Tomorrow we fly to Lago Agrio, the epicenter of one of the worst ecological disasters on the planet, the result of a horrendous amount of oil contamination. Between 1964 and 1992, Texaco (now Chevron, in case you weren’t paying attention) spilled enough oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon that everyone likes to argue over exactly how many millions of gallons it was. Rest assured it was more than the Exxon Valdez belched into the
The mushrooms we see are the products of a complex, spider web-like network of cells called mycelium that interlink throughout every cubic inch of the soil environment. Anywhere there is soil, it is being held together by these fungal structures, where they play an integral role in the health every terrestrial ecosystem. Oyster mushrooms produce enzymes that sweat outside of their cells that normally are used to digest a component of wood called lignin. These extracellular lignin-peroxidases also posses the capacity to break the long chains of carbon that compose petroleum into smaller carbon compounds that the oysters are able to metabolize. That is, eat.
Great, so we’ll just come on in and get them ‘shrooms a-growin’ and be done with it, right? Well…sort of. Ours is a project where a lot of real people in the real world are involved. First of all, our science has to be unimpeachable. We have to know how much and how best to apply mycoremediation techniques in one of the most biodiverse environments on the planet. We have to educate ourselves by visiting the contaminated sites and cooperating with the people living there. As we do this, I’ll be updating this blog as much as possible with pictures and first-hand accounts of our progress. For those thirsting for more details about our project than are to be found here, please visit our (somewhat interim) project page here:
As soon as this summer, we will be hosting university students interested in studying abroad and service learning. They will gain a unique opportunity to learn about Latin American political ecology and get hands-on experience applying mycoremediation techniques in a field and laboratory setting. For those interested in this exciting educational adventure, please email: Alida@cloudforest.org