Fungi Foundation: 10 cycles around the sun!

This month we get to celebrate our 10th anniversary! We’ve come a long way and the road has been joyous, challenging, and fulfilling. We want to take a trip through time to remember what 10 years of working for the fungi have been like.

September 20, 2022

FFungi Staff

FFungi Volunteer

Alejandra Olguín

2012 was the year fungi were recognized by Chilean law!

After several years of studying, working and going on expeditions, Giuliana Furci founded the Fungi Foundation - the first NGO in the world dedicated exclusively to the fungi, their habitats and the people who depend on them. Since then, we’ve continuously put all our efforts into the conservation of fungi; education about their importance; recognition of their ancestral uses; and held expeditions to discover their diversity in many wild places of Planet Earth.

Upon founding FFungi, Giuliana transferred her previous mycological work to the organization, including the process of legal recognition of fungi in Chile. Yes, that’s right! Chile is the only country that includes fungi at the highest legislative level, thanks to the work of FFungi and other environmental organizations. Today, every project that impacts land has to evaluate whether there is a negative effect on fungi.

2013 was the year we published our first field guide

In 2013 published our first field guide to Chilean fungi, providing detailed information on over 100 species present in Chilean ecosystems. That same year, after the legal recognition of fungi, a decree made it mandatory to include them in every land impact assessment. 

2014 was the year our FFCL Fungarium was created

The FFCL Fungarium houses close to 2,000 specimens from Chile and other parts of the world. It allows us to have an organized collection, making it possible for scientists and scholars to access samples and complex information when they are studying or researching fungi. We are very proud of this unique treasure, which in 2014 was accepted in the Index Herbariorum, a guide to the Earth’s plant and fungal diversity collections, coordinated by the New York Botanical Garden. 

That same year 22 species of fungi were included for the first time in a conservation category in Chile. Today 128 species of fungi and lichens are listed in the latest Species Assessment Process of the country (2019), and many have entered the Global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (a critical indicator of the health of the world's biodiversity).

2015 was the year we started a traveling exhibition with the Chilean Natural History Museum

This was a first for fungi in Chile! “A Kingdom to Discover,” was the name of the exhibition held by the Chilean Natural History Museum in Santiago. Through impressive professional  pictures, videos and large size replicas, it attracted children and adults into the wonders of fungi. It even went on a road trip! The traveling exhibition reached numerous cities south of Chile. 

That same year we worked with local foragers from Llanada Grande in Chile to support the sustainable harvesting of wild mushrooms. There is a variety of edible mushrooms in the area, such as morels, changles y digüeñes. The income of many families rely on collecting and selling these mushrooms. The Fungi Foundation held a workshop on sustainable harvesting techniques, along with handing out brochures and baskets. 

2016 was the “No forest no morels” year

Without forests there are no morels! During 2016 we worked together with Patagonia to bring down the myth that says after a fire, there’s more chances to find the gourmet delicacy. The myth has led to intentional burning in Chile. But in fact, the fire sweeps away the entire forest, reducing the organic matter available in the soil, which is essential for the long-term development of microorganisms and fungi. Through an audiovisual campaign and local radio apparitions, we tried to dismantle this belief that destroys our forests.

That same year we…

  • Organized the first Latinamerican Mycology Course in Chile. The event brought together mycologists and professors from Brazil, Argentina, USA and Chile to learn about fungal biology, field identification, fungal conservation and wood decay biotechnology. Many of the attendees continued their studies with a career in mycology.
  • Founded with Mutantes Producciones the 1° version of Fungifest in Valdivia, Chile.

  • Participated in the 32nd Bienal of São Paulo, with the Finnish artist Pia Lindman.
  • While doing his internship in FFungi, Juan Ferrer created Museo del Hongo (Fungi Museum), a pop up museum that combines art and science to promote fungi and sensitize people with their natural surroundings. We continue collaborating and curating some of their national and international exhibitions. 

2017 was the year we teamed up with Chilean mushroom foragers after massive wildfires

During 2017, wildfires in Chile swept away Empedrado’s main source of work: mushroom foraging. Over the next two years, the Fungi Foundation joined forces with the people of Empedrado to teach them about sustainable foraging to help revalue their traditional job.

  • That same year we worked with Catherine Marciniak and Stephen Axford, both renowned cinematographers. Axford is the mastermind behind Fantastic Fungi’s documentary time-lapses, but long before that he came to Chile to present about fungi photography in a talk called “The Beauty and the Science”.
  • By the beginning of their school year, design, architecture and art students in Santiago (Chile) had the chance to attend a presentation with Phill Ross, co-founder of Mycoworks. He began cultivating mycelium as a material for art and design in the 1990s, being one of the firsts to work with biomaterials. Together with artist Sophia Wang, they created the first flexible mycelium materials designed to perform like leather, now patented as Reishi™ Fine Mycelium.

2018 was the year we published our second field guide on Chilean fungi

We have gathered information about the funga of Chile in not only one, but two books. Our field guides are now in the libraries of 811 public schools in Chile for kids to learn about the microscopic details of fungi and explore and recognize the species around them.

During the 11th International Mycology Reunion in Puerto Rico, together with The Fungal Red List we carried out a workshop called “Assessing the Global Conservation Status of Fungi”. We trained dozens of mycologists on how to assess the threat of extinction to fungal species. 

