Friday, August 22, 2008

MycoTour and Reinoculation

Striking the correct balance between keeping this blog up-to-date and posting information that is interesting to even the most avid mycoremediation devotee has been challenging. Although a lot of my time was recently spent preparing for and recovering from our 11-day MycoTour of Ecuador. From the previous entry one might infer that it was a complete disaster. However, I want to say that while Bill’s death was hard on everyone, we had an unforgettable time together and learned a lot. The MycoTour brought together mushroom aficionados from mycological societies from as far south as San Diego to as far North as Vancouver BC. The West Coast fungivore community was well represented.

With our fantastic group we visited our field sites and heard about the current developments in the Texaco-Chevron litigation from Frente de Denfesa de la Amazonas lawyer Pablo Fajardo. While at the Frente offices, we had the opportunity to view the short documentary entitled Contamination and Testimonies of the Affected which you can view on Frente’s website. Later in the tour we had the opportunity to apply the collective knowledge of the assembled mycophiles to aid an ongoing biological inventory at the research refuge BioMindo in Mindo, Ecuador. AMP volunteer Danny Newman has posted a collection of the his excellent photos of the scores of mushrooms we encountered on our forays and at our field sites here.

All this activity might cause one to wonder what has been happening with the research. Backing up a bit, just before the MycoTour Ricardo and I went out to Lago Agrio to add mycelium to our boxes and pits. Some of our treatments had fresh mycelium replacing old, dying mycelium and some of our treatments had the old mixed with the new. As it turns out, we got overconfident with our excellent growth and did not anticipate that the turning would risk contamination. So our pits have been infested with an opportunistic black mold. This isn’t disasterous, but it is an opportunity to learn about the best way to maintain the strongest mycelium possible.

We decided to reinoculate with fresh mycelium to continue our culture, since all fungi lives only so long on a given substrate. If reinoculation is not a smart option, then playing with our initial inoculation and it's proportion to the contaminated soil is a good option. Our use of sawdust means that our mycelium has a shorter, but more vigorous life than if it were growing on say, cut logs and branches. The reason for the shorter life-cycle on sawdust has to do with the greater surface area offered by sawdust. The more surface area, the greater the biological availability of nutrients and, in our case, the quicker the remediation.

The current set of experiments has had a greater focus on qualitative assessment, punctuated by modest chemical analysis to compare with our observations. Our reasoning for this had a lot to do with budgetary concerns, since chemical analysis is an expensive process and often not necessary to establish that a fungal culture is healthy. Basically, with the information we have gleaned in the last six months of experimentation, I feel confident that we can design other, smaller and shorter experiments that will help us fine tune our method.

In other news, in less than a month Jess and I will be visiting the United States along the West Coast and the Chicago area. Watch this space for speaking dates and feel free to email me if you would like to host us at your local mycological society, classroom or community center.

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