cathy cripps

Cathy Cripps,
 Professor, PhD from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Office: 309 Plant BioScience Building
Lab: 109 Plant BioScience Building

Office Phone: 406-994-5226
Lab Phone: 406-994-7621

Fax: 406-994-7600
Email Dr. Cripps





Our lab examines basic and applied aspects of higher fungi, particularly in extreme environments such as the alpine life zone and high-elevation forests. Currently we are focused on the ectomycorrhizal fungi associated with whitebark pine and the biodiversity of alpine fungi in the Rocky Mountains. Whitebark pine forests are in serious decline in the West due to blister rust and mountain pine beetles. We are currently discovering the native mycorrhizal fungi associated with this 5-needle pine and examining the benefits of inoculating seedlings with these native mycorrhizal fungi.

The arctic-alpine biome covers 10% of the earth’s land, and is considered to be at great risk from global warming and disturbance. This includes all land within the Arctic Circle and the true alpine above treeline on high mountain tops. Fungi in this extreme climate must withstand freezing temperatures, high UV light, a short growing season, and persistent desiccating winds. Fungi are a crucial ecological link in these inhospitable climes. Plants depend on alpine mycorrhizal root fungi for survival. Saprophytic fungi somehow manage to complete the work of decomposition and recycling of nutrients into the soil despite the extreme conditions. To date we have catalogued over 200 species of alpine agarics, primarily species of Inocybe,Cortinarius, Entoloma, Galerina, Russlula, and Lactarius. In addition, we are examining the mycorrhizal fungi with dwarf Salix and Dryas, and adaptations of alpine fungi with broad-ranging implications for cold-tolerance in plants.

Previous research has focused on the ectomycorrhizal fungi in aspen forests. Aspen (Populus tremuloides) has declined by over 50% in the western US in recent years and is of great interest to forest managers. Over 50 species of mycorrhizal fungi occur with aspen in the Rocky Mountain region and a certain set have been found on the Anaconda Superfund site. Our research has shown that many of these mycorrhizal fungi stimulate aspen growth in vitro and have potential for use in high elevation reclamation.


As the singular classically trained mycologist in Montana, my research is on basic and applied aspects of fungi in managed and natural systems, including fungal systematics and identification, MSU president’s list of experts, identification for the Plant Diagnostic Lab, consultant on mushroom poisoning cases; research includes NSF survey of cold-adapted alpine fungi, specialty mushroom farming in MT, and use of mycorrhizal fungi in reclamation; curator MONT fungal herbarium; teaching BIOM 423 (Mycology), and Biology 256 (Biology: Cells to Organisms), BIOE 424 (Ecology of Fungi), PSPP 580 (Advanced Mycology), graduate and undergraduate advising.


  • B.S. School of Natural Resources University of Michigan
  • M.S. Biology (Mycology) Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI) 1993
  • Ph.D. Biology (Mycology) Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI) 1995


  • Mycological Society of America
  • North American Mycological Society
  • International Society of Mycorrhizasists
  • Montana Academy of Science


  • Mycological Society of America
    • Biodiversity Committee
    • Amateur Liaison Committee
  • North American Mycological Society
    • Trustee
    • Chief Mycologist 2010, 2008, 2006
  • International Society of Mycorrhizasists
  • Southwest Montana Mycological Association
  • Editiorial Editor, Fungi Magazine
  • Associate Editor, North American Fungi Journal
  • Review editor: Botany, Mycologia, Sydowia, Mycological Research, Mycorrhiza, Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, etc.
  • Grant proposal Reviewer: National Science Foundation, occasional panel member, USDA/CREES, International Organization for Scientific Research
  • Fungal Identification for Plant Diagnostic Clinic, researchers, public
  • Workshops/lectures for Mycological Societies, ID, MT, CO, WA, ORE,CA, NC, VA, MN, Canada
  • MT Ag Live Appearances


  • Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology Promotion and Tenure Committee
  • HHMI Hughes Biology Curriculum Committee
  • Graduate student committees, MSU


  • NAFTA Teaching Excellence Award, Montana State Univ, College of Agriculture, PSPP, 2002.
  • Martin-Baker Endowment Research Award, Mycological Society of America, 1996
  • Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Award, Virginia Polytech (VPI), 1994.





Working Together to Restore Terrestrial Ecosystem: Use of Native Mycorrhizal fungi to restore Whitebark pine in Waterton Lakes- Glacier Park International Peace Park: Restoration of Whitebark and Limber pine using Native Ectomycorrhizal Fungi. $120,000.

Inoculation of Whitebark Pine Seedlings for Restoration. Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation. USDA Forest Service. $30,000.

Alpine Mycota (Agaricales): Rocky Mountain Tundra, USA, National Science Foundation Grant, 1999 to 2003, $212,000, PI (Cripps), coPI (Horak, Geobotanik Institute, Zurich).

