“It’s really not about rock and roll anymore — it’s about rotten mold, and we have to let things rot.”
— Giuliana Furci
Giuliana Furci (@giulifungi) is foundress and executive director of the Fungi Foundation (est. 2012), the world’s first nonprofit dedicated solely to fungi. She is a Harvard University associate, Dame of the Order of the Star of Italy, co-chair of the IUCN Fungal Conservation Committee, mother, author of several titles—including a series of field guides to Chilean fungi—and contributor to numerous publications on the environment, such as the first State of the World’s Fungi report (Kew, 2018), Biodiversidad de Chile: Patrimonio y Desafíos (Ministry of the Environment, Chile, 2008) and the IBPA Award-winning book Fantastic Fungi.
Giuliana has worked for the fungi since 1999 and in the nonprofit sector for the last 17 years. She has held consulting positions in US philanthropic foundations as well as full-time positions in international marine conservation NGOs and Chilean environmental NGOs.
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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
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Want to hear an episode with the man Giuliana affectionately refers to as “Pablo?” Listen to my conversation with mycological mastermind Paul Stamets, in which we discuss fighting viruses with mycelium in a post-9/11 world, fending off carpenter ants with fungi, conquering a lifelong stutter with the assistance of Psilocybin cubensis, stacking microdoses of psilocybin with lion’s mane to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and much more.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Giuliana Furci:
- Connect with the Fungi Foundation:
- A product of exile: how Giuliana come to be born in the UK of a Chilean mother and an Italian father after her mother’s persecution under dictator Augusto Pinochet. [06:20]
- After being born and raised in England, what was it like for Giuliana, at age 15, to accompany her mother’s return to Chile? Why was it not as smooth of a transition as she might have been expecting? [10:58]
- As an undergraduate student, how did Giuliana choose her path of study? [14:05]
- What is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), and how does one measure its success? [17:08]
- How did Giuliana go from studying aquaculture to fungi? [18:20]
- Why does it seem that mushrooms and fungi have been so understudied? [22:26]
- What’s so unique about Chilean mycology that it became Giuliana’s life work? Has she discovered any new species of fungi? [23:57]
- How can we determine with certainty the age of a fungal species? [27:07]
- Are fungi gendered? [29:22]
- What does Amanita galactica look like, and how did Giuliana choose the name? [30:34]
- What’s the protocol when it is believed a new species has been discovered? How are specimens preserved in the field? [33:04]
- Much talk about mate and tango — two things I loved in Argentina many years ago. [39:55]
- Giuliana’s serendipitous discovery of a second species: Cortinarius chlorosplendidus. [46:30]
- Why is Kew Gardens so important to the field of mycology? [48:24]
- How a mushroom is like an apple — just a small part of a much larger organism. [49:22]
- Why do mycologists believe some mushrooms have developed properties that are hallucinogenic or even toxic to other species? [51:22]
- Giuliana is kind enough to give us a crash course in taxonomy 101. [55:38]
- How does a fungarium’s holotype differ from a voucher specimen? [57:43]
- How did Giuliana come to befriend the legendary Jane Goodall, and how has this friendship encouraged her as a fellow mother field scientist? [58:44]
- Under Giuliana’s leadership, Chile became the first country in the world to include the fungi kingdom in its environmental legislation. How did she accomplish this, and what does she hope this achieves on a globally ecosystemic level? [1:03:25]
- What are the implications of human beings being more closely related to fungus than fungus is to plants? For starters, consider penicillin. [1:10:06]
- In what ways are fungi crucial for life as we know it to exist? [1:12:22]
- What is the mission of the Fungi Foundation? [1:16:45]
- What books have influenced Giuliana’s approach to the wonderful world of fungi? [1:22:56]
- An ineludible responsibility towards the kingdom of the fungi: on finding simplicity in what, at first glance, seemed complex. [1:26:20]
- The importance of taking time for self-reflection when you’re facing problems for which you’re uniquely suited to solve — especially in a world that’s so hyperconnected and focused on what everyone else is doing and choosing to share. [1:29:56]
- What is the Telluride Mushroom Festival, what makes it such an incredible experience, and what will Giuliana be presenting there this year? [1:31:46]
- What does it mean to be a Dame of the Order of the Star of Italy? [1:35:38]
- I’ve an affection for the Fungi Foundation and find $50,000 a fine first offering. Feel free to inflate the figure financially at ffungi.org! [1:37:08]
- Giuliana’s request of the audience: let things rot. [1:42:15]
- Final book and movie recommendations and parting thoughts. [1:43:39]
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