Retiree reveals ‘Alice in Wonderland world’ of P.E.I. microfungi


Studying mycology just takes a microscope and a lot of patience. (D. F. McAlpine/N.B. Museum)

A P.E.I. man has just published the Island’s first catalogue of microfungi, documenting more than 800 species including three that have never been identified anywhere else.

Microfungi are fungi, just as mushrooms are, but unlike mushrooms they are microscopic.

Adrian Carter is a retired pesticide regulator. He did his graduate work in mycology, which is the study of fungi. He returned to their study after he retired. The work doesn’t take much. Just a microscope and a lot of patience.

“They’re difficult to find.” said Carter.

Microfungi come in all kinds of shapes. (Adrian Carter)

He looked for the microfungi by examining the kinds of places that they like to live.

“An old stick or an old piece of something, some debris on the soil, and then examine it under the microscope. And then you find the things. You often don’t know what you have until you get it under the scope,” he said.

Microfungi play important roles in the environment, breaking down organic matter, forming symbiotic relationships with plants where they share resources, but also competing with one another.

“It’s like a whole world going on at the microscopic level that we don’t see,” said Carter.

There is a whole competitive world of microfungi under our feet. (Adrian Carter)

“A little Alice in Wonderland world, all sorts of interesting little shapes and sizes.”

Carter has published his work on his website (see link below). It includes photos of more than 80 of the species he found on the Island.

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