Founder and CEO, Fungi Foundation (Fundación Fungi)
"Through observing our teachers, the fungi, we can learn to be better people, to accept cycles, the end of cycles, the beginning of others, to let things rot…we have to let things rot."
If you get just five minutes with Giuliana Furci, you’ll become a fan of fungi. Always smiling and enthusiastic about this under-recognized kingdom, Giuliana’s passion is contagious, and you’ll soon find yourself excitedly telling friends about how cool mushrooms really are.
“We have culturally evolved with fungi over millennia,” said Giuliana, founder of the Fungi Foundation, the first NGO dedicated to the fungal kingdom. “Wherever we look on Earth, and every civilization that we look into, we see uses of fungi being apparent, either for feeding, healing, clothing, and so much more. The nature-based solutions that fungi hold are overwhelming, and they're not new discoveries. There are ancient uses in this cultural coevolution that we must go back to.”
Giuliana was also the first female mycologist of non-lichenized fungi in Chile. She was self-taught for 16 years because there was nowhere for her to study fungi in Chile. “That's why the foundation was born: to help people find their ways if they wanted to do something with fungi,” she said. “I got hooked on one big mushroom I saw in a forest. I was 19, and I wanted to know who that mushroom was, and there was nowhere to look. That's how I decided I was going to write the first field guide.” Since then, she has written the Field Guides Fungi of Chile, volumes 1 and 2. She is also the co-author of titles such as “State of the Worlds Fungi” by Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, “Biodiversity of Chile, Heritage and Challenges” by the Ministry of the Environment of Chile, and the book “Fantastic Fungi” by Louie Schwartzberg and Paul Stamets, among others.
Giuliana’s favorite fungi are earthstars, which, she says, “are beautiful like Earth” and giant puffballs, which are edible when young, have medicinal value, and, when old, can be used as tinder to start a fire. “In one species, you have a fire-starter, medicine, and food. I just think that's one of the most noble species on Earth, in general,” she said.