Saturday, October 16, 2010

can mushrooms rescue the gulf?

Justify FullYesMagazine | For more than a decade, mycologist and inventor Paul Stamets has known that mushrooms eat oil. There were still a few kinks to work out; bringing the technology to scale and winning the acceptance of government agencies were two of the most challenging. Yet the basic science was solid and had been replicated many times by other scientists.

Then Stamets heard about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While his first reaction was horror and regret, he also knew that he might be able to offer practical solutions, while at the same time giving his oil-eating mushrooms a chance to show their stuff.

He wasn’t the only one who thought mushrooms might be part of the solution. In the days after the explosion in the Gulf, the EPA contacted him several times to request a proposal. They wanted to understand how mycoremediation—the reduction of toxic compounds into harmless ones by fungi—could work as a component of their cleanup strategy for the spill.

Stamets drafted a three-page proposal and sent it off. Then he ramped up the pace of his research and shifted his focus to finding oil-eating mushrooms that could tolerate the Gulf of Mexico’s salt water and powerful sun.