Who we are

SPUN is a non-profit, science-based initiative founded to map mycorrhizal 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 mycorrhizal fungal networks—and the services they provide—are a global public good, analogous to clean air and water.

Our Mission

Protect and harness the fungal networks that regulate the Earth’s climate and ecosystems

Map the mycorrhizal fungal networks of planet earth

Advocate for the protection of underground ecosystems

Drive innovation in underground climate and biodiversity science

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.

Team

Co-founder & Executive Director

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.
Managing Director & Board Advisor

Jason Cremerius

Jason is working with Toby and the board to create an organization and platform for scaling the impact of SPUN. Over two decades, Jason’s career has centered on building new mission-driven organizations that rewire legacy systems to benefit people and the natural world. He brings to this work his experience designing platforms for global enterprises, and advising startups and their investors from day zero through growth and venture scale exits. Recently, he co-founded b-theory—a venture studio focused on incubating startups in the climate space.

Lead Data Scientist

Dr. Michael Van Nuland

Michael Van Nuland is an ecologist and evolutionary biologist interested in the connections between plant and microbial biodiversity. He combines data science approaches with large-scale observations, controlled experiments, and molecular sequencing to explore how plant-microbe interactions shape species biogeography and broad ecological patterns. His work on the evolutionary dynamics and climate change responses in plant-microbe linkages received multiple awards from the National Science Foundation and from a variety of organizations dedicated to advancing soil ecology research.
Global Data and Sampling Coordinator

Dr. Bethan Manley

Bethan began studying underground fungal networks during a PhD at the University of Cambridge examining Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi and their genetic interactions with crop plants. She has since continued work on the genomics of symbiotic fungi as a PostDoctoral Researcher, and worked as a Senior Computer Biologist at the Sanger Institute, UK, on the Tree of Life Project that aims to sequence all eukaryotic species on Earth.
Science Communications Specialist

Rachel Pringle

SPUN’s science communications specialist, Rachel Pringle, has a BSc. from the University of North Texas and an MSc. from Leiden University. A biologist interested in mycological research and promoting interdisciplinary work, Rachel has carried out research with the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre using DNA metabarcoding to analyze grassland fungal diversity, and was part of a research group at the Centre of Applied Research for Art, Design and Technology, Den Bosch, studying mycelium-based biodesign. She is now the research manager at the Kiers Lab at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Data Scientist

Dr. Johan van den Hoogen

Bio coming soon!

Data Scientist

Justin D. Stewart

Justin has been researching microbes since 2014. Their research has taken them from rooftops and rainforest to better understand the biogeography of microbial symbiosis. During this time they have generated maps of where microbes are and why. Justin is currently working on their PhD in Evolution with Toby Kiers on the evolutionary ecology of underground networks. Their work has also extended into science communication with over 16K followers on their Twitter feed. Justin has the goals of mapping the underground for climate science and sustainability.

Lead, Expeditions Strategy & Planning

Adriana Corrales

Adriana Corrales is a forest ecology with a joint position as an Assistant Professor at the Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá. Her research focuses on the ecology and taxonomy of tropical ectomycorrhizal associations, and shifts in fungal community composition caused by biotic and abiotic factors. Her work has demonstrated key interactions between soil biogeochemical cycling, forest function, and ectomycorrhizal fungi in tropical montane forests.

Stephanie Flack

Senior Advisor, Partnerships

Eric Smith

Strategic Advisor

David Womack

Strategic Advisor

Jordan Young

Designer

Governing Board

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.

Photo: Jane Goodall Institute / Shawn Sweeney

Jeremy Grantham

Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and Chairman of GMO, LLC, and co-founder and director of The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment

Advisory Board

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

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE

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

Dr. 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.

Scientific Advisory Council

Dr. Bala Chaudhary

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

Dr. Colin Averill

Senior Scientist at ETH Zürich, scientific advisor at Plant for the Planet and RESTOR.

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. Leho Tedersoo

Research Director at the Mycology and Microbiology Center in University of Tartu, Estonia. Leho also initiated the Global Soil Mycobiome consortium.

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'

Dr. Thomas Crowther

Professor of Global Ecosystem Ecology at ETH Zurich, co-chair of the advisory board for the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.