About SPUN

SPUN is a non-profit, science-based initiative founded to map fungal networks and advocate for their protection. In collaboration with researchers and local communities, we aim to accelerate efforts to protect the underground ecosystems largely absent from conservation and climate agendas. We propose that fungal networks—and the services they provide—are a global public good, analogous to clean air and water.

Our Mission

Map the fungal networks that help regulate the earth’s climate and ecosystems, and advocate for their protection

Principles
Scientific rigor

Advocate for change based on rigorous science.

Open data

Make all data publicly available and accessible.

Inclusive action

Build a diverse network of researchers and local communities.

Founders

Portrait of SPUN co-founders Dr. Toby Kiers and Dr. Colin Averill
Dr. Toby Kiers

Toby Kiers is a Professor of Evolutionary Biology and University Research Chair at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her lab uses nanoprobes and high-resolution imaging to map the nutrient flows and architecture of plant-fungal networks. She is globally-recognized for her scientific work in the evolution of symbiotic trade, and her public outreach activities, including a 2019 TED talk. Kiers won an Ammodo Award in 2019 for “unfettered science”, and was awarded the E.O. Wilson Award for Natural History in 2021.

Dr. Colin Averill

Colin Averill is a Senior Scientist at ETH Zürich where he and his team study the forest microbiome – how does microbial diversity affects which trees live in a forest, carbon sequestration, and climate change forecasts? He has won multiple awards from the Ecological Society of America, and held a NOAA Climate and Global Change Fellowship to incorporate global microbiology into climate change. He currently sits on the scientific advisory boards of global ecosystem restoration initiatives Plant for the Planet and RESTOR.

Founding Board Members

Photo of Rose Marcario
Rose Marcario

Rose Marcario has been one of the world’s most distinctive and innovative chief executives, a leader in responsible business and a champion for stakeholder capitalism. She is a venture partner with RegenVentures as well as a board member and advisor to environmental impact companies. Currently, a Board Member with electric adventure vehicle company Rivian, who recently made a historic commitment to nature by setting aside 1% of the $100 billion company’s equity for wilderness protection, making nature a permanent shareholder in the company. Marcario is the former President, CEO and Board Member of iconic outdoor company Patagonia Inc.

Mark Tercek

Mark Tercek is a conservation leader who focuses on private-sector led environmental problem solving. He advises companies, investment funds, and NGOs. He draws on his experience as CEO of The Nature Conservancy (2008-19) and as a Partner and Managing Director at Goldman Sachs (1984-2008). He is the co-author of the best-selling book Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

Advisors

Portrait of Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan is an American author and journalist. Pollan has written eight books, six of which have been New York Times bestsellers; three of them (including his latest, This Is Your Mind on Plants) were immediate #1 New York Times bestsellers. In 2009, Pollan was named one of the top 10 “New Thought Leaders” by Newsweek magazine. In 2010, he was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Pollan is currently the Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Portrait of Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and UN Messenger of Peace, is a world-renowned ethologist and activist inspiring greater understanding and action on behalf of the natural world. Jane’s work builds on scientific innovations, growing a lifetime of advocacy including trailblazing efforts through her international organization the Jane Goodall Institute which advances community-led conservation, animal welfare, science, and youth empowerment through JGI’s Roots & Shoots program. In 2021, Jane was the recipient of the Templeton Prize, and her newest book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, was published.

Photo: Jane Goodall Institute / Shawn Sweeney

Portrait of Merlin Sheldrake
Merlin Sheldrake

Merlin is a biologist and bestselling author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures. Merlin received a Ph.D. in tropical ecology from Cambridge University for his work on underground fungal networks in tropical forests in Panama, where he was a predoctoral research fellow of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Entangled Life won the Wainwright Prize 2021, and has been nominated for a number of other prizes, including the British Book Awards Book of the Year for Narrative Non-Fiction, the Royal Society Science Book Prize, and the Rathbones Folio Prize. Merlin is a research associate of the Vrije University Amsterdam and sits on the advisory board of the Fungi Foundation.

Portrait of Giuliana Furci
Giuliana Furci

Giuliana is the foundress and executive director of the Fungi Foundation. She is a Harvard University Associate, Dame of the Order of the Star of Italy, Co-Chair of the IUCN Fungal Conservation Committee, and author of several titles including a series of field guides to Chilean fungi and co-author of publications such as Fantastic Fungi. She is co-author of titles such as the 1st State of the World’s Fungi (Kew, 2018) and Biodiversidad de Chile: Patrimonio y Desafíos(Ministry of the Environment, Chile, 2008, 2016). Giuliana has worked in the non-profit sector for the last 17 years and has held consulting positions in U.S. philanthropic foundations as well as full-time positions in international marine conservation and Chilean environmental NGOs.

Startup Team

Jason Cremerius

Startup CEO

Stephanie Flack

Senior Advisor, Partnerships

Johan van den Hoogen

Data Scientist

Rachel Pringle

Science Communications Specialist

Merlin Sheldrake

Head of Science & Communications Strategy

Eric Smith

Strategic Advisor

David Womack

Strategic Advisor

Jordan Young

Senior Designer

Founding Donor

Research Partners

Crowther Lab
A-Life and Demonstrator Lab
Shimizu Lab

Startup Studio

b-theory

Science Advisors

Dr. Bala Chaudhary

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College, Expert on arbuscular mycorrhizas, and Thought leader on promoting antiracism in STEM.

Dr. Diana Wall

Director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability and Science, Science Chair of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative, Colorado State University, and member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Francis Martin

Distinguished Research Director at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) France, and leader of the Mycorrhizal Genomics Initiative and the 1000 Fungal Genomes project.

Dr. Marshall Burke

Deputy Director for the Center on Food Security and the Environment and Principal Investigator of the Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence Lab, Stanford University

Dr. Matthias Rillig

Professor of Ecology, Freie Universität Berlin and Director of the Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB)

Dr. Nancy Collins Johnson

Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Regents’ Professor at the School of Earth & Sustainability and Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University

Dr. Richard Bardgett

Professor of Ecology, The University of Manchester, UK, and author of Early Matters: How Soil Underpins Civilization

Dr. Suzanne Simard

Professor of Forest Ecology, University of British Columbia, and author of Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest