As the Radical Mycology Book Indiegogo campaign winds down, we would like to share an insight into the power of crowdfunded mycology.
Jakie Shay, a mycology student at the San Francisco State University, was recently fully funded for her Kickstarter campaign to document the Marasmius mushrooms in Madagascar. This campaign will fund the travel and living expenses of Jackie and Radical Mycology’s friend Danny Newman, to produce a monograph on this understudied genus of Madagascar. So cool! While we can appreciate the work and time invested in making a successful crowdfunding campaign reach its goal, we are inspired by Jackie’s campaign for a few other reasons.
Mycology is one of the fastest growing fields of natural science. It is one of the few sciences (along with astronomy and ornithology) that the “amateur” can readily contribute to. The study of tropical fungi in particular offers a world of mystery as documentation and descriptions of fungi outside of industrialized countries is sparse. With an estimated 1.5-6 million fungal species in the world (with only roughly 100,000 species described), the potential uses for food, medicine, and remediation in these undocumented fungi leaves one to wonder what is left to be explored. Jackie’s project will not only contribute to the understanding of tropical fungi, however, it also demonstrates the potential for the hard science of mycology to be funded outside the traditional institutional routes of grants and scholarships. This shows the potential for a healthy (mycelial) network of supporters to collectively advance the citizen science of mycology. Jackie’s campaign sets a precedent for how the science of mycology can truly be developed and funded by collaboration amongst like-minded individuals.
While Jackie’s project is associated with a University, there is nothing to keep another group of people from applying the same model elsewhere in the world. Crowdfunding campaigns could be organized to help fund mycoremediation projects or to develop mushroom farms and cultivation curricula in developing nations. The first step, however, will be the creation of more accessible learning tools for the study of mycology. We hope that the Radical Mycology Book will be such a tool.