Of Mushrooms and Men: Roxanne Grechman’s journey with science

Tallulah Knill Allen

It was a song she heard in eighth grade, junior Roxanne Grechman said, that first opened hereyes to the power of science.

“There was an album I was listening to, and it was all about space,” Grechman said. “And I was like, how beautiful. I thought about how absolutely stunning it was, and I knew I wanted to learn more.”

She listened to this album after she had signed up for her freshman year classes, just as she was beginning to think about what her high school experience would look like. With that album, Grechman’s idea of her future, in high school and beyond, crystallized around science. She decided then that she would take astronomy when she was a sophomore.

“[Taking astronomy] was the best decision ever,” Grechman said. “The more shocking [the class] was, the more I loved it.”

As a sophomore, she also joined the Mycology and Botany clubs to further pursue her interests.

Grechman often uses art in order to express her interest in mycology. (Photo courtesy of Roxanne Grechman).

“There, I learned about plants and fungi. I already knew most of the content about mushrooms, admittedly, because I’d read a book in freshman or sophomore year that sparked my love of fungi,” Grechman said.

These clubs, along with the three science classes she’s currently taking — Advanced Placement (AP) Biology, AP Environmental Science and chemistry — have helped her visualize her future and her love of science.

“With those clubs and my science classes, I truly found a direction I wanted to go, and that was biology,” Grechman said.

Grechman is now vice president of the Mycology and Botany clubs, which typically take up two of her lunch periods a week. These both allow her to share her ample knowledge on the subjects with fellow club members.

Mycology Club president Donovan Bourke said that Grechman is a great contribution to the club’s environment, providing Mycology Club members with a wealth of information and a friendly demeanor.

“[Grechman is] interested in talkingto people about [mycology]…. If anyone has any questions in the club, she’s a great resource to go to, and she can tell us a lot of good stories about mushrooms,” Bourke stated.

Amy Mastromonaco, Grechman’s AP Biology teacher, said that this level of participation carries over to Grechman’s role in her class.

“She’s very engaged. She’s always asking questions, sometimes beyond the scope of the curriculum,” Mastromonaco said.

Grechman’s involvement in mycology and biology is not limited to school. Outside of class, she also goes into the woods whenever possible to experience the forces of nature she has learned so much about.

While in the woods, Grechman typically locates mushrooms and photographs them. (Photo courtesy of Roxanne Grechman).

The Mycology Club typically holds these types of foraging expeditions a few times a year, which is how Mastromonaco first met Grechman. Mastromonaco attended a club outing to Point Reyes last year with Grechman and was immediately impressed by her passion for the subject.


“She was so interested in all the mushrooms we were collecting. … I remembered her when I saw her on the first day of school. I thought, ‘That’s the girl from Mycology [Club]!’” Mastromonaco said.

In addition to expeditions with the Mycology Club, Grechman enjoys exploring the natural world on her owntime. For the past two years, Grechman has participated in the Sonoma State University Mushroom Blitz, an annual event in December in which participants collect and identify various mushrooms they locate on their journey. She plans to take part in the event again in the future.

“You sign up, and then you go meet on Sonoma Mountain. Then you go to the Osborn Preserve, which is a preserve, which means they don’t let civilians in normally,” Grechman said. “I was the only kid last time.”

But the Mushroom Blitz is not solely an academic endeavor. It provides a valuable service to the natural environment and the mushrooms themselves.

“The thing about getting up and transporting all these mushrooms is that we’re helping them spread their spores [and] helping them reproduce,” Grechman said.

In front of Redwood’s main building, Grechman points out a patch of mushrooms. “You have to develop your eyes to see them,” she said.

In the future, Grechman hopes to continue studying nature in the field as a career to a greater extent than her current lifestyle allows. She said the path of Merlin Sheldrake, a mycologist who wrote about his experiences studying in the rainforests of Panama, is particularly inspiring to her. When she saw his book, “Entangled Life,” in a Barnes and Noble soon after its release, she knew she had to read it.

“Now that’s what I want to do. I want to go out into the world and study these things,” Grechman said. “Maybe the ocean, maybe the rainforest, maybe some northern forests, boreal, anything. The thing is, I love [science] so much. How do I narrow it down?”