Explorations Series: Between sex and death - Unearthing Australia's charismatic fungi

Start: 9th Mar 2017 6:00pm
End: 9th Mar 2017 7:00pm

Charles Sturt University's (CSU) Explorations Lecture Series is part of the Community-University Partnership (CUP) program and aims to engage its rural and regional communities in discussion and debate about major issues facing our regions, the nation and the world.

Alison Pouliot, an ecologist and environmental photographer, presents the Explorations Series Lecture, Between sex and death - Unearthing Australia's charismatic fungi.

Ms Pouliot works and lives between Australia and Europe and is especially interested in less known lifeforms, particularly the fungal and the spineless.

Lecture abstract:

"The smell of Tuber melanosporum, the prized Périgord truffle, is somewhere 'between sex and death', according to one Australian forager. This fungus vies with Iranian caviar as one of the most expensive foods in the world. Australia's costly culinary predilections have driven a significant European truffle-growing industry since the 1990s.

Originating from Europe, Périgord truffles prefer symbiotic partners that don't naturally occur in Australia. The major environmental 'modifications' necessary to keep these fungi happy in unsympathetic conditions have sparked a renewal of the changes wrought by early nineteenth century pastoralism. In an age of permaculture and other gentle agricultural approaches that work in sympathy with the environment, the desire to grow these expensive gourmet flourishes trumps ecological sense.

Less well known is that Australia already has a vast number of native truffles. Almost every eucalypt lives in association with native truffles. Aboriginal Australians along with wallabies, potaroos, bettongs and their kin attest to their nutritional value. Australia potentially has the most megadiverse mycota in the world (with an order of magnitude more truffle species than Europe) yet biodiversity conservation seldom considers fungi. Fungi are more often listed under the EPBC Act as an environmental threat than as organisms worthy of conservation. This seminar explores the irony that, in a land where wild nature is highly valued, in the case of fungi, the local organisms are absent from biodiversity protocols, while their imported counterparts are the subject of expensive programs for growth. As debates intensify about the dangers of species translocation, it might be time to look a little closer at what's growing beneath the backyard gum tree."

This public lecture is open to all staff, students and the wider community.

Venue / Address:
Charles Sturt University, Building 1004, Room 120, Leeds Parade Orange NSW

Contact Phone: (02) 6365 7500
Contact Email: Ms Margot Drake, Regional Relations Assistant