My name is Bashira Muhammad, i’m a 24 year old mycologist and founder at Zoom Out Mycology (ZOM). I started ZOM in January of 2017 in my home state of New Jersey with the intention of creating an organization that would initiate sustainable change on different regional scales. My uncle told me a quote when I was growing up around accomplishing challenging tasks. It was that you should “start where you are, use what you have and do what you can.” This principle inspires me as the organization manager and has helped me throughout many decision making processes.
The resources I decided to use were the Sustainable Development Goals and information from the book Drawdown. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent worldwide objectives of a sustainable society and Project Drawdown directly relates to the carbon footprint of activities one could implement to create a more sustainable way. Here’s where ZOM comes in, we apply the science of mycology towards a sustainable future based on goals and targets backed by the scientific community.
by Neil Stalter | Zoom Out Mycology
It can be a little weird to look at a plant, insect, or animal and think “I wonder where that came from?” but that can actually be one of the most important questions to ask for environmentalists! Whether a certain species is native to your area or “invasive” meaning that it came from somewhere else, can be fundamentally important to how ecosystems change and evolve over time.
Before we get into that though, it’s important to understand exactly what an “invasive species” is, and why we should care. There are four types of species that are not native to the area in which they live: Introduced, Exotic, Alien, and Invasive species. “Invasive” species are those that are both non-native while also having a negative effect on the ecosystem or economy that they have invaded. Potatoes, for example, are an introduced species that started in South America, and eventually spread to Europe and North America (1), but don’t have a negative effect (can you imagine a world with no French fries?). This means that potatoes are non-native and introduced, but not invasive because they don’t have a negative effect, and instead provide an economic benefit to the places they were introduced. On the other hand, there are a lot of weeds that are invasive species that can prevent us from effectively growing our crops! Species like Giant Hogweed have invaded and can cause major damage for our farmers and gardeners.
What negative effects an Invasive species can have depends a lot on the species in question. Often times, these species that are introduced to a new area, whether by boat, farming, gardening, or by accident, lack any predators in the new areas they find themselves in. Ecosystems need time to evolve to keep all of the species that live in them in check. Wolves have had a lot of time to evolve and hunt deer and buffalo, but they would struggle to hunt as effectively if all of a sudden, elephants took the place of those buffalo they were used to hunting. This is a dramatic example that probably would never happen, but it’s a useful way to describe how these ecosystem dynamics can change when a new species arrives. These invasive species can then take over entire ecosystems unchecked, causing immense damage. In fact, it is estimated that the spread of invasive species has contributed to the decline of 42% of the listed threatened and endangered species, and the damage done by them has cost the US an estimated $120 billion (2). Much of this cost is due to damage to agriculture, but these invasive species can have profound negative effects on ecosystems where the cost is harder to calculate, like lakes. To best describe invasive species and the damage they can do, I’ll tell you about three invasive species that each are very different from each other, but each pose a very significant threat to ecosystems in the US and around the world: Zebra Mussels, Varroa Mites, and the Emerald Ash Borer. Stay tuned until the end of the article for some suggestions about what you can do to help combat this problem and stay educated!
by Alyssa Leavy | Zoom Out Mycology
Why you should be sipping our carefully curated selection of teas all year long...
Image credit: Bashira Muhammad / Zoom Out Mycology
The fungus kingdom contains a wealth of diversity that humans have tapped into for thousands of years. The fruiting reproductive bodies of mycelium, i.e. mushrooms, serve many functions - as ingredients in our favorite dishes, as psychoactive substances, delicious tea, and medicine. However, the medicinal benefits of mushrooms are not exclusive to refined compounds found in pills and creams; you can improve your health by incorporating the right mushrooms into your diet. Whether or not you’re someone who brews a cuppa every chance you get (like yours truly), it could be time to make a routine of savoring these flavorful brews. Here at Zoom Out Mycology, we have four varieties of loose leaf teas that bring mushrooms into the mix, or nix tea leaves altogether. The result is earthy blends for every season with health incentives well worth the walk on the wild side.
Zoom Out has harnessed the power of three hearty mushrooms for our fungi fans. As Western research catches up to traditional Eastern medicine, more studies are backing beliefs about immunostimulation, antioxidant, anti aging and even anticancer properties (Researchgate). The potential health benefits of our teas are summarized in the table below. Read on to delve further into our blends and mycological heros, reishi, lion's mane, and maitake, to explore the magic within!
Image Credit: Alyssa Leavy / Zoom Out Mycology
Our Environmental Science blog strives to explain and expose environmental topics and concerns to a wide audience. We hope that this knowledge will help all of our readers embrace a healthy and sustainable lifestyle!