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Do fungi secretly rule our world? Yes, and this mycologist wants to understand and protect them

Giuliana Furci of the Fungi Foundation in Melimoyu, Chile.
Mateo Barrenengoa
Fungi Foundation
Giuliana Furci of the Fungi Foundation in Melimoyu, Chile.

From molds and yeasts to the mushrooms we fear and love, fungi are connected to life and death on our planet — but they're often misunderstood. We only know about 10% of the estimated 3.8 million species that exist. Mycologist Giuliana Furci wants us to separate “fungal fact” from “fungal fiction," and give this kingdom the legal recognition it deserves.

In the hit HBO show “The Last Of Us,” nearly the entire human population gets infected by a contagious fungus that controls people’s minds and turns them into zombies.

The story is loosely based off of a real fungus in nature — the cordyceps or “zombie-ant fungus” — but the showrunners took a lot of creative liberties.

But when it comes to fungi, there’s a lot more to be thankful for than afraid of, says Giuliana Furci, a mycologist and founder of the Fungi Foundation. “Fungal fact is way more impressive than fungal fiction,” Furci says.

On the latest episode of Seeking a Scientist, Dr. Kate Biberdorf (aka Kate the Chemist) explores this secret world — and how it impacts nearly everything around us.

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