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The Chilean mycologist celebrating fungi’s “hidden kingdom

Furci was hiking through a temperate rainforest with an antenna strapped to her back in search of an elusive fox when she stumbled across the mushroom that would change her life. At the time she was a 19-year-old student on a field trip in Chiloé, a weather-beaten archipelago off the coast of Chile’s Lake District. Her job was to set up traps to capture Darwin’s foxes, tag these endangered creatures and then release them back into the wild.

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We were old school, so used radio telemetry to track them,” she said. “As I walked, I was passing so many mushrooms and a big orangey-red one on a tree stump caught my eye. I really wanted to know its name, but it was impossible to find out anything.” The lack of information about Chilean fungi hit Furci, who was studying aquaculture during this period, like a “lightning bolt”. “I suddenly thought, ‘This is what I’m going to do [with my life]’,” she said. “Nothing had happened previously with me and fungi, apart from trying psilocybin – magic mushrooms – at some point. But that wasn’t the reason. It was just this one mushroom in the forest.”

Since that moment in 1999, Furci has dedicated her life to studying, protecting and championing one of the planet’s most important but least-known group of organisms. She became Chile’s first female field mycologist (a biologist specializing in fungi), has written field guides and, in 2012

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