As part of the Fungi Foundation, Giuliana Furci co-authored the 1st State of the World’s Fungi, published by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. During the launch of the report she also presented: “Public Policies for the Conservation of Fungi: How?”

Together with Universidad Mayor (Chile), we organized a course to teach about the process of fungal DNA barcoding and sequencing in order to compare with online databases. Taught by Dr. Francisco Kuhar, Dr. Hugo Madrid and Giuliana Furci. 

2019 was the year of collaboration

Just like certain fungi, we thrive on collaboration. During 2019, we explored the fungal diversity of Tierra del Fuego (Chile) with researchers from Harvard University. Together with Oceana, we held an expedition to look for mushrooms, lichens and mosses in Katalalixar National Reserve. Also, some of our team members participated in symposiums and workshops in Argentina, Panama, Australia and the US, in order to collaborate in fungal conservation and the study of fungal ecology. We also cooperated with Museo del Hongo in the INFINITA exhibition. As if all that wasn’t enough, along with the Corporación Chilena de Videos y Artes y el Centro Cultural La Moneda, we brought Paul Stamets to Chile to talk about bees and fungi.  

2020 was the year the Fungi Foundation went global

Two years ago, we became an international organization by opening a US chapter. The goal? To take our commitment to the fungi, their habitats and the people who depend on them to other parts of the world. Our board, advisors and team are a diverse group of people spanning the globe, all connected by a passion for fungi.

That same year: 

A global pandemic began and we entered into #MycelialMode. While in strict lockdowns, the Fungi Foundation team worked on a project to expand our vision and mission beyond Chile. After several months of planning, we opened offices in the US. 

Remember that time during 2020 where Instagram Lives gave us life? We were part of the movement with our “Mycovirals Nights”, where Giuliana Furci talked, laughed and interviewed some amazing guests. Just to name a few: mycologists Paul Stamets, psychedelic researcher and medical doctor Pam Kryskow, associate professor of University of Utah, Brynd Dentinger, food and science writer Eugenia Bone, singer Ana Tijoux and Fantastic Fungi’s director Louie Schwartzberg. 

Amanita galactica, a mushroom first discovered by Giuliana Furci in 2014 was officially named and included in the index fungarium in 2020 thanks to the collaborative efforts to sequence its DNA with mycologist Bryn Dentinger. Giuliana discovered the species in the southern Andes in Chile, living at the base of Chilean Monkey Puzzle trees. The bright white spots on the black mushroom cap reminded her of a galaxy dotted with stars, that’s the reason behind the name. It’s an ancient species and its evolution can be traced back more than 180 million years! Before the continents that made up the landmass Gondwana drifted apart.

Amanita galactica, seen for the first and only time by Giuliana Furci in Araucanía, Chile.

2021 was the year of the #Funga 

Fungi are neither plants nor animals, they form their own kin-dom of life. Although life wouldn't exist as we know it without them, they’ve been unacknowledged. We want to change that (and we are!). The 3F Initiative (Fauna, Flora, Funga), created by FFungi, Merlin Sheldrake and NYU School of Law, has been supported by thousands, including Jane Goodall. IUCN and Re:Wild committed to using mycologically inclusive language to ensure that fungi are integrated into conservation strategies. Are you ready to start using the F word? 

“Re:wild is proud to embrace the ‘F’ word and support the 3F initiative. Fungi are truly our planet’s life force, the great connectors, decomposers, regenerators. By ensuring that all macroscopic life is a key consideration in our work, including fungi, we can effectively protect and restore entire ecosystems. Fungi are absolutely critical in our mission to protect and rewild the world.”

Barney Long, Re:wild’s senior director of conservation strategies.

  • The Fungi Foundation appeared in international newspapers, TV, radios and digital media. There were interviews, articles, news, podcasts and pretty much any format.

That same year the short documentary “Let Things Rot” was released, directed by Mateo Barrenengoa in collaboration with Giuliana Furci. It presents the wonderful fungi queendom through a poetic perspective that reflects on the importance of allowing for natural cycles of degeneration to unfold. A visual journey through images of Chile's southern forests, the short film touches on the beauty and importance of these ecosystems while delving into the significance of decomposition and what it means for the world.

2022 has been the year we started the Fungi Education program and published a free mycological curriculum

Do you remember learning about fungi in school as a child? If your answer is no, you are not alone. We believe that in public schooling worldwide, as much needs to be taught about fungi as is taught about plants and animals. Together with Fantastic Fungi and Reconsider, this year we are launching a global mycological school curriculum, free and accessible to all educators. Soon enough, teachers will have a solid and interactive curriculum to bring fungal education to children around the world. Can you imagine the impact this will have if it helps to inspire hundreds of mycologists over the next generations?

This year, after an entire decade, we have become a team of 10 people - a diverse group of individuals working remotely and spanning the entire globe.

This year we also collaborated with Dr. Toby Kiers to help lead SPUN’s first expedition! This marks the start of a massive sampling effort by the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks to create maps of global mycorrhizal fungal diversity. These open-source maps will help chart the properties of underground ecosystems, such as carbon sequestration hotspots, and document new fungal species able to withstand drought and high temperatures. Giuliana Furci is also part of the advisory board of SPUN, along with Jane Goodall and Michael Pollan. 

2022 has been a year of many recognitions. National Geographic, the McKenna Academy and the Mycological Society of America awarded Giuliana Furci’s work through the Fungi Foundation. That means it was recognised by the conservation, psychedelics and scientific community!

And the year isn’t even over!