Friday, 6 August, 2010 by uoncc
After the Mould, meet our Fungal Friends
An exhibition of photographs of the many diverse species of fungi on the bushland campus at Callaghan. The photographer, Gregg Heathcote of Cultural Collections, is a keen mycologist.
Everyone is welcome to view the exhibition in the display area just outside the Cultural Collections reading room in the Auchmuty Library.
In 2010 the outbreak of mould in Auchmuty Library was a major problem for the University community. However, on the other hand it is wise to bear in mind the fact that without fungi there would not be a “bushland campus” at Callaghan at all!
Complex lifeforms and their ecosystems could not long survive without the critically important organic recycling services fungi provide. Our bushland vegetation furthermore deeply depends upon symbiotic mycorrhizal associations with fungi, fungal networks in poor Australian soils helping plant roots secure the moisture and vital nutrients they need. Fungal biodiversity in Australia is vast, and the struggle to understand it is ongoing.
It is a common mistake to equate fungi solely with their fascinating and frequently extraordinarily beautiful fruiting bodies, the visible structures from which spores are dispersed. Depicted in this exhibition is a select sampling of these tremendously various fruiting bodies in the environs of Callaghan campus. However the greater part of fungal organisms are their mycelia, largely invisible networks of cellular threads (ie hyphae). There can be kilometres of mycelia in a cubic centimetre of soil, or rotting wood, or whatever substratum it is in which the fungal hyphae grow and feed. These pervasive networks are wonders of nature, wondrous networks in which it is well we remember how our own lives are thoroughly intertwined.
A complete set of captioned images, from which these in the exhibition have been selected, is available in Gregg Heathcote’s Facebook album publicly accessible at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=196544&id=605247767&l=66f14a3dc9 .
Another, full-scale set of the images will in due course be uploaded to Cultural Collections’ photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/sets/72157623900051704/ .
We wish to dedicate this exhibition to the cherished memory of Sam Willis, recently taken from us at the tender age of just 22. Sam was late a promising student of environmental science at the University of Newcastle. He loved the time he spent on campus, nurturing a profound affinity for the world of nature. This world of ours needs more like him.
We also wish to honour the work of past University staff members like Don Morris, Mim Woodland, Lance Hennessy, Kevin MacDonald and Phil Pollard. Their enthusiastically caring endeavours in support of a healthy bushland campus environment have been instrumental is securing an ecological balance in which all have space to thrive.