At the University of Illinois, there is a place called the Robert A. Evers Laboratory. Inside that building some pretty unbelievable things are happening! We met with Dr. Andrew Miller, a well known mycologist and a very cool researcher by the name of Tiffany Bone. At the Miller Laboratory, they study bacteria, fungi and mycelium.
This is a link to their website: http://wwx.inhs.illinois.edu/research/pi/amiller
At the lab, we were given a tour of the process of researching fungi and bacteria. Right now, they are researching new specimens from the bottom of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and Lake Erie. First they get the samples from the lake (which is being collected by a group at Grand Valley State University in Michigan) and begin to grow them to see what is there. They squirt a little of the sample on a petri dish that has either a potato or tea gel on the bottom. This helps it grow. Then they wait. There are hundreds of dishes with so many mold and bacteria samples!! Once there is growth, they do the most amazing thing: They extract the DNA!! We saw how it is done…. it was hard to imagine something so small being discovered. Once they find the DNA they try and match them to existing forms found. Everything logged, charted, and labeled so nothing is unorganized if they have to go back and look at it again. After they are done, they send it down to a chemical lab in Oklahoma where they do further testing. They are hoping to discover new forms of fungus to create new medicines…. just like penicillin did!
We also got to see their herbarium where they store thousands of dried fungus specimens (see photos!). It was hard to believe there were so many stored for just the right time when someone might need to use them.
The coolest part was understanding that they could see groups of DNA, all the mold types being grown and that even with all those kids, that there are still MORE to be discovered!!! Being a researcher is COOL!
Here is a link to one of Dr. Miller’s videos about fungus: