Mycoremediation via proliferation of native terrestrial fungi

Nashua, New Hampshire
EcologyEarth Science
DOI: 10.18258/23909
$1,450
Raised of $1,450 Goal
100%
Funded on 4/15/22
Successfully Funded
  • $1,450
    pledged
  • 100%
    funded
  • Funded
    on 4/15/22

About This Project

Mycoremediation is a method of bioremediation, in which fungi are introduced into an environment, in order to accelerate decomposition and improve the bioavailability of nutrients. Typically, species are selected based on targeted contaminants. A new approach to mycoremediation instead utilizes fungi that are already indigenous to the soil being remediated. This experiment seeks to prove / disprove whether the proliferation of native fungi can improve the fertility of soil.

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What is the context of this research?

Poor waste management protocols & exploitation of natural resources have subjected environments to devastating biodiversity-loss. Traditional bioremediation efforts are often impractical, ineffective, and very expensive. Fortunately, a recently-discovered method of mycoremediation may be a revolutionary approach to bioremediation. Traditionally, researchers introduce foreign fungi known to release enzymes that decompose the targeted contaminants. While likely effective, this approach potentiates the risk of introducing invasive species. However, the alternative approach to mycoremediation instead utilizes fungi that are indigenous to the soil. Therefore, minimizing potential consequences by simply proliferating native species.

What is the significance of this project?

Traditional bioremediation efforts seek to decontaminate soils via chemical saturation, incineration, or bacterial inoculation. These approaches are expensive, environmentally destructive, and/or ineffective. Instead, bioremediation should be conducted via proliferation of Earth's natural decontaminators / re-fertilizers — fungi. Indeed, recent studies affirm that saprophytic ascomycetes and basidiomycetes play an essential role in the decontamination and refertilization of soils. Fungal saprophytes break-down pollutants & improve nutrient availability by externally releasing digestive enzymes that decompose complex matter into simpler molecular structures. The proliferation of this natural process can restore polluted & nutrient-deprived soils.

What are the goals of the project?

The overall goal of this project is to determine if the proliferation of indigenous terrestrial fungi can decontaminate & improve the nutrient-composition of infertile soil. This research question can be answered through a simple procedure. First, initial samples are taken from an infertile plot of soil for heavy metals / nutrient composition testing. Then, indigenous fungi are isolated from the soil, and cultured over multiple months. The indigenous fungi are then reintroduced back into the soil in bulk amounts. Finally, after a few months of growth, the soil is resampled. The initial and final soil samples are compared, and conclusions are drawn from the data. The researcher hypothesizes that heavy metals will decrease in concentration and nutrient concentration will increase.

Budget

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I will be using Cornell University Nutrient Analysis Laboratory to conduct soil fertility & heavy metals testing of my samples. Cornell's "Soil Fertility Test Package" costs $25 per cup of sample. Ten samples will be taken prior to remediation; and ten samples will be taken post-remediation. Therefore, soil fertility testing will cost a total of $500. Cornell's "Heavy Metals and Trace Elements Screening" costs $30 per cup of sample. Ten samples will be taken prior to remediation; and ten samples will be taken post-remediation. Therefore, heavy metals testing will cost a total of $600. See here for Cornell's soil testing options.

Additional costs include laboratory materials for isolating / growing fungi. Such as 25 polypropylene bags ($25); 200lbs Master's Mix ($200- https://www.amazon.com/Mushroo...); and a pressure cooker to pasteurize substrates ($125- https://www.amazon.com/gp/prod...). And, I already have all the Petri dishes / agar supplies.

Endorsed by

Michael Spooner is an excellent person to conduct this study. In addition to his formal education in Environmental Sciences, he is a self-taught mycologist, spending much of his free time studying, hiking, and learning. This is necessary field work to build on lab work that is showing potential for utilizing native fungi, which can be easily grown in abundance, to help remediate contaminated soil.

Flag iconProject Timeline

March-October. Begin funding for experiment upon approval of submission. Take the initial soil samples in March or early April 2022 (once the ground has thawed). Then, the indigenous soil fungi are grown in the lab for approximately 2 months. The final fungal products (colonized bulk substrates) are introduced to soil plot during mid-summer. The soil is re-sampled in September or October, and data is compiled into tables & graphs. If successful, experiment will be submitted for peer-review.

Mar 01, 2022

Acquire funding

Mar 01, 2022

Project Launched

Apr 01, 2022

Take initial samples

Jul 01, 2022

Fully colonize bulk substrates with native soil fungi

Oct 01, 2022

Re-sample soil

Meet the Team

Michael Spooner
Michael Spooner
B.S. Environmental Science

Affiliates

Southern New Hampshire University
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Michael Spooner

I’ve been passionate about the environment since a very young age. I eventually developed an ecological interest for fungi during my freshman year of undergrad. I quickly realized that mycology is one of the most understudied branches of science. I found this to be quite strange after discovering that fungi are absolutely essential to all living organisms. In order to focus on my mycological studies, I decided to finish school from home, and graduated from Southern New Hampshire University online. Today, I work as a horticulturist and mushroom farmer. I’m hoping to take my mycological pursuits to the next level with my experiments.

Additional Information

Mycoremediation could change the way our world assesses agricultural restoration; hazardous waste cleanup; forestry management; and many other environmental remediation efforts. The only reason we haven’t implemented this natural fungal technology is due to lack of funding for research efforts. The most renowned mycologists in the world agree that mycological research is extremely under-appreciated in the field of science. Therefore, I would love to take this opportunity to make scientific progress in the field of mycology.

Below is an example video of me making new fungal cultures in my homemade lab. It's simply a desk inside a plastic greenhouse, with a homemade laminar flow box. In my past experiments, I seem to have approximately 97-99% success rate in these conditions. This is where I'll be creating fungal cultures from the soil samples.



Project Backers

  • 15Backers
  • 100%Funded
  • $1,450Total Donations
  • $96.67Average Donation
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