Specialty Mushroom Farming in Montana, Research and Commercialization Grant, $144,000,

Mycorrhizae of Whitebark pine: ecological and applied aspects in relation to fire and restoration. USDA FS Grant, Fire Ecology.


Cripps, C.L., Evenson, V.S. Evenson, and M. Kuo. 2016. The Essential Guide to Rocky Mountain Mushrooms by Habitat. University of Illinois Press.  To purchase:

book cover


Barge, EG and Cripps, CL. 106. New reports, phylogenetic analysis, and a key to Lactarius Pers. in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem informed by molecular data. MycoKeys 15: 1-58.

Barge, E.G., Cripps, C.L., and T.W. Osmundson. 2016. Systematics of the ectomycorrhizal genus Lactarius in the Rocky Mountain alpine zone. Mycologia (prepublication online).

Cripps, C.L., Liimatainen, K., Niskanen, T., Dima, B., Bishop, R.F., and J.F. Ammirati. 2015. Intercontinental distributions of species of Cortinarius, subgenus Phlegmacium, associated with Populus and Salix in western North America. Botany, 2015, 93(11): 711-721.

Cripps, C.L. and M. Jenkins. 2015. An unexpected growth response in whitebark pine seedlings colonized with ectomycorrhizal fungi in the greenhouse. Nutcracker Notes 29: 16-20.

Cripps, C.L. 2015. Ghost Forests: whitebark pine in trouble. Biosphere, January issue, 32-41.

Larsson, E., Vauras, Y. and C.L. Cripps. 2014. Inocybe leiocephala, a species with an intercontinental distribution range—disentangling the I. leiocephala—subbrunnea—catalaunica morphological species complex. Karstenia 54: 15-39.

Cripps, C., Lonergan, E., Smith, C. 2014. Survival of whitebark pine seedlings inoculated with ectomycorrhzae. Nutcracker Notes 26, 15-18.

Cripps, C. 2014. Underground Connection: Fungi and Pines in Peril (pp. 5 pp.). American Forests (electronic, online).

Cripps, C. 2014. A story of dubious morels: morchelloid forms in fungi. Fungi, 7, 5-7.

Cripps, C. 2014. Virtual mushrooms or vouchers: To deposit or not to deposit (482nd ed., pp. 2 pp.). Botanical Electronic News (online).

Lonergan, E. and Cripps, C.L., Smith, C. 2014. Influence of site conditions, shelter objects and ectomycorrhizal inoculation on the early survival of whitebark pine seedlings planted in Waterton Lakes National Park. Forest Science 60(3): 603-612.

Lonergan, E. and Cripps, C.L. 2013. Use of a low nitrogen fertilizer as a strategy to maintain ectomycorrhizal colonization on whitebark pine seedlings. Native Plants Journal 14(3): 213-224.

Cripps, C.L. and Barge, E. 2013. Notes on the genus Lactarius from the Rocky Mountain alpine zone USA in regard to Finnish arctic–alpine species. Karstenia 53: 29-37.

Dahlberg, A. Bültmann, H., Cripps, C.L., Eyjólfsdóttir, G., Gulden, G., Kristinsson, and Zhurbenko, M. 2013. Global Assessment of Fungi and Lichens in Arctic Ecosystems. In: Status and Trends in Arctic Biodiversity. Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna. Pp. 688. [contributing author]

Keane, R.E., Tomback, D.F., Aubry, C.A., Bower, A.D., Campbell, E.M., Cripps, C.L., Jenkins, M.B. Manning, M., McKinney, S.T., Murray, M.P., Perkins, D.L., Reinhart, D.P., Ryan, C., Schoettle, A.W., Smith, C.M. 2012. A range-wide restoration strategy for whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis). General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-279. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Pp. 108.

Cripps, CL and Eddington, LE. 2011. What do we know about fungi in Yellowstone National Park? Yellowstone Science 20(1): 8-16.

Cripps, C.L. and R. Antibus. 2011. Native Ectomycorrhizal fungi of limber and whitebark pine: necessary for sustainability? Pgs. 37-44. In: Keane, R. et al., editors, The future of high-elevation five-needle white pines in Western North America: Proceedings of the High Five Symposium, 28-30 June 2010, Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-63, Fort Collins, CO; USDA FS, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Cripps, C.L. and Eva Grimme. 2011. Inoculation and successful colonization of whitebark pine seedlings with native ectomycorrhizal fungi under greenhouse conditions. Pp. 312-322. In: Keane, R. et al., editors, The future of high-elevation five-needle white pines in Western North America: Proceedings of the High Five Symposium, 28-30 June 2010, Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-63, Fort Collins, CO; USDA FS, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Trusty, P. and C.L. Cripps. 2011. Influence of fire on mycorrhizal colonization of planted and natural whitebark pine seedlings: ecology and management implications. Pp. 198-202. In: Keane, R. et al., editors, The future of high-elevation five-needle white pines in Western North America: Proceedings of the High Five Symposium, 28-30 June 2010, Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-63, Fort Collins, CO; USDA FS, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Cripps, C.L. 2011. What do we know about Fungi in Yellowstone National Park? Technical Report to Yellowstone National Park. Vol. 1: 1-22, Vol. 2 1-57 pp, plus database and CD.

