walk that day and has been hooked ever since. She enjoys the edibles but is also fascinated with all fungi, as they are so beautiful and amazing. Mary loves spending time out on walks with the group, and says that they are wonderful people willing to share their knowledge to help others. She looks forward to learning more about fungi now that she is retired. Mary lives in Warren with her two dogs and grandson (a future mycologist!) close by.  

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