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Exploring Space via Astromycology: A Report on the CIFAR Programs Earth 4D and Fungal Kingdom Inaugural Joint Meeting

Case, Nicola T. and Song, Min and Fulford, Avery H. and Graham, Heather V. and Orphan, Victoria J. and Stajich, Jason E. and Casadevall, Arturo and Mustard, John and Heitman, Joseph and Sherwood Lollar, Barbara and Cowen, Leah E. (2022) Exploring Space via Astromycology: A Report on the CIFAR Programs Earth 4D and Fungal Kingdom Inaugural Joint Meeting. Astrobiology, 22 (6). pp. 637-640. ISSN 1531-1074. PMCID PMC9233531. doi:10.1089/ast.2021.0186.

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“Fungi on Mars!”: a popular news heading that piques public interest and makes scientists' blood boil. While such a statement is laden with misinformation and light on evidence, the search for past and present extraterrestrial life is an ongoing scientific effort. Moreover, it is one that is increasingly gaining momentum with the recent collection of martian rock cores from Jezero Crater by NASA's Perseverance rover. Despite the increasingly sophisticated approaches guiding the search for microbial life on other planets, fungi remain relatively underexplored compared to their bacterial counterparts, highlighting a gap between the astrobiological and fungal research communities. Through a meeting in April 2021, the CIFAR Earth 4D and Fungal Kingdom research programs worked to bridge this divide by uniting experts in each field. CIFAR is a Canadian-based global research organization that convenes researchers across disciplines to address important questions facing science and humanity. The CIFAR Earth 4D: Subsurface Science & Exploration and Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities research programs were launched by CIFAR in July 2019, each made up of approximately two dozen international researchers who are experts in their fields. The Earth 4D program, led by co-directors John Mustard (Brown University, USA) and Barbara Sherwood Lollar (University of Toronto, Canada), aims to understand the complex chemical, physical, and biological interactions that occur within and between Earth's surface and subsurface to explore questions on the evolution of planets and life. The Fungal Kingdom program, led by co-directors Leah Cowen (University of Toronto, Canada) and Joseph Heitman (Duke University, USA), seeks to tackle the most pressing threats fungi pose to human health, agriculture, and biodiversity and to harness their extraordinary potential. The programs met to explore areas for synergy within four major themes: (1) the origins of life; (2) the evolution and diversification of life; (3) life in diverse and extreme environments; and (4) extinction: lessons learned and threats. This report covers the research discussed during the meeting across these four themes.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Case, Nicola T.0000-0001-7692-3424
Song, Min0000-0002-3291-0282
Fulford, Avery H.0000-0001-8011-3360
Orphan, Victoria J.0000-0002-5374-6178
Stajich, Jason E.0000-0002-7591-0020
Casadevall, Arturo0000-0002-9402-9167
Mustard, John0000-0003-2509-0287
Heitman, Joseph0000-0001-6369-5995
Sherwood Lollar, Barbara0000-0001-9758-7095
Cowen, Leah E.0000-0001-5797-0110
Additional Information:© 2022, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. Submitted 22 November 2021; Accepted 22 January 2022. Published Online: 8 Jun 2022. We thank CIFAR for their support and funding, and the CIFAR program Earth 4D: Subsurface Science & Exploration and Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities advisors and fellows for their valuable suggestions on the manuscript. J.M. and B.S.L. are Co-Directors of the CIFAR program Earth 4D: Subsurface Science & Exploration. L.E.C. and J.H. are Co-Directors of the CIFAR program Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities. N.T.C. is supported by an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. J.H. is supported by NIH R01 grants AI39115-24, AI50113-17, and AI133654-04. L.E.C. is supported by CIHR Foundation grant FDN-154288, NIH grants R01AI127375 and R01AI120958, and a Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Microbial Genomics & Infectious Disease.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)UNSPECIFIED
Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and UniversitiesUNSPECIFIED
NIHR01 AI39115-24
NIHR01 AI50113-17
NIHR01 AI133654-04
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)FDN-154288
NIHR01 AI127375
NIHR01 AI120958
Canada Research Chairs ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Fungi; Subsurface; Origin; Evolution; Extinction; Extreme environments
Issue or Number:6
PubMed Central ID:PMC9233531
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220304-60741000
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Exploring Space via Astromycology: A Report on the CIFAR Programs Earth 4D and Fungal Kingdom Inaugural Joint Meeting. Nicola T. Case, Min Song, Avery H. Fulford, Heather V. Graham, Victoria J. Orphan, Jason E. Stajich, Arturo Casadevall, John Mustard, Joseph Heitman, Barbara Sherwood Lollar, and Leah E. Cowen. Astrobiology 2022 22:6, 637-640; DOI: 10.1089/ast.2021.0186
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:113744
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:07 Mar 2022 19:55
Last Modified:12 Jul 2022 18:18

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