Cripps, C.L. and J. Ammirati (Editors). 2010. Eighth International Symposium on Arctic-Alpine Mycology (ISAM 8). North American Fungi 5(5): 1-220.

Cripps, C.L. and J. Ammirati. 2010. Eighth International Symposium on Arctic-Alpine Mycology (ISAM 8) Introduction.North American Fungi 5(5): 1-8.

Cripps, C.L. and E. Horak. 2010. Amanita in the Rocky Mountain alpine zone, USA. North American Fungi 5(4): 9-21.

Cripps, C.L., Larrson, E. and E. Horak. 2010. Subgenus Mallocybe (Inocybe) in the Rocky Mountain alpine zone. North American Fungi 5(5): 97-126.

Cripps, C.L. 2010. Orson K. Miller, Jr. 1930-2006. Mycologia 102(5): 1216-1220.

Cripps, C.L. 2009. Inoculation of whitebark pine seedlings with native mycorrhizal fungi: preliminary screening results. Proceedings of the 2008 International Western Forestry Disease Conference. Missoula, MT October 2008.

Cripps, CL. 2009. Snowbank Fungi revisited. Fungi 2: 47-53.

Cripps, CL and E Horak 2008. Checklist and Ecology of the Agaricales, Russulales and Boletales in the alpine zone of the Rocky Mountains (Colorado, Montana, Wyoming) at 3000-4000 m a.s.l. Sommerfeltia 31: 101-121.

Mohatt, KR, Cripps, CL, and M Lavin. 2008. Ectomycorrhizal fungi of whitebark pine (a tree in peril) revealed by sporocarps and molecular analysis of mycorrhizae from treeline forests in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Botany 86: 14-25.

Cripps, CL, Smith, C, Carolin, T and J Lapp. 2008. Ectomycorrhizal fungi with whitebark pine. Nutcracker Notes 14: 12-14.

Cripps, C. L. 2007. Snowbank fungi of Western North America: cold but not frozen. Botanical Electronic News (BEN) ISSN 1188-603X, No. 377.

Cripps, CL and E Horak 2006. Arrhenia auriscalpium in arctic-alpine habitats: world distribution, ecology, new reports from the southern Rocky Mountains, USA. [Arctic and Alpine Mycology VI, eds D. Boertmann & H. Knudsen] Meddelelser om Grøenland Bioscience 56: 17-24.

Cripps, CL 2006. Orson K Miller, Jr.: Mycologist, Researcher, Teacher and Mentor. Botanical Electronic News, No. 364 July 19 (2006).

Cripps, CL 2006. Western Mycology loses a leader and a friend: In Memoriam Orson K Miller, Jr (1930-2006). Pacific Northwest Fungi 1(10): 1-6.

Osmundson, TW, Cripps, CL, Mueller, GM 2005. Morphological and molecular systematics of Rocky Mountain alpine Laccaria. Mycologia 97: 949-972.

Cripps, CL and K Mohatt 2005. Preliminary results on the Ectomycorrhizal Fungi of Whitebark Pine Forests. Nutcracker Notes 7: 9-11.

C.L. Cripps L.E. Eddington 2005. Distribution of Mycorrhizal Types among Alpine vascular plant families on the Beartooth Plateau, Rocky Mountains, USA, in reference to Large-scale patterns in Artic-alpine habitats. Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research 37:177-188.

Cripps, CL 2004. Ectomycorrhizal fungi above and below ground in a small, isolated aspen stand: A simple system reveals fungal fruiting strategies and an edge effect. Pp. 249-265. In: Cripps, CL (editor), Fungi in Forest Ecosystems: systematics, Diversity, and Ecology. New York Botanical Garden Press, NY. Pp. 1-363.

Cripps, CL 2004. Orson K. Miller, Jr.: Mycologist, researcher, teacher, and mentor. Pp. 1-20. In: Cripps, CL (editor), Fungi in Forest Ecosystems: systematics, Diversity, and Ecology. New York Botanical Garden Press, NY. Pp. 1-363.

Cripps, CL and H Miller 2004. Bibliography of Orson K. Miller, Jr. Pp. 25-29. In: Cripps, CL (editor), Fungi in Forest Ecosystems: systematics, Diversity, and Ecology. New York Botanical Garden Press, NY. Pp. 1-363.

Cripps, C. L. (editor) 2004. Fungi in Forest Ecosystems: Systematics, Diversity, and Ecology. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 89:1-363. NYBG Press.

