Fungi play critical roles in the functioning of healthy ecosystems, driving nutrient cycling, providing food for a variety of wildlife, maintaining the health of plants and sequestering carbon into soils. However fungi are one of the least studied groups of organisms in Australia.
The total estimated number of fungi occurring in Australia is at around 250,000 species with only about 5% described so far. Fungi are often not considered in fauna and flora surveys, and mycology as a degree has not been provided in Australian universities since the 70s. Yet fungi are primary indicators of ecosystem health and offer tremendous solutions to pollution clean-up, ecological restoration, food security and climate change.
The Mycology Research Project aims to train citizen scientists to study, research and contribute data on the taxonomy and ecosystem function of Queensland fungi; to raise awareness about the benefits of mycology (the studying of fungi); and make this science easily accessible to the Queensland community.
Join The Mycology Research Project
The project will take place at Woodfordia starting in October 2019. Join this project if you are interested in the study of fungi, own land you would like to regenerate, are a part of a land-care community group, are a farmer who wants to improve the farm, or are interests in land regeneration.
Learn a variety of field and laboratory techniques from expert mycologists to harness and understand the power of fungi through:
- data collection and recording
- experimental applications of beneficial fungi in the field and nurseries
- product development
Woodfordia Inc. has a strong focus on community education and engagement in citizen science and will collaborate with the Queensland Mycological Society (QMS), Soil C Quest and the Australasian Mycological Society to achieve project outcomes.
This Citizen Science project will result in the following outcomes:
- A unique opportunity to study mycology, and to help develop training tools and educational programs in applied mycology.
- Deepening our understanding of the role of beneficial fungi in ecosystems, land restoration, agriculture and native revegetation.
- Potential of isolation and identification of new species of fungi.
- Isolation and application of native species of fungi in land restoration, plant health and carbon sequestration.
The following modules and methods are designed to create complete citizen mycology manuals and teaching tools. All activities will occur at the Woodfordia site and other approved selected fungi collection sites. Citizen scientists can engage all or some of the following activities:
Gathering and recording data and collection of different types of fungi from decomposing wood and plant/crop roots through:
- botanical photography of the specimens
- collection of samples for examination
- recording of collection details
- preparation of samples for submission, into the QLD Herbarium (curation of fungi)
Identification of fungi via:
- morphological features of fruiting bodies
- use of taxonomic keys
- spore printing
- spore examination through microscopy
Mycological laboratory techniques modules
1. Laboratory safety and general laboratory techniques:
- safety and personal protection equipment: understanding and mitigating risks
- sterile laboratory techniques: using laminar flow cabinets and sterilising of benches and equipment
- safe chemical usage: understanding safety labels, and wearing protective gear
- media preparation methods: understanding measurements and using measuring tools, media sterilisation using pressure cookers/autoclaves
- planning and construction of affordable DIY laboratory
2. Fungal study techniques:
- microscope techniques: understanding and interpreting size, morphology and biological components of samples
- isolation of fungi from decaying wood and plants: sterilisation of wood and root samples, examination for presence of fungi through stereomicroscopy
- variety of culturing techniques: liquid media, solid media
- inoculation of sterilised substrates and plants with fungal isolates
3. Experimental methodologies:
- hypothesis testing
- experimental design
- data gathering, recording and presentation methods
- data assessment and statistical analysis of results
4. Inoculated growth trials and documentation in:
- microcosms, Petri dishes and terrariums
- nursery pots
- controlled field studies at Woodfordia and on selected volunteer farms
Detailed expected project outcomes:
- Increased awareness of importance of citizen science in mycological studies in Queensland.
- Creation of easily accessible communication and data sharing platforms for citizen science projects.
- Growing citizen scientist community through collaboration with scientists in working together towards scientific discoveries
- Engagement of mycologists and microbiologists with citizen scientists through training activities in gathering data using scientific methods.
- Understanding and application of scientific methodologies, techniques and equipment used in the study of fungi by participating citizen scientists.
- Thorough understanding of the vital role of decomposer and plant symbiotic fungi in land restoration, plant health, cropping systems and in revegetation efforts.
- Course development and recording as a template of methodologies in citizen mycology for the purpose of further education and training.
- Expertise imparted to participating citizen scientists on how to develop their own DIY mycology laboratories to isolate and apply beneficial fungi to enhance ecosystem vitality.
- Potential discovery of new species of fungi, one of the most understudied and unknown kingdoms in Australia.
- Contribution to scientific discovery through isolation of applicable native species of plant beneficial fungi to improved propagation of nursery plants, and in land restoration efforts through enhanced plant growth and health in a changing climate.
- Contribution to combating climate change through isolation of melanised endophytic fungi, which are known to sequester significant amounts of atmospheric carbon into soils.
- Widespread reach of the project outcomes through documentary style footage covering each element of the project and combining all elements into a documentary feature made by Jolt Science (https://www.joltscience.com).