#525: Giuliana Furci on the Wonders of Mycology, Wisdom from Jane Goodall, Favorite Books, and the World’s Largest Fungarium | The Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • “Let things rot. It’s not about rock n’ roll anymore, it’s about rot and mold.” Giuliana Furci
    • If we don’t let things rot, life cycles can not flow appropriately
    • Decomposition is just as beautiful as life
  • Mycology – Scientific study of fungi
  • The Earth can not function without fungi
    • Plants can not live out of water without fungi in their roots as plants can not synthesize the nutrients of the soil on their own
    • Herbivores can’t breakdown plants without the fungi in their gut
  • Fungi is a closer ancestor to animals than plants
    • Penicillin is a natural antibiotic created by fungi to defend itself from bacteria. A similar human application indicates information about connected ancestry.
  • Mycelium metaphorically represents a tree while mushrooms represent a single apple, mycelium is a network of fungal threads that can include thousands of mushrooms – the largest is 900 acres!
  • Ecosystemic approach – Government policy implemented with the scientific understanding and recognition that ecosystems are connected and have complex relationships, bound together by mycelium networks and fungi
    • Recognizing fungi’s impact on the health of our worldly ecosystem is vital to sustaining our environment and must be represented and understood in law
      • “Language creates reality”Giuliana Furci
  • Following a strict discovery process when studying mushrooms is important for accuracy and habitat sustainability

Intro

Giuliana Furci’s Background

  • Mother was a political prisoner of the Chilean dictatorship, incarcerated and tortured. She escaped and met Giuliana’s Father in Italy, they then moved to London to study for her Master’s Degree in Geography and Economics – with a focus on decentralization
    • Chile was under military dictatorship from 1973–1990, and she was prosecuted for simply thinking differently
    • Italy, Sweden, and other countries were open to receiving Chilean refuges
    • “I am a product of exile”Giuliana Furci
  • Giuliana Furci was born and raised in the UK and first visited Chile when she was 15 and studied Aquaculture there
    • She was often criticized for her mother retreating from the country and returning. Shockingly, many Chilean citizens liked the dictator even after the end of the reign.
    • Giuliana decided she didn’t like people much, and so committed her life to nature
  • Story: Volunteers were needed to look for fox poop in the forest for habitat research – she was the only one that volunteered
    • “I love scat and poop!” – Giuliana Furci
    • She discovered a mushroom on this research trip and realized there were no books on Chilean fungi
    • This experience sparked her transition from aquaculture to Mycology
  • Discovered two species of fungi:
    • Amanita galactica – black cap with white scales, related to the iconic mushroom Amanita muscaria
      • The black and white represent the blackness of the galaxy and the whiteness of the stars
      • Old species existing on Gondwana before the continents drifted apart
    • Cortinarius chlorosplendidus – green mushroom never seen in Chile before her discovery
      • She found it when she was taking a pee break on a hike!

Mycology Facts

  • Why are mushrooms and fungi so understudied?
    • Fungi have been inappropriately associated with Paganism
    • Often thought of as less than plants – they are sometimes wet, smelly, ugly
  • Mycology – Scientific study of fungi
    • There was an absence of mycology opportunities in Chile, and she wanted to create research opportunity for generations to come
    • Plants can not live out of water without fungi in their roots, as plants can not synthesize the nutrients of the soil on their own
    • Herbivores can’t breakdown plants without the fungi in their gut
    • Energy must be transformed, nothing regenerates without degeneration
    • We can not live without fungi
  • Fungi is a closer ancestor to animals than plants
    • Penicillin is produced by Penicillium fungi to protect themselves from bacteria
    • The similar antibiotic response surfaces our similarity as animals to fungi
    • Future research in the biomedical overlap between fungi and animals will be crucial for advancement in healthcare and treatment options
  • Taxonomy 101: We name species in a binomial system, two names (Genus species)
    • Kingdom – phylum – class – order – family – genus – species
  • Mate – Caffeinated drink where Yerba mate leaves are dried and chopped or ground to make the coarse powdery preparation which is then soaked in hot water and drank through a straining straw
    • Tim’s favorite stimulant – not only has caffeine but also Theobromine and Theophylline
    • Ritual around sharing and kinship when drinking Mate
  • Kew Gardens – Royal botanical garden in London
    • Houses the world’s largest Fungarium – a collection of dried fungi
    • The largest collection of holotypes – the actual dried mushroom from which a species is discovered and described

Mycelium and Government Policy

  • Mycelium metaphorically represents a tree while mushrooms represent a single apple, mycelium is a network of fungal threads that can include thousands of mushrooms
    • Humongous Fungus – largest living organism on earth in Oregon, one genetic biomass that spreads across 900 acres
    • Ecosystemic approach – Government policy implemented with the scientific understanding and recognition that ecosystems are connected and have complex relationships, bound together by mycelium networks and fungi
      • Took 2 years of deliberation with Congress in Chile to recognize fungi in law
      • Giuliana wants global political acceptance of this
      • “Language creates reality”Giuliana Furci

Discovery Process

  • Spend time on the ground with mushrooms – see, smell, observe surroundings without touching at first
  • Clear area around the mushroom
  • Proceed to touch, notice any reactions – many can change color and texture upon contact
  • Dig out the entire specimen of fungi, don’t leave any in the ground
  • Inspect details and changing details since extraction
  • Dry the fungi so DNA isn’t degraded (nobody has invented an efficient field dehydrator that doesn’t require electricity, putting them in your sleeping bag or using silica gel can also dry the fungi in the field).
  • Extract DNA for sequencing and reference database

Telluride Mushroom Festival

  • Telluride Mushroom Festival – Safe space to express fungal love and admiration
    • The first place where psychedelics were scientifically discussed and celebrated in the US
    • Safely discuss topics not currently published
    • Founded by famous fungi advocates: Gary Lincoff, Andrew Weil, Paul Stamets, Emanuel Salzman
    • Giuliana Furci is speaking this year on the global fungi policy framework

Jane Goodall

  • “Giuliana, you are with fungi where I once was with chimps, don’t stop!” – Jane Goodall
    • Jane Goodall, primatologist and anthropologist, was a voice for the voiceless when it came to chimps
      • Believed Giuliana would be the voice for fungi
    • They mutually empowered each others determination for discovery
    • Jane’s presence is motherly, leaves herself out of the picture for the sake of pure dedication to her research

Other Sources of Inspiration

The Triumph of the Fungi by Nicholas P. Money

Tim Ferriss Show : , , , ,
Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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