Cripps, CL 2003. Native mycorrhizal fungi with aspen on smelter-impacted sites in the Northern Rocky Mountains: occurrence and potential use in reclamation. National Billings Reclamation Publication, June 2003, Billings, MT. Published by Society of Mined Land Reclamation, Lexington, KY. Pgs. 193-208.

Cripps, C. L. 2002. Mycorrhiza. In: PNW Plant Disease Management Handbook, eds. J. Pscheidt and C. Ocamb, Extention Services of Oregon State University, Washington State University, and the University of Idaho. Pp. 21-23.

Cripps, C. L., 2001. Mycorrhizae of Aspen Forests: ecology and potential application. Sustaining Aspen in Western Landscapes: Proceedings of the Symposium on Western Aspen Forests, Grand Junction, CO, June 2000. pp. 285-298.

Cripps, C. L., 2000. Basidiocarp (pp. 109-111), Basidiomycete (pp.111-115), Basidiospores (115-117), Basidium (118-120), Ectotrophic Mycorrhiza (pp. 392-394), Endotrophic Mycorrhiza (pp. 405-407), Hartig Net (pp. 523-524), Hymenium (pp. 552-554), Hymenomycete (554-555), Mushroom (pp. 655-657), Mycorrhiza (660-666), Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae (1074-1075). In: The Encyclopedia of Plant Pathology, John Wiley and Sons, Inc, N.Y.

Cripps, C. L., and A. Caesar, 1998. A conidia-forming basidiomycete in the Pterulaceae. Mycotaxon 69:153-158.

Cripps, C. L., 1997. The genus Inocybe in Montana aspen stands. Mycologia 89(4): 670-688.

Cripps, C.L.,1997. Inocybe lacera (Fr.:Fr.) Kumm.& Populus tremuoides M. Descr. Ectomyc. 2: 19-24.

Cripps, C.L.,1997. Tricholoma scalpturatum (Fr.) Quel&P. tremuloides. Descr. Ectomyc. 2: 73-78.

Cripps, C. L., 1996. Ectomycorrhizal communities with aspen on smelter-impacted sites: how ecosystems recover from airborne pollution. Symposium Chair. First International Conference on Mycorrhizae, Aug. 4-9, Univ. of Calif., Berkeley.

Cripps, C.,1995. Mycorrhizal fungi in quaking aspen stands of Montana and Idaho. McIlvainea 12:26-33.

Cripps, C., and Miller, O.K., Jr., 1995. Ectomycorrhizae formed in vitro by quaking aspen: including Inocybe lacera and Amanita pantherina. Mycorrhiza 5:357-370.

Cripps, C. L., and Miller, O.K., Jr., 1994. A new Cortinarius from a mature aspen stand. Mycotaxon, Vol 50:315-321.

Cripps, C. L., and Miller, O.K., Jr, 1993. Ectomycorrhizal fungi associated with aspen on three sites in the north-central Rocky Mountains. Canadian Journal of Botany, 71: 1414-1420.

Graduate Students and Lab Researchers

Graduate Students and Lab Researchers

Dr. Todd Osmundson, M.Sc. 2004. Morphological and molecular systematics of Rocky Mountains alpine Laccaria. Ph.D. Columbia University. Currently Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.

Christopher Mahony. M.Sc. 2005. Effects of native ectomycorrhizal fungi on aspen seedlings in greenhouse studies: inoculation methods, fertilizer regimes, and plant uptake of selected elements in smelter-impacted soils.  Soil Conservation, Bureau of Land Management, Montana.

Kate Mohatt. M.Sc. 2006. Ectomycorrhizal fungi of whitebark pine in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  Prince William Sound Zone Ecologist, USFS Glacier Ranger District, Girdwood, Alaska. Coordinator for Girdwood Mushroom Fungus Fair.

Paul E Trusty. M.Sc. 2009. Impact of severe fire on the ectomycorrhizal fungi of whitebark pine seedlings. NSF GK-12 Fellowship.

Erin Lonergan. M.Sc. 2012. Restoration of whitebark pine seedlings inoculated with native ectomycorrhizal fungi. Currently Assistant Botanist, USDA Forest Service, northern California

Edward Barge. M.Sc. 2015. Morphological and molecular systematics of Lactarius in the Rocky Mountain alpine zone.

Dr. Joo-Young Cha (Post Doc) from Hokkaido University, Japan. Snowbank Fungi.

Dr. Eva Grimme (Post Doc) from Montana State University. Inoculation of whitebark pine seedlings. Currently at the Plant Diagnostic Lab, MSU, Bozeman, MT.

Dr. Bob Antibus (Sabbatical) from Bluffton University, Ohio. Physiology of the native ectomycorrhizal fungi from whitebark pine limber pine forests in Montana.