Oct 13 2022
Laura Guzmán-Dávalos’ explorations into the world of fungi are vast and far-reaching, from publishing over 120 peer-reviewed papers, describing numerous fungi and lichen species across various genera, and collecting and identifying fungi in her home country of Mexico and many additional countries. Guzmán-Dávalos’ scholarship also sheds light on the phylogenetic origins of the genus Psilocybe, the fungal genus most commonly containing the psychedelic compound psilocybin.
Guzmán-Dávalos’ first experiences in field work were as a child, collecting mushrooms outdoors with her father. To her, it was exciting to see her father passionate about fungi. Mushrooms seemed to be everywhere they went—from collecting in the field to discovering them on a day-trip picnic. Her father, Gastón Guzmán, classified over half of all the psilocybin-containing mushrooms that we know today. Gastón Guzmán was additionally “a leading authority on the divinatory and medicinal uses of sacred mushrooms by the indigenous peoples of Mexico” (Viebrock 2022). He laid fundamental groundwork for classifying these organisms, and Laura G. Dávalos opened up a new world of understanding of the Psilocybe genus through her research utilizing molecular/DNA sequencing analysis.
Guzmán-Dávalos admits some teenage rebellion initially informed her straying away from mycology and her father’s area of study, but memories collecting mushrooms with her father brought excitement into her childhood, and eventually evolved into her mycological career of over forty years. Working on Psilocybe research with her father, Gastón Guzmán had his own moment of rebellious disagreement, insisting on traditional, morphological-based taxonomy when molecular data revealed otherwise about the Psilocybe tree. Guzmán-Dávalos finds humor in the experience: “It was difficult, but fun trying to convince my dad to believe in the phylogenetic results… but finally made it.” (Telluride Mushroom Festival 2016). Guzmán-Dávalos had shed light on the interrelationships within this genus to a new level.
Guzmán-Dávalos’ research has advanced understanding of the taxonomy of the revered and mysterious genus Psilocybe. Advocating for better understanding of this group of organisms, for Dávalos, extends beyond phylogeny to illuminating the societal significance of many psychedelic mushrooms. Guzmán-Dávalos acts as an advocate for the importance of understanding the medicinal benefits of psilocybin, and the importance of psychedelic mushrooms in culturally-significant practices among Indigenous populations in Mexico.
Cultivating public interest is another one of Dávalos’ many mycological contributions. Dávalos has spoken on numerous podcasts about her work, psilocybin, and the current rise of popular interest in mushrooms. Dávalos has spoken twice as a keynote speaker at the popular Telluride Mushroom Festival, this past year highlighting topics including the simultaneous medicinal properties and illegality of psilocybin in her talk “Psilocybe: Medicinal but Illegal”, in addition to presenting on the phylogeny of Mexican Psilocybe species. Currently acting as the head of the Mycology Lab at University of Guadalajara, Dávalos directs undergraduate, masters, and PhD studies, opening the door for the next generation of mycologists.