The scent of the prized Périgord truffle is somewhere 'between sex and death', according to one Australian forager. This fungus vies with Iranian caviar as one of the most expensive foods in the world. Australia’s costly culinary predilections have driven a significant European truffle-growing industry since the 1990s.

Throughout history, fungi have confounded with their strange odours and appearances, peculiar habitats and dubious connotations. Across continents and languages, humans are sharply divided in their regard for fungi, with some cultures revering them and others subjecting them to the wrath of a reckless kick across the paddock.

Yet without fungi, life as we know it would be radically different. Fungi regulate the biosphere and support the earth’s ecological functioning. They provide us with food, wine and medicine. However, in the English-speaking world, the exceptionally few mushrooms with the capacity to dismantle human organs have received disproportionate attention. Centuries of mythologies and misunderstanding take time to unravel and redress.

In this talk Alison will delve deep into fungal realms, showcasing the aesthetics of these perplexing yet enchanting organisms, and explore some of their natural and cultural curiosities.

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Dr Alison Pouliot is an ecologist, environmental photographer and honorary fellow at the Australian National University. Her research spans both northern and southern hemispheres where she is actively involved in fungal conservation and ethnomycology, conducting over 400 fungus workshops and forays over the last two decades.

Alison’s recent book, The Allure of Fungi (CSIRO Publishing) explores the natural and cultural curiosities of the fungal realm. Her new book (co-authored with mycologist Tom May) is the first field guide to edible fungi in Australia will be published later this year. More information is available at www.alisonpouliot.com

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