MST Walk and Foray Levels

As a result of the remarkable growth that the MST has seen in the last few years, we have faced some problems in providing interested members with the kinds of access to forays and other learning opportunities that they would like to see. The MST also needs to address several environmental sensitivity and sustainability challenges in its programming.

New: Different walk and foray levels

We have developed a three-level system that will help new and experienced members find the appropriate events for their level of knowledge, experience, and interest. These new types of walks will also make more spots available for members at all the walks and forays. From beginner to advanced, these levels are:

Welcome to Mycology walks

Hour-long walks to welcome new members and provide information about fungi and their role in the environment. This first level is a fun, informative, and family-friendly introduction to mycology

Introduction to Field Identification walks

Longer walks to discuss types of fungi and teach members how to start identifying them

Intermediate Field Identification forays

Traditional forays with an expert identifier

In order to attend walks and forays which are meant for more experienced mushroomers, members need to attend some of our easier walks beforehand and pass a short online test.

This hands-on, experiential approach to learning gives the MST a chance to introduce the basics of fungi in a friendly accessible way. It allows for a more systematic way of learning the fundamentals and makes an extremely large field of knowledge less intimidating. New members can learn from more experienced members.

Foraging for food is not allowed at MST walks or forays

MST walks and forays are not mushroom picking events, but learning events that promote a greater understanding of the fungi that we can access in our environment. The permits we have with the various properties which host our walks and forays do not allow foraging for the purpose of consumption, and the MST runs the risk of losing access to these areas if participants forage mushrooms for food

Where to start and how to get to the next level

New members start with Welcome to Mycology walks, which are open to all our members regardless of experience.

Each level of walk or foray teaches different things. Welcome to Mycology walks focus on the basics; Intro to Field ID walks teach you how to identify species; and Intermediate Field Identification forays are more independent and collaborative learning opportunities.

In order to attend the other levels of walks and forays which are meant for more experienced mushroomers, members need to attend some of the easier walks beforehand and pass a short online test.

You can learn at your own pace – progress to the next level quickly or slowly, whatever you like. We understand that not everyone is interested in field identification and may not wish to continue to all three levels; members are welcome to stay at whichever level they most enjoy.

The short online tests can be taken at any time and as many times as you want. Those who learn better in person are welcome to come to as many walks at their current level as they need.

In order to attend Intro to Field ID walks:

Members need to attend at least 1 Welcome to Mycology walk, and pass a short test based on what they learned during the walk

In order to attend Intermediate Field Identification forays:

Members need to attend at least 2 Intro to Field ID walks, and pass a short test with some questions about identification

Members can still attend any of the earlier levels after they graduate to the next level! You can see a summary of which levels of walk and foray you can attend, how many more walks you need and which tests you need to take on the Your Walk and Foray Options page.

Are you a new member who already has a lot of knowledge?

Maybe you belonged to the MST or another mushroom club in the past. Maybe you're just self-taught. If you think you don't need to start with Welcome to Mycology walks, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let us know what experience you have. We'll probably try to get you to volunteer at walks!

Welcome to Mycology walks

Welcome to Mycology walks are volunteer-led, 1-hour walks that will welcome new members and provide information about fungi and their role in the environment. This first level is a fun, informative, and family-friendly introduction to mycology for members to explore whether field identification is something that interests them. There will be discussions about safety and forest etiquette, with some hands-on examples of fungi found.

Welcome to Mycology walks let new members experience what an amateur field mycology event would be like. Attending lets you see if this is something that interests you, before committing to events that need more knowledge. There won't be any pressure to know or understand terminology you aren't yet accustomed to. You can ask beginner questions in a beginner environment without judgement. They're also a chance to bring less knowledgeable or younger family members to events to see if they have interest in or have appreciation for mushrooms.

Welcome to Mycology walks give the MST and its volunteers an opportunity to teach principles of conservation and care for the environment. Only the guide will pick mushrooms, and only for the purpose of showing different features to participants.

How they work:

After Welcome to Mycology walk participants arrive and check in, they will be split up into groups of 8-10 people. A volunteer guide will take each group out into the forest for about an hour to show and teach:

  • How we stay safe in the woods, and how we keep the woods safe from us
  • Fun examples of neat mushrooms we find in Ontario
  • The life cycle of fungi
  • Examples of different categories used in field identification
  • Examples of the function of fungi in the environment
  • Online resources to increase their knowledge
  • How we would like people to help on future walks
  • How to prepare for your first Introduction to Field Identification walk

At the end of the walk, the guide will return the group to the start point and participants will go home.

No special equipment is required other than weather-appropriate clothing and footwear suitable for the woods.

No field guide is needed for Welcome to Mycology walks, but if you want one, the MST recommends Mushrooms of the Northeast by Teresa Marrone and Walter Sturgeon.

Introduction to Field Identification walks

Introduction to Field Identification (also called Intro to Field ID) walks are longer volunteer-led walks that will discuss types of fungi and how to identify them in greater detail. These walks aim to teach members how to begin identifying mushrooms on their own and enable a level of comfort in independent study. The intent is to show newer members how to progress in their ability, and to build confidence in using available tools to identify mushrooms in a group setting with assistance.

Everyone attending is both interested in identification and has a better sense of the day's goals and activity (not foraging). Two or three walks at this level should provide enough basics that you can try identifications on your own or at Intermediate forays.

How they work:

After Introduction to Field Identification walk participants arrive and check in, they will be split up into groups of 8–10 people. A volunteer guide will take each group out into the forest for about an hour and a half to teach:

  • Terminology that will be used more frequently at Intermediate events such as forays and the Cain
  • Myths about poisonous species
  • How to identify some toxic or poisonous species if any are found that day
  • What features of mushrooms are important for identification and how to recognize the differences
  • How to use field guides, online resources and identification keys to identify mushrooms
  • How to collect, document and prepare specimens
  • How to take spore prints
  • How to know which specimens are suitable for identification, and which groups of mushrooms are worth it for novices to try to identify
  • How and why to use loupes and magnifiers
  • How to prepare for your first Intermediate Field Identification walk

At the end of the walk, the guide will return the group to the start point. After returning, participants can discuss any interesting specimens found by the day's groups.

No special equipment is required other than weather-appropriate clothing and footwear suitable for the woods.

Members are strongly encouraged to have a field guide by the time they begin to attend Intro to Field ID walks. The MST recommends Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada by Timothy Baroni.

Intermediate Field Identification forays

Intermediate Field Identification forays are for members who have developed some experience with independent identifications and would like access to more experienced members who can assist and confirm identifications. These are more collaborative learning opportunities, where more time can be spent on discussion of species.

How they work:

After Intermediate Field Identification participants arrive and check in, the foray leader will give a short reminder talk about forest safety and tell everyone what time they're expected back at the start point. Participants will split themselves up into groups as they like and go out into the woods on their own. They'll spend the time finding and gathering interesting specimens, and then bring them back to the start point.

When they arrive, tables will have been set up by the foray volunteers. Participants will combine their specimens and put them in groups on the tables. The foray leader will make some initial identifications of interesting or unusual specimens and explain how they arrived at their identification. While the foray leader is identifying species, an assistant will be checking off the found species on the Field Species Checklist.

Participants can take an active part in the discussion, or simply listen and learn. The discussion can take as long as they want, there's no time limit (but it usually lasts an hour or so). After the foray is over the species checklist is sent to the Foray Director to be recorded.

Required equipment for Intermediate Field Identification forays:

Why is the MST doing this?

Why have different levels of walks and forays? Wasn't it good enough just having one kind of foray like all the other mushroom clubs? Aren't we just complicating things?

Well, no - it wasn't good enough. Since 2014 the MST has had explosive growth in membership (partly because we made it possible to join without mailing us a cheque, and partly because mushrooms have gotten really popular). At roughly 1200 members, the MST is now one of the largest mushroom clubs in the world.

Most mushroom clubs run a handful of forays each year. In 2019 (the last normal year before COVID-19) the MST offered a total of 37 forays, every single Saturday and Sunday in the spring and fall. And even that wasn't enough. Forays still booked up within half an hour of registration opening, and many members weren't able to attend a foray at all.

Even as the membership grew, the number of foray leaders and expert identifiers stayed the same. Our foray leaders have been doing this a long time and they like leading forays, but because there are so few of them they end up sacrificing most of their weekends through the fall and spring. We can't ask them to do that anymore.

Also, with a huge influx of new members the forays have been filled with people who, while very enthusiastic, are brand-new to mushrooms. The foray leaders get swamped with the same questions over and over ("can I eat this?" is a phrase they're all very sick of hearing). So they don't have time to talk about the really neat stuff they find, and members with more experience get bored or can't deal with the crowds and lose interest. That's a very bad thing for the MST and for mycology as a hobby. People new to mycology who attend these crowded forays have just as much trouble with the big crowds around the identification tables. It's really hard to learn anything that way.

The last big reason is this: with that much traffic and that many people picking specimens, we're not being kind to the forest ecologies we love and depend on.

How does it help to have different levels of walk and foray?

By introducing our Welcome to Mycology and Intro to Field ID walks, we're accomplishing several things.

Benefits for members:

  • Members who are new to mushrooms can have an experience which lets them learn the basics of fungi in a friendly, accessible way
  • Several groups of 10 people walking with one guide helps with the crowding and lets participants hear and learn more
  • Without the need to find large numbers of specimens we can have walks closer to urban areas for members without cars
  • We can help make a smoother transfer of knowledge from experienced members to newer members
  • It's more fun with smaller groups, and when everyone at an event has a similar level of knowledge
  • More spots should become available for Intermediate forays

Benefits for volunteers:

  • Guides for the Welcome and Introduction walks don't need to be experts, which will help us build a healthy, sustainable base of volunteers
  • Volunteers get better opportunities to build their own knowledge by teaching
  • Expert identifiers can be better allocated to intermediate forays where basic questions have already been answered
  • Volunteers will have more time to focus on their own interests, and with mentoring new identifiers
  • Helping members learn means more experienced identifiers, which reduces stress on existing identifiers at the Cain and other Intermediate events

Benefits for the environment:

  • With only the walk guide picking specimens to demonstrate their features, we leave a lot more mushrooms in the forest
  • The MST can clean up some regularly used sites to help maintain them
  • We can teach more members how to do the least damage and have the least amount of impact
  • We can encourage understanding of the forest not simply as a supermarket but as a living entity, where small parts (and our own presence) affect the whole

Benefits for the MST:

  • Holding non-picking walks allows us to access more sites
  • Creating a path to greater knowledge and teaching guides allows us to build our volunteer base
  • A larger base of experienced identifiers would allow the MST to participate in more advanced scientific research such as Bio-Blitzes
  • More experienced identifiers will be better able to catalogue and record the species lists at forays

Were you a member of the MST before we introduced different walk and foray levels?

For members who joined the MST before November 1st 2021:

We know that our long-term members are used to forays working a certain way, and we don't want to make you unhappy by making you go to beginner walks or take online tests about things you've known for years or decades. We value your knowledge and experience a great deal, and we don't want to get in the way of you enjoying forays.

To help with this, we've made our best effort to assign you to a walk or foray level based on how long you've been a member and how many forays you've attended. Of the 980 MST members who joined before November 1st 2021, we assigned 364 to Intermediate Field Identification, 126 to Intro to Field Identification, and 490 to Welcome to Mycology. This is how we decided:

    • For members who joined up to October 31st, 2019 (324 members): We've assigned you to Intermediate Field Identification level, so you can attend any of our walks or forays no matter what level they are.
    • For members who joined between November 1st, 2019 and October 31st, 2021: We've picked a level for you based on how many forays you registered for (and checked in to) during this time:
      How many forays did you attend between those dates? We assigned you to: # of members Which walks and forays can you attend?
      More than 1 Intermediate Field Identification forays 40 Any of our walks or forays
      1 Intro to Field ID walks 126 Intro to Field ID walks and Welcome to Mycology walks
      None Welcome to Mycology walks 490 Welcome to Mycology walks
      1. If you attended more than 1 foray, we assigned you to Intermediate Field Identification forays (40 members). You can attend any of our walks or forays.
      2. If you attended 1 foray, we assigned you to Intro to Field ID walks (126 members). You can attend Intro to Field ID walks and Welcome to Mycology walks.
      3. If you didn't attend any forays, we assigned you to Welcome to Mycology walks (490 members). You can attend Welcome to Mycology walks.
    • For members who joined from November 1st, 2021 onward and haven't yet had the opportunity to attend any MST forays, you'll be starting at Welcome to Mycology.

Of course we would love to have a detailed understanding of every member's knowledge and experience, but that's not possible. If you think you should be in a different level than we guessed, just tell us and we'll change it for you. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let us know what level you should be in.


The MST is a fully volunteer-run organization, and we need our members to volunteer. Do you want to help but don't think you have the identification knowledge? We still need you! We need as many helpers as we can get. Have you been a member of the MST for a few years but haven't found a way to help out yet? We value that experience, and volunteering for walks and forays is how you can help most.

  • Do you know something about mushrooms but aren't strong in identification yet? You can volunteer to be a guide for Welcome to Mycology walks. Guide volunteers can help without being worried about their own experience level or being asked too many questions that they can't answer.
  • Do you know how identification works, how to use field guides, and what parts of fungi are used in identification? You can volunteer to be a guide for Intro to Field ID walks even if you can't instantly identify much on the spot. Members at that level are just starting to learn what you already know.
  • Are you confident in your identification knowledge? We need leaders for Intermediate Field Identification forays. You won't be on your own at first - we'll pair you with someone who has done it before.
  • Even if you know absolutely nothing, we still need your help for directing members and helping them check in at the beginning of walks and forays.

We train our walk guides in what to teach for each level, and we'll give each of them a booklet of teaching material to carry with them on the walks - so don't worry about knowing what to say or forgetting everything once you're out with a group.

At all three walk and foray levels, trainee walk guides will be able to shadow more experienced guides to learn how it goes. And for Welcome to Mycology walks and Intro to Field ID walks, there will be guides for other groups there that day who you can consult with after the walk, if you're not sure about a question.

The MST provides accident compensation insurance for volunteers in the field.

Benefits of volunteering:

  • Volunteer staff don't count toward registration limits, so volunteering at a walk or foray lets you attend as many events as you want without having to worry about registering
  • Volunteers get to practice their terminology and ID skills, learn from other volunteers and meet other members
  • Volunteers get better access to experienced members and the chance to find a mycology mentor
  • Maybe you can mentor a newer member yourself - everyone wins!

More questions?

See our Frequently Asked Questions, or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..