Fungi make Ice and Snow with Konrad Meister

Contents

Table of contents

Subscribe to receive our free

Mycelium VS Fruiting Bodies

E-Book!
Find your perfect Mushroom Match

Fungi make Ice and Snow with Konrad Meister

Today we travel to Antarctica with Konrad Meister to look into the fascinating phenomena of how fungi make ice and snow. Beyond further ecological understanding this science can be applied to making fake snow, or even cryo-preserving everything from food to human organs. We get to discover what the day in the life of a fungal Antarctic research is like.


Sign up for our podcast giveaway here. Our next winner will be selected on February 26, 2023 and contacted via email.
TRANSCRIPT
Alex 0:11 Welcome, welcome to the mushroom revival podcast. I'm your host, Alex Dora. And we are absolutely obsessed with a wonderful, wacky, mysterious world of mushrooms and fungi. We bring on guests from all around the world to geek out with us to go on a rabbit hole into this mysterious world of mushrooms to figure out what the heck is going on with them. What applications can we utilize with with a partnership of fungi and mushrooms and humans? And today we have Conrad Meister joining us from Boise, Idaho, right. Yeah, that's correct. This So, Conrad, how're you doing? Speaker 1 0:49 I'm doing excellent. It's nice and sunny here. And much warmer than the usual. Alex 0:57 Yeah, yeah. You're a friend of the arctic cold. Yeah, that's it. And for people who don't know about you and your work and your relationship with cold, what what are you up to? Speaker 1 1:10 So I'm, I'm basically, researcher that works on how organisms survive in the cold. And I'm particularly interested not in in to the penguins that let's say, of feathers, or in the whale of that a lot of blood blood fact that protects that, but I'm really interested in those tiny things. I always like to say the skinny animals are the skinny organisms that don't really have this need protections. And among them fungi eyes will be fungi and bacteria, the one one of my favorites, because they also survive in all these very extreme cold environments. And we will need to start to understand how they do that and what we can actually learn from that and how we can benefit from that. And I do that in the context of being a professor here at Boise State University. And I'm also working partially at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Alex 2:03 And how did you originally get into studying mycology? Speaker 1 2:07 Well, mycology is more something, if you would have asked me five years ago, I wouldn't even know what the word means to be honest, because I'm a trained chemist. And so I'm mostly interested, not particularly always in the organism itself, but what the organism can produce in a way. And I started working on on fungi, because they have these very unique proteins called hydrophobic fins. And those were actually industrially produced by BASF at some point, and they're really, really surface active. And so I was studying them for a while and to figure out how they make this unique surface structure. And that kinda opened for me that rabbit hole that he described some nicely because I just started to understand that we'd learned so all we understand so little about them. And that is not only true from the organism side, but also if you go down to the smaller scale, let's say on the protein level, and ever since then, I'm really, really fascinated by them. And I mean, not just the visual, but also what they could do. Alex 3:12 So I'm, I'm familiar and we brought on Nicolas money on the show years ago, and he talked about his research about his hypothesis on how fungal spores helped create rain clouds. And that is a spore dispersal mechanism. And it sounds like some fungi including some fungi in the genus fusarium actually produce you know, these ice nucleators right to help create ice and help the, the the water freezing point helps water freeze at as at a higher temperature. So what you know, how did you originally get into that line of study? And where where's that at? Now, I understand that most of it is in bacteria, right? And fungi is pretty new in that that line of research. Yeah, Speaker 1 4:11 I think so. First of all, what you just mentioned this, this idea that fungi milk microbes can make it rain or snow that that's, that's it's a newer trend. But the the idea is actually makes a lot of sense. If we look at the facts, we just have to try to connect all the dots I would say because typically the it's very unusual that someone that studies mycology would study also atmospheric science. So there's really has not been those important connections or those people to talk to and say, like, hey, we, we might actually look at the same problem. And so for me, how I got into this entire field is, as I mentioned, I'm very interested in the cold and a lot of times these fungi and these bacteria, they actually produce the opposite of what a so called any freeze protein. So those are basically proteins that stop the growth of ice. And that helped them survive in some of these very cold places. But then recently, I read about that bacteria actually being used at artificial snow makers. And I really got interested into how they actually do that. And when I started looking into that, I realized that it's not only a bacteria, but that fungi also have some of these unique proteins or these biomolecules that they think that are very good at ice making. And that for me, opened this whole wide door of exciting research, because we in our lab already had the tools to study these kinds of things, because we already studied them, basically for the opposite effect. And now it seems to they, they are actually quite related. Alex 5:55 So on a biological level, you know, the theory by Nicolas money, and it makes sense that, you know, these fungi are helping create rain clouds and rain as a spore dispersal dispersal mechanism. And you just said that, you know, some bacteria and fungi do the opposite of actually preventing ice from forming so they can survive in these really cold environments. But why? Why would, why would a species of fungi or bacteria actually help promote ice? Yeah, Speaker 1 6:33 very good point. And so we always have to ask ourselves, if we're in a very cold environment, there's two, we have the choice. One is, I don't want to freeze. And then I'm what's called freeze avoiding. And I use these any freeze proteins and I use these protective mechanisms to not get frozen. And then I'm on the other side, and I said, Hey, I want to, I want to freeze. And those are the organs, we called freeze tolerant. And you might have heard of these wood frogs that can basically freeze completely, and then you can thaw them and they survive. And a lot of the fungi or some of these fungi are freeze tolerant as well, especially when they're like nice. So when they form like in there, they're very often freeze tolerant. So they they actually survive, that parts of the body or parts of the structures are being frozen, and thereby reduce the ordinance. But one can also ask the questions, what other benefits could an organism to have, if it's very good at ice making, and for instance, one can think about, if I can make ice, I can potentially harm plants. So if we think about, for instance, to fusarium fungi, they've been investigating, and we worked with another one, which is from the family and what he relah Those are plant pathogens. So one can think about the idea that the fungi lives on the plant leaf, and he wants to have access to all these carbohydrates, all this sugar to get intuitions, but there's this very rough plant wall. Yet, if I now make ice and we know ice can have common needles and can pierce we can potentially track basically, the skull of the plants and then have access to the nutrition. So that would be basically a very smart way to have access to, to nutritional food sources. And so that's one way, another way is the idea that they actually do use it to get around. So if I can make ice Very good. That means if I'm being released as the spores into the atmosphere, you know, once I'm in the atmosphere also need to get down, right. And so in the clouds, if I can make ice, that's the way to go, I like I form ice crystals in the clouds, then the cloud or the crystal start going down. And then depending on the conditions, it's going to be ending up as rain, the snow on a hill, and therefore the idea of hey, that the fungi, or fungal spores are the proteins on the fungal spores. That's how I would phrase it that they are involved in rainmaking is, I think, a pretty valid and solid assumption. Alex 9:12 That's That's nuts. And you have gone on multiple expeditions to Antarctica with National Geographic is that right? Speaker 1 9:19 Well, not not, not only with National Geographic. So we went normally we go for instance, with the National Science Foundation from the United States, they have fantastic polar programs. And what we've been doing in the acting the Antarctic, what is of course, very interesting is that if you think about how do you know that the fungal spores are in the rain to begin with, right? So you need to collect precipitation, so we need to collect whatever comes down. And that can be quite complex if you live above a forest or if you live in the city because there's just so much more stuff. But if you go to very remote regions And, for instance, the Antarctic, there's just, there's no plants, there's no nothing. So it's much, much more interesting to see what you can basically find in in the snow and the rain. Right? So if we can collect it, we can use analysis to check who's there, what's there, and then say, like, Okay, what the heck is doing this fungi here? Because, like, where does it come from? And so those are really, really interesting studies and and I think are just fascinating to do in some of these more remote places. Alex 10:31 Did you read that paper slash, you know, there's a bunch of articles written about it as well about researchers finding a frozen virus in ice that was about 49,000 years old, and they successfully unfrozen and they're trying to bring it back to life. Speaker 1 10:51 Yeah, that's, uh, I've actually been, before I moved to Boise, Idaho, I was in Alaska, it was at the University of Alaska Southeast. And, of course, with the melting permafrost with, with the, with the permafrost, what we have is that there's much more wood spin, basically frozen and hidden for for centuries, that can potentially thaw and can potentially, on the one hand, due to benefits, but can also harm because we don't really know what's there. And that process is, of course, accelerated by climate change, because one thing that's going to happen, we can spin that idea that we just talked about a bit further, and that is, okay, let's think about there was always this icy soil that nothing grew on, right, but now we basically warm up the ground, and then there's more microbes that can actually start living and we have more bacteria, and we can have more fungi that can, you know, like, lift them. And so that means there would be more ice nucleotides that could go into the atmosphere. And that would mean we get more precipitation. And one thing that's happening during climate change, especially in the polar region is in fact that we see warmer temperatures, but we also see more precipitation. And that leads to what's called the greening or like the greening of the Arctic, and we just get more and more flattened. That is, of course, a trend that is, in one hand worrying, because it destroys the landscapes that we've had for for a very long time. And we also open some of Pandora's boxes, because we don't really know what's going on. However, I'm also not a huge fan of these two of them, we really call that dually stay scenarios where there's going to be viruses did kill everyone in there. I don't think that's that's gonna be the case. Alex 12:49 Because the Ara wasn't, we have that raw or they just said, or Speaker 1 12:54 the other, we also wouldn't have never said that about the COVID pandemic motors. Right. And I guess we'd no more used to if there was be a super spreading virus, we at least learned a few lessons, hopefully from the current pandemic. Alex 13:08 So I don't I don't know much about, you know, seasonality in the Arctic region, region. Do you? Do you hypothesize? I don't know if we know yet. Whether you talked about one potential mechanism of fusarium of, you know, freezing itself kind of going into this like cryo, cryo freeze as a sort of like the frogs where they kind of like hibernate for the winter. And then once it becomes spring or summer, then they unfreeze themselves. And, you know, it's kind of like a survival mechanism. Do you think fusarium is doing the same thing? As you know, for the for the winter season? And then once it becomes spring or summer, then it unfreezes itself? Or do you think just like that virus that was frozen for 49,000 years? Do you think it's more of a long term survival mechanism of, hey, I'm going to I'm going to go into Yeah, I'm going to cryo freeze myself for as long as it takes and then once the news permafrost melts, then I'll, you know, I'll, I'll go back to my room all day. You know, Speaker 1 14:18 I think there's two things to that. So I think in, like the environment, seasonality is a very big part of it. And usually, before you go into these cryo states, or like before I freeze myself, I, I A lot of times the organism what they do, they load up their, let's say, their fluids, whatever with sugar so that there's just less water present, per se. But a lot of times, it's really about whether there's enough material surrounding the organism that it can properly survive. And we actually use this as a benefit sometimes that you can actually take bacteria you can take the fungi And you can put them in the freezer, right? Because otherwise, we would have to culture them all the time, which is like very labor intensive work. But you know, we can also take them, we can freeze them. And then once we want to work on them at a later stage, we could work on them again. So that's a very nice property to have in that regard. But I think one point that we should also really make is that we really know okay, they survived the freezing, but we still really do not know why has seen it, they have this ability to be so good and freezing, it's so good at making water switched from a liquid to a solid form. And there's an other ideas is that for instance, you could also use it to crack down others a lot of times this, this fungi also live in dead wood, where potentially if you have these capabilities, you can just break down pieces. But other ideas is also that a lot of times if you think about very cold places. For instance, Antarctica, it's also desert, it's very, there's actually less water available. And then you can think about that maybe that's freezing mechanism is also a way to capture moisture, or just basically steal water from the atmosphere. And that because any of it is solid blob, and then that's gonna melt. Last slide, you get water on the more reliable plus, but there's just, you know, a lot of these hypotheses, which are just really interesting to follow up. And to kinda like, try to connect this bigger circle, because at the end of the day, and what I always find so stunning about with this topic is that if you think about it, we have these tiny fungi that live in the soil, we don't even know how wide they stretch in the soil already. But now we find them in the air, we find them in the rain, and that basically shows how important they are just for this tool, a much, much bigger perspective how basically everything is all tied together. And we we should not always just, you know, look at it from one single piece. And then it's like, oh, we fix this one, and the rest will get to be, you know, fine. But it's usually if we mess up one part it's it's, it has these rippling effects in other parts of environment. So Alex 17:15 what do you think is the potential correlation between fungal diversity and the amount of fungi in, you know, Antarctic regions, or very cold regions where there's a epidemic of, you know, glaciers melting ice caps melting, you know, it seems to be a big topic for many decades now of the crazy speed in which our glaciers and ice caps are melting. What do you think there's a correlation on the decline of fungi and bacteria in these places, and the rapid increase of the melting? Well, it's Speaker 1 18:04 the I guess, it's a few ways to look at it. The first thing that's kind of interest or like it's why it's very hard to study is that the moment glaciers retreat, a lot of times what we find first, or lichen, and lichen are basically a some users of fungi and bacteria don't have other partners. But so we call those early colonizers so that it has something to do with the fact that that, again, the the, the fungal spores can reach a lot of these places pretty easily. And so about of diversity, and I think it's a very hard question to answer, because we would have to have really precise data, historical data about who was there before. And it is not always the case that if less species are there, it doesn't necessarily mean it's worse. However, if, if it's anything like it just like, the two answers, I don't really know, I can only speculate. And I would say, if we learned something from other places where once you would use a species diversity, you you, for instance, make soils erode. And no like he tried to bring which no plants or original plants and the bacteria that go along with them to kind of like prevent some of these factors, I'm pretty confident that there's probably also certain microbes that are that are highly important to to keep the the Arctic or the Antarctic, places in check. However, since it's a bit more remote, it's, I think, not as clearly defined, and for this retreating of the glaciers, I don't really think they could really do anything. So there has been ideas that he could use some of these very effective bacteria or fungi and try to coalesce them next to it with the idea so that the Hey, that shouldn't all be free, but unfortunately, that's not true. As easy as it works, and if one words alter something is that usually when you introduce too much of one card in a new place, that usually doesn't remove the problem. And I always think about it and why in the last couple of theaters I said that we Westerners, we always look at it with, we always want to solve a solution by adding something new to it, digging in, where's the origin of the of the problem and, and that is clearly coming from from us humans, and he made it to the planet, finding this magical solution by adding bacteria and fungi to it. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. But it might slow something down. But that's something that it's a bit more difficult to study. Because again, one, one looks at something smallness, to extrapolate it to these huge, huge systems, which are just very, very complicated. Alex 20:54 Raid was made might be a intermediate band aid, but does not fix the root of the problem. But there are other potential applications which you talked about in your paper, including, you know, energy efficient freezing of food, artificial generation of snow and biological cloud seeding. Can you talk a little bit more about those potentials? How realistic are they? Speaker 1 21:19 Yeah, yeah, so the one thing people sometimes don't realize is that actually, if I have liquid water, because what we learned in high school is basically, hey, we have liquid water and under zero degrees Celsius, that's going to be ice. But that's not the case. And if you ever done these cool experiments, where you just put a very clean water bottle in your freezer, it actually stays liquid. And there's a lot of really cool YouTube videos on there, when you then check it all the sudden it freezes in an instant. And that's because when we have the water, we cooled it down, it becomes super cooled, and it takes energy to basically force it to become ice. And that if you think about it, now, if we actually want something to freeze, we have to put in a lot of energy to do that. And so far, for certain forces, like in some industries, that means we spend a lot of energy and energies are pretty expensive, good. So being able to free something at a warmer temperature, which always kind of sounds weird to say it, but it's actually something that very, very beneficial. And so what applications are really, really something we are looking into is that the artificial snowmaking is a big one. Although the bacteria kind of like the, the Lebron James of it, they're like very, very good. And they already produced on large scale facilities. And like if you go screen in Utah, for instance, and the product they use, it's called Snow Max, which is nothing else than freeze dried and inactivated bacteria. So No way. That's crazy. Yeah, it's pretty crazy, right? And, and so one could think about that the fungi could do something similar. But however, the one big difference between and where I see more potential for the fungi is that in the bacteria, these, these ice active molecules sit, and they are embedded into the membrane, that means they they're basically part of the organism, so you can't really rip them out. And so you always have to use the entire bacteria. But for the fungi, they release it into the atmosphere into the environment. So that means we actually don't have the whole fungi, but we have the specific proteins from the fungi. And that makes it a bit more interesting for especially for some of the biomedical properties. Because you can think you don't want to put any bacteria into any into, let's say, for a tissue that we want to freeze, but we want to have frayed cords. And so a really big part of research of this going on in my lab is also related to cryopreservation. Because we all know we have a big, big problem with being able to store something for a longer time. That means it can be just simple cells, blood, and then I mean organs that only really talk about. And so if we were able to free something at a warmer temperature, and we can prevent something, which is actually very bad. And that is, so if you imagine the following situation, I have a cell. So like over cell in the cell usually has, let's say nucleus, and then we have all the other parts in the cell. And then if I freeze a part of the cell, all the I water would rush, let's say from one part of the cell to the other part of the cell. That's just normal behavior. And what happens then is because all of the water is being removed from one part, all the solids that's been in there, like just salt and whatever, all sudden is like super high concentrations. And then we have very high concentration of just something like normal table salt, it becomes actually very, very toxic and damaging for the soul. And that's actually the biggest problem when we when we talk about cryopreservation we talk about it's not always necessarily the freezing because we were frozen. And we're just in a normal state, but it's the melting. And it's kind of like the water moving around and thereby creating this small tech disbalances. And so if we would be able to freeze at a very warm temperature, what we could do is the silicon better, much better depth. So that's very, very nice. Because if we freeze, and we also know that if we freeze something at a very low temperature, it's going to be like, instant. Yeah, while if it's slow, we can still kind of like transition. And kind of like make our way around. Alex 25:32 Cool. And the idea for, you know, scaling this up would be large scale bioreactor system to harvest the enzymes and then immobilize them somehow and spray them on or something like that. Well, so Speaker 1 25:47 the the one problem, we still faced with the fusarium one, for instance, where we would, which is by now the best describe one is we still don't have the gene, like we don't like that's a very big thing. Because if we basically find the gene of what the what basically makes the this unique protein, then we can look into, hey, what's the best weight produced at mass scale. And right now, and that's actually one of the more labor intensive parts in our lab. And if you would talk to why grad students they would have a very, very much agree on that is, we basically take them and we played them until we're done, I got plates. And then if we, depending on what analysis method we do, we have to take 80 to 100 of these quotes, and then you have to harvest them, it means you have to carefully cut off all the highchair, and then the harvest is not really substantial. So I think there's still quite a way to go before we can take what we've learned in the lab scale into an industrial scale. Alex 26:53 You're talking about, you know, the potential health risks of you know, using bacteria and you know, there's beneficial bacteria, there's tons of beneficial bacteria for the human body. And same same with fungi. But at the at the other end, there's mycotoxins, and there's fungi that are not so great for the human body. And has there been any research specifically, you know, I know you're focusing on fusarium Documentum? Is that how you pronounce it? Unknown Speaker 27:25 No, no, you? Alex 27:27 Especially, it's like, Speaker 1 27:28 it's like, I'm good with whatever. Yeah, so the funny thing is, with this fuzzy area, we, we are better our collaboration partners at the Max Planck Institute for chemistry, they, they looked at, I think, 1520 different fusarium names. So they, and that's funny, because and that's again, something that I find so, so cool. And the way that's like, Okay, we they study 20, and let's say 16 Show activity, some don't show it. But then there's the question like, Why does one have it, the other one doesn't have it. Right. So that's, that's not really known. But then if we talk about fusarium preserving, it's actually like, and I think a lot of, I'm not even sure how they actually figured it out with the free zone of ice activity, but a lot of them came actually from this idea that if you have these aerosolized spores, or aerosolized proteins, and we inhale them, they cause havoc if they're the wrong fungi, and I think it's for Zarya, oxy swarm or something like that, which is actually not very good at all for us. So I personally don't work with any of that. But I know that it's a huge topic. And it's a huge problem as well. And yeah, that that would be a fearful one, if you basically could just inhale it. If we talk about the students, they scenario again. Yeah. So that's something Alex 28:54 problematic. And so the idea is to not use the spores, but to use the enzymes. Speaker 1 29:02 Yeah, so what we do basically is we take the, like, you can think about it, the spores are like basically a part of the, like, a, you have these things, but the sports still going to contain a lot of these proteins and a lot of these things. And what we're basically taking we're taking, we're taking everything that we can get so we we grow them and then at some point, you'll see like this little white forest coming out because it's a filamentous fungi. And when we just cut up all these high fear, so the arms of the fungi, right, and then we just add a bit of water and then we didn't violently shake them to Carolyn's ligat tree, get rid of your apples. And then we, we filter it to get rid of all the bigger stuff. So we get rid of the spores, we get rid of these IVs then we just have all the stuff that soluble in water and these, these include our nice, ice nucleating proteins. And so that's, that's how we get them and that's how we avoid for instance that we would get to Move the other unwanted stuff that it's potentially harmful. Alex 30:03 Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, that's exciting to define the specific gene that makes these ice nucleate ears and then, you know, doing human trials to, to figure out how does this interact with with humans? And, you know, I could I could see huge potential for I know, you said you didn't want to talk about organs but I know that's a big topic for a lot of people of you know, organ transplants being a big thing of how to safely transport organs and, you know, put them into the into the right bodies as safely, efficiently and quickly as possible. But tons of applications for food as well and and snow and and cloud seeding as well. And it seems like maybe it wouldn't fix the problem for quickly. melting icecaps, but potentially might be a good band aid in some applications. But um, yeah, this is this is so wild. It's I heard of the the rain theory by by Mr. Money, but, and that blew my mind, but this is something I've never I'd never thought about. I love entomopathogenic fungi, so like cordyceps or any fungi that attack insects. And I was blown away. I looked it up if there's any on Antarctica, and there's one insect that lives in Antarctica, it's like, Speaker 1 31:41 might be impacted with Yeah, and Alex 31:44 and there's a fungi that, that attacks it. Oh, no. Which is crazy. Yeah. And then there's like aquatic fungi as well, that attacks tardigrades in the, in the Arctic Ocean? Or, you know, beneath the the water in the in the Arctic region, which is nuts. Yeah. I mean, they're everywhere. Speaker 1 32:08 I for me, but that's one of the big and you mentioned earlier, this National Geographic expedition where we went actually the coast of Greenland. That was mostly about marine because the one thing that is, I think, heavily under studied still, especially Alton mycology, he's like, what's in the ocean? And what's in all these water because there's also tons of fungi now. It's something like, we really, really don't know too much about it. I at least I'm not very familiar with what you just said. It's just, it's just crazy. I Alex 32:42 mean, about motions, period, you know, you discovered what 1% And then about fungi period, but then you put them together and fungi and in marine ecosystems, we know nothing about there's, you know, I, we brought in one guest talking about marine fungi, and it blew my mind and it just seems like any any aspect that any researcher is looking into fungi, it's, you know, it's, you have you're in green pastures, there's infinite new research to to unfold. But yeah, I'm, um, I love extremely file organisms and all the potential, you know, chemical compounds that we can isolate from them and and potentially use to help some of the biggest world problems that we have humans human inflicted, but you know, there's there's still problems then the last. Speaker 1 33:40 Yeah, I agree. I mean, the, someone once told me that, like, if you want to study something, like you always want to look at the extremes first, right? Because that's usually what because our world has adapted those to be the best in these specific cases. And then you can look at the other stuff, but you know, like, that makes a lot of sense. Right. One last thing that why I was really fascinated by the fungi was again, and that is a phenomenon, which is called hair eyes. I don't know if you have ever seen that. I heard about that. Alex 34:13 I haven't heard briefly about it. But I don't know anything about fungi Speaker 1 34:16 again. Yeah. Which is kind of crazy. Because for for those of you that are interested in it's like just Google it. It's just this if you've seen it when you go hiking, it's just like one of the most bizarre things to me in the world because you go and there's no snow or ice anywhere that all of a sudden there's a chunk of wood and the it looks like there's human hair growing out of it. And then I think it was a German group that that found out that in the end of the day, it's it's a fungi that's basically in there. That causes it's not really known how to but it causes then obviously, it's very inspiring for our study, because we obviously want to study that fungi as well because Oh, probably makes a lot of sense that in order to do all these very unique ice phenomena, you need either these ice nucleating proteins or these antifreeze proteins to be able to shape ice in such a way. And then again, that would be something we'd be very interested in to take into the next steps for applications. So there's just luckily still a very, very vast world to explore. Alex 35:24 So I think it might have been your paper it might have been another paper that was reading but you know, we know that bacteria and fungi both you know, some bacteria, some fungi create these ice nucleators or new nucleotide proteins, however you want to phrase it but I was also reading that some insects also create them. Do you have the Read this? Do you have any idea why? Yeah, Speaker 1 35:50 we worked on them for insects, it's a bit better understood because for the insects, its lifetimes it's similar to this word frog. They want to be frozen during the winter time. And so a lot of the the I think there's one famous Woods defensible like a water spider kind of thing in the in the Arctic. Tillich Pune or something it's called. So they're basically he studied them seasonally. And you can see okay, in the fall, they kind of start loading up with osmolytes, or like sugar to, to basically make the, the body liquids a bit more like honey, not just like water, and then they freeze in the winter. And then once sprint comes up, they thought again, so that's a bit better understood why they do it, because they don't necessarily need to go in the atmosphere. And no one ever found the atmosphere to care, or insects in the atmosphere. So that's the rate difference, knowing us a dead was likely to be strictly for free stolen to busy hibernate, or to kind of like take a break in the winter. Alex 36:54 Does that tree frog produce the same compounds as all this? Speaker 1 37:00 There's a bit of discussion on that. So they do have nucleotides, but they are the tree frog, especially he has a lot of these. Well, I just described they load a lot of, I don't, I don't know, if it's glucose or trailers, they just load a lot of sugar. So that, like, once I free something, it's it's like the ice can spread so rapidly. So it's already kind of like disbalances. The similar idea that if we our form of cryopreservation, we I love DMS or glycerol to samples and basically what I described earlier that when ice forms, we have this toxic event that, you know, like water rushes out, and then once it becomes toxic, but it already overload the system with something else like glycerol, then it can still rush out, but it doesn't matter because it's already equally distributed everywhere the concentration so it's kind of like it doesn't cost us. Alex 37:49 So say, I went on a National Geographic expedition to Antarctica and I was stranded. And I got lost. And all I had was a bag of sugar. If I ate that bag of sugar, would I would it slow down my freezing process and therefore elongate my now, Speaker 1 38:07 look for us? Because we are warm blooded, very different. Well, it's a funny story, because the first time I went to the Arctic, and we had the survival training, you know, because of obviously, like, this situation is crap, you'll dive there's no, there's no other water on it. But we had this situation and they said like, Okay, if you get cold or like, if you like something, the first thing you have to do is you have to consume easily digestible sugars, because that of course, our body can use great way to use energy. And they said like something like m&ms is pretty good. And so I got these m&ms. And then we kept on the ice. So that was basically the smoke trace that you can put on the ice and then in the Union night and wake up, and my eyes couldn't really open them because from the exhale, you know, you excel the warm air and then your water. Ice, it's kind of like partially frozen. And then I get up and I partially panic. Because like, Man, it's cold. I mean, it's obviously cold, but I was like, What am I supposed to do? Okay, what did they tell you? And so I ended up almost like, eating five of these entire m&m bags, just like frantically eating in there before I realized okay, that also doesn't make any sense. And you just need the other sugar because, you know, like, at the end of the day, it wasn't even that cold. It was just kind of like this hammock moment. But at the end of the day, like if we are in really cold situation, there's a reason why we wouldn't survive there. And we have don't have this miracle cure that helps us survive. But then I think there's only four or five as humans if we go to a corner place I don't know if the flower fat tissue slightly changed into beautiful brown but I don't know this is like But it's much harder to study, obviously, because the only ones that really survived in those places are some of the native communities. And yeah, it's I mean, they are just really chocolate on Alex 40:12 them. So if I can, yeah. I like the sunny beach of gab, good. Val here in Austin, Texas, like it's. So apart, apart from your eyes freezing shot, what has been the hardest part of your, your research? Speaker 1 40:31 I think the this, like, if you think about it's a very complex problem. And I think one heart for the fungi hem study was two things. So the first one was getting enough material to study. It's just very hard. We it's very labor intensive process. And it's very frustrating if you you know, like if you've done experiments, and then you know, keywords, it's going to be another months to grow them and to do all that. And I think the other part was basically, we are only expert at certain parts and try to come up with a model or like, would we see how can we explain that and I think they are really have to highlight Professor Valeria molinia. Oh, she said, the University of Utah, who did a lot of the theoretical calculation and the theoretical framework to help us understand what we saw in the experiments with some of our theory. And I think that that was something which was really, really hot. And the other end also something very rewarding, because at the end of the day, someone says, The problem we study we can solve alone, I would say that close to impossible, because you would have to be an expert in anything, and everything, because there's just so many different pieces come into play. But then again, that, you know, gives you the chance to, to meet and talk to all these exciting people and try connect those dots that usually have not been connected, because as I said before, it's been very rarely that the spirit chemist, a biologist, and a theoretical chemist, all set the same table and try to understand how it could be that there's fungal spores in the atmosphere, and that they're super good at making stuff. That's very, very stunning. Alex 42:20 Would you say that, you know, I'm curious, on the flip side of what has been the most rewarding, and that, to me sounds like such a intellectually stimulating time of just being surrounded by different frames of thought to make you just just shift your perspective on the universe of Oh, I'd never thought about it like that. And, you know, to be surrounded by all these different experts in their field to help create kind of a new framework to look at life. Yeah, Speaker 1 42:51 I think, for me, most rewarding is always, like, I love those moments in life where you just think like, wow, this is so cool. You know, and that could be like, you're going out there. And the first time I see her, I said, just like, Man, this is just so crazy. That could be that we are in the lab, and my student shows me, hey, look, this thing freezes at minus three degrees. And it's like, what this is so crazy. But the same thing is true is that, you know, like when Valeria showed me her simulations, like hey, we can model your data, and we can precisely say what it is. And it's like, Man, this is so cool. And, and I think it's this, I think the interactions with others, and I'm just gonna take environment as a person to means like, you know, like, whether it's an interaction that gives you stimulation when you're outside, or it's a simulation that if you communicate with others and learn from others, I think that's for me personally, always my, my feelings or if I feel I'm bored, and I don't grow, then I'm usually not a very happy person. Alex 43:54 I don't know much about the politics of Antarctica that no country owns it. Right? Speaker 1 44:02 Correct. So we have to go ahead. Yeah, Alex 44:06 I'm just curious about what the process is for. Who do you ask to go? Yeah, Speaker 1 44:12 it's like this a lot of I mean, I'm now I'm also getting bathe in the ice with the Antarctic Treaty that all the nations have that the Antarctic can only be used for, for research purposes. And sadly, that one's gonna run out I think 2040 something and instead we're in the current world, it's I don't know if they gotta come up with a new one. So that's going to be very problematic potentially. And there's already now always the idea that a lot of nations have a lot of an Arctic research stations but there's not really that much output out of the station. So you wonder whether whether those stations actually they had to kind of like put my flag down and if at some point they wanted to divide it up, be like hey, have we always been doing with a CI we should that should belong to Who told me the way it works for a scientist is like, I can't just go and do stuff like that's, that's that's not how it works in their Dr. Candle. I mean, nowadays there's a lot of these cruise ships that go to the Antarctic as well. And they usually shell but they have usually specific parameters as well. But for for the scientific part, we always have to, first of all find money to go. And then, as I mentioned earlier, the the United States and the National Science Foundation, I think the whole UK programs is one of the best in the world if not the best. And so let's say if I get funding from them, I also get permits or I have to ask for permits to describe what I plan to do. And then like what, what kind of samples do I take? How will I get rid of the samples? How will I ensure that none of the samples will stretch would you describe could potentially harm? So there's a lot of regulations. And if you talk to some of the older folks, I I had the chance to work without the freeze who was the cover of these any freeze proteins and y'all said like, oh, when we were there in the 60s, it was all but easier, you just go because now it becomes a has become a very administrative process to exactly do that protect what we there. And once you're there, there's of course strict rules on what to what to do. But I think a lot of times if you if you're a person that values nature, you you anyway, don't want to leave, you know, doesn't matter if I'm in the Antarctic, or if I go hiking somewhere else. I don't want to leave any junk and I don't want to harm any animals. So I'm going to stay away from them until that's basically the process that the the via the Science Foundation, we usually have a general provident for some stuff. But then if you go otherwise, it's a bit more tricky. Alex 46:54 And when you're there, there's not like so say the research station of like Brazil, like, do they have a section of Antarctica that's like, oh, you can't cross that's Brazil's research area. No worries. No, it works. Speaker 1 47:09 But the thing is, like, you have to think about it like you can't I mean, first of all, it's a vast, it's a massive, you know, like it's, and for instance, one of the main stations of the United States. McMurdo Station is actually you just say, two miles from New Zealand, the QB station. And so there is no like, you can't just walk there and be like, hey, no, no, no, no, this is Kiwi territory. That's, of course, no, because there is no train. But the nice thing about in the being in the Arctic, and in the scenario, this is also like, you would never do that. Because it's such a harsh environment that you would basically kill someone, right? Like, if you ask people and you're like, Oh, well, this is, excuse me, but this is not, it's not gonna work, you have to go another 50 miles, you will die in a minute, similar to a few. In Alaska, people are very friendly still, to the neighbors of because they also know like, there's normally no one is outside with these temperatures. So like, there's probably more like, trouble and I think, yeah, so it's not that territorial. However. It is, of course, that you can also not just reach another station, let's say if the Chinese have stations in the way that I think Easter Antarctica, but I'm not confident, like the US couldn't just, you know, like, you couldn't just come like that. I mean, if I would say like, Hey, I want to land an airplane, I wanted to come with a boat. And I get it like what you know, like, why why do you do that? Like, what's, what's the purpose? So you love times? If there's like research purposes before that you're the kind of like, there's a lot of planning involved. It's put it this way before you go actually do it. So if you go on an expedition, it's usually years in the making beforehand. And it's not just Okay, let's go. Alex 48:55 I can't remember if it was either, you know, Finland or some place in Russia or something like that, where there's a law. In it, I don't know if it's a certain city or a region where you have to let someone into your house if they're, if they're running from a polar bear. or something, something along those lines, because there's so many polar bears there that, you know, you have to let someone in there in your house if they're knocking because it's like such a is such a thing. So they got a we don't have to worry about in Idaho and Texas. But yeah, that's pretty it's pretty wild. And yeah, it's an unforgiving area for sure. Speaker 1 49:40 Yeah. And that makes it even more remarkable how some of these fungi and bacteria, you know, like how they survived and not only do they survive and thrive, you know, like Yeah, like they're doing good. Alex 49:52 I actually was reading another article that some of the, I think when the research stations were written really built there was like wooden stairs or, or some parts of the, the the structures were made out of wood. And they found fungi starting to degrade the wood there. And they didn't even think about it in that area. Yeah, Speaker 1 50:16 that's, that's, that's totally true. And that's unfortunately one of the sets, sides of polar research, but also about some of these tours companies going there, because of course we try to not bring them, right, invasive species. But we're talking about horse, we're talking about tiniest fragments of organisms that are basically amazing in adapting to new environments. And that that means a lot of times we do bring in things as well, that shouldn't be there. And I mean, in the Arctic, there shouldn't be wood to begin with, let's say, right, because there is no wood. And then if you ever want eating fungi in there, you also want okay, like, Ray, when he changed all the salts and invasive species, whether this smell bad or good. Another question, but it's, again, when we talk about invasive species, and we know that from plants, and we know that from insects, we know that and the you know, like people see them. But I think this whole idea of invasive species on this microbial world is still also been under studied. And I think another very interesting field where hopefully, some smart folks are going to look into. Alex 51:30 So if you had unlimited money, team time equipment, all all the permits were checked off, you know, what would you do? And why? Speaker 1 51:48 Well, I'm more of a realist, that I will continue what I do, I love what I do, and I love studying what I do. And obviously, it's great, I could give more people the opportunity to also, you know, dive into that. But if I would have unlimited money, I would first protect some of the spaces because there's no need for me to study and for us to understand that just that they're gone. Right. So that's that unfortunately, one of these sad stories that if you think about the extreme environments, and these environments, where these organisms adapted to live in those, those who are going to be the first ones to be gone, because they pushed so hard to survive on one side, which a lot of times, like, you survive in an extreme environment by basically cutting back on other sides. So it's, it's like this, if I'm, let's say a athlete on one side, I'm not going to be a good athlete on that side, because I have to focus a verb a musician. And that's the same for these organisms. But then if I'm very good in surviving the cold and get warmer, I basically get rid of all my warm protection. And now I'm kind of screwed. So that is a Yeah, that's unfortunate. Alex 53:03 Unless it gets colder, and then this is, well, there's the leather get. Yeah, yeah, Speaker 1 53:09 the funny thing, a lot of the tactic orders, let's say the fish that survived, they adapted to, let's say, minus two, or like, you know, like specific temperature ranges and a lot of times, living at a very cold temperatures. And it's the same for humans, right? Like, if it's very cold, we know that a cold we can live with it. What we struggle a lot with is would be like, Hey, you live in a place where it's always like every two hours sauna, you know, like 100 Yeah, then I go to cold so these because then the, the temperature span where you live in is actually much more extreme. And that's another form of extreme if it can survive these extremes on both edges. So that's also something very unique but that's also something I really dislike this you know, I like the cold when there because I know it's cold and when it's warm, it's also warm but these days it's that's what's supposed to be like when it's fluctuating like that. Alex 54:05 So where can if people are interested in in learning more about ice fungi and and your research where where can people follow your work? Speaker 1 54:16 So we have a website, it's not super visible, I have to change that. It's just like bio is kind of like a Google Sites. It's not really you have to google very hard to find it. Like I said, like if you Google my name, you'll really find some information on that. And if you're really interested in the topic, just send me an email and we're happy to chat more. And otherwise, there's a lot of scientific publications on it. And we'll know. I think since the topic gets bored, we're interesting also trying to, to write a few articles that are more directed to know to audience like this that I just want to get informed and to learn a bit more about that. Tonight, I think that's exciting. And if you ever come to Boise, Idaho, I think on Monday I actually give a talk and we have the sides on tap like it talks and breweries because I think it's so important to, you know, to let everyone know what kind of important work we do or like this being done to, to kind of like shed light on some of specially the audience, which gets the least attention when we're always working Alaska, everyone was like, well, it's well, it's, you know, it's kitchen, which always makes a lot of sense. But that, so like, hey, we also do input stuff for the slack. Well, yeah, I Alex 55:32 guess. Well, you gotta you gotta pitch the perfect ice cold beer on Monday. This Unknown Speaker 55:41 looks good. Cool. Well, thank Alex 55:43 you, thank you for joining this has been this blows my mind is always I always love these my favorite part of my job of, of, you know, having conversations with people like you doing this mind blowing research on something that I don't normally think about. And you just shifted my perspective on life itself. So that's, that's really cool. I never look at ice and snow, and think fungi. But now I will that every time and that's it's cool to have those perspective shifts every time to just, you know, view view things with a little more depth. And that's what life is all about. So, thanks for coming on. And thank you everyone for tuning in and tuning in for another episode of the mushroom revival podcast. Wherever you're tuning in from. I just pulled the report from last year I think it was like 176 countries that people are tuning in from which is so cool that you know, we have so many people from all over geeking out about fungi and what they're up to. So thank you can do without you. And if you liked the show, we don't have a Patreon are anything that you can donate to directly. But we do have a website mushroom revival.com, where we have a whole line of functional mushroom products from organic capsules to tinctures, gummies powders. And so if you want it for yourself, we have a coupon code just for listeners. That code is pod treat. And it's a surprise coupon code. And if you don't want to spend any money, we have a giveaway going on. So we pick a new winner once a month, and you can win some mushroom goodies. We also have you know all of our podcasts on the website, all of our show notes, different links that you can dive deeper into these episodes. We have a bunch of free ebooks we have a bunch of blogs with recipes and a bunch of different things you can go down a rabbit hole with there and leaving a review goes a long way and just spreading spreading the spores of if you learned something cool in this episode, you know tell a friend tell a stranger get more people interested and hyped up about mushrooms and just life itself and you know it makes it makes life a little more interesting. And in these weird, chaotic times. So with that, as always much love and made the spores be with you Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Subscribe to receive our free

Mycelium VS Fruiting Bodies

E-Book!
Find your perfect Mushroom Match

Other posts that might interest you