Deep Connections: How Bioneers Helped Grow Mycologist Paul Stamets’ Reach

Deep Connections: How Bioneers Helped Grow Mycologist Paul Stamets’ Reach

By developing vast, interconnected networks of great leaders and innovators year after year, Bioneers co-founders Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons have tweaked the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” As the Bioneers community has proven time and again, it’s both what you know and who you know that matters.

Paul Stamets, world-renowned mycologist, author and founder of retailer Fungi Perfecti, credits Bioneers with growing his web of life-changing connections. And it is connections, both human and subterranean, that have formed the foundation of Stamets’ career.

A Biological Network

One of the world’s foremost fungi experts, Stamets has spent more than 40 years studying mushrooms and the intricate underground fungal networks called mycelium. Mycelium play an indispensable role in Earth ecosystems—supporting above-ground fungi but also decomposing organic matter, helping plants absorb nutrients and enabling trees in forests to communicate and share resources. Stamets’ research has enhanced our understanding of these networks, which he refers to as “Earth’s natural internet,” and he sees parallels between this work and the interconnected Bioneers community. He was first introduced to Bioneers in the ’90s when Simons and Ausubel discovered his research and invited him to his first Bioneers conference; a few years later, Stamets received the 1998 Bioneers Award from the Collective Heritage Institute.

“The Bioneers community is great at calling out leaders in their respective fields, many of whom are working independently and unaware of each other,” Stamets says. