Rutgers-Camden Biologist Explores Opportunities to Use the Fungus Among Us

Rutgers-Camden Biologist Explores Opportunities to Use the Fungus Among Us

For Immediate Release

CAMDEN -- Moldy bread. Bathroom scum. Damp basements. Most people think fungus is something to be destroyed without hesitation. Rutgers UniversityCamden biologist John Dighton says a deeper understanding of fungus can actually be beneficial to our world and our survival.

Fungi are incredibly resistant organisms that can grow on anything. A better understanding of them is good for our ecosystem. We can grow crops better, maintain better health, and clean up our environment, says Dighton, who has traveled to Ukraines Chernobyl reactor to study how fungi actually thrive amid radiation.

Following Dightons collaborative research, it has recently been reported by others that growing fungi with radioactivity could prove to be a food source for life forms in places without access to the sun and photosynthesis, like outer space.

Were constantly thinking of new energy sources and with a resurgence of interest in nuclear energy, we need to understand what organisms do to remediate radioactive contamination, points out the Rutgers-Camden biologist. Dighton and colleagues from the Ukraine will present their five years of research on fungus response to radioactivity from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster this September in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In addition to radioactive fungi serving as a kind of sustenance, Dighton says the organisms could help clean up contaminated environments by allowing a regrowth of plants. Science still has much to learn from the varied functions of fungus. According to Dighton, only .1% of the 5 million known species of fungi have been thoroughly documented.

Dighton, a professor of biology at Rutgers-Camden and the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, leads the Rutgers Pinelands Field Station in Brendan Byrne State Forest, which is the primary center for the study of plant and animal life within the Pine Barrens. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in biology at Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-New Brunswick.