Beneath our feet
by Malcolm King & Abby Granath
Endophytic fungi are a type of fungi that live inside plants and can help them get nutrients and water when they’re in need. Most land plants form a symbiotic relationship with these fungi, especially plants in hot and dry environments. Like humans, fungi eat carbon-based food. In exchange for the energy-full carbon that the plants make via photosynthesis, the fungi provide nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that help plants thrive. As ecosystems are continuing to become more stressful with climate change, the relationships between these fungi and their plant hosts are likely to change also. Understanding how these fungi respond to things like increasing temperatures and increasing drought can help us better understand how plants will also respond with their fungal partners. These beneficial fungi can be introduced to plants sensitive to climate change, such as crops and essential native plants.
Our piece utilizes microscopic imaging and illustration processed through screen print to create a visual representation of fungi’s importance and omnipresence in the world beneath our feet. The fungal species were cultured from the roots of plants and grown on individual agar plates. To highlight the textural aspects of mycelium, the inter-connected cellular web that fungi form, we gathered a series of images of these endophytic fungi through a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). Contrast and organic repetition determined which image was used in the final composition. The illustration component represents endophytic fungi’s symbiotic relationship with plants, providing essential nutrients to their root systems. By utilizing multiple mediums, we hope to engage viewers regardless of their prior knowledge or pedagogical preference. Mycology, illustration, and screen print are our tools for creating inclusive gateways for learning.