Funga for everyone!

17/09/2021 18:07

Citizen Science Program:

The biologist and master’s student Mahatmã Titton explain to the MIND.Funga readers the unfoldings of the implementation of the Citizen Science Program.

By Felipe Gruetzmacher

The MIND.Funga research group, to show the importance of the fungi and promote conservation, developed the Citizen Science Program. In this context, the researchers do more than going on the field to collect and discover the diversity of the species. Through training and provision of an App for smartphones, the program involves the local community to horizontalize the science.

It’s a way of using Science to positively impact society and diffuse knowledge. The biologist and master’s student Mahatmã Titton was interviewed to report how specialists, citizen scientists, and technology walk together in this special project.

What’s the importance of debating the “Fungi” theme on society?

The fungi are still little known, especially in our society which is mycophobic, and it is through work with the community and the society in general that we will show that fungi are not threatening. Instead, they are being threatened with extinction.

How can a volunteer identify the diversity of the species on the field? It’s a matter of training the look of our own scientist…

This is a very cool point, the perspective training it’s constant. It starts from the first contact with the program in which we present what fungi are, in what substrates they can be found, what sporomes are, how they feed themselves, and if there is any danger in touching or eating… We noticed that first the collaborators only started sending a few images with no names. After a while, they received the return of the identifications and in a few cases they automatically started sending more images, and some of them were recognized by themselves.

The photos are kept saved in the app and in our database, this way it is easier to call the researchers from the group and ask for help to review the records made by the collaborators. So, after this curation, we send an email with the possible identification of the images. Still, about the curation, we have a WhatsApp group, where we answer questions directly to the collaborators, for example: Which will be the next steps of the project, if the submissions are correct, if there were any problems, and if they had any doubts regarding the identification, etc…

What’s the importance of the scientists collaborating between them in projects focused on identifying and learning about fungi diversity? How the institutions (Universities, laboratories, research institutes) can help in this dialogue between researchers?

There are base projects that can help new research in the future. Furthermore, we are noticing that many of the species in these critical ambients are under serious threat. I believe that through multidisciplinary meetings and discussions, institutions can collaborate with this delicate issue, and also provide resources to projects and programs aimed at the conservation of these threatened ambients and organisms. In my perspective, it is useless to have a healthy society while nature, which serves us a lot, is sick.

Species of flora, fauna, and fungi interact with each other. Biodiversity depends on these interactions. How can the study of fungi support the preservation of fungi, animals, plants?

Fungi are essential to life on earth. It is the whole base of the food chain. All organisms on earth depend on them in some way, directly or indirectly. Understanding how species relate to each other, how they develop, how they reproduce and provide food for other beings, among other details… Can make science take another perspective, practically everything we have today was produced through observation and comprehension, and perhaps, it may not be different when there is a whole universe of organisms waiting to be discovered and studied.

Edited by Genivaldo Alves-Silva and the MIND.Funga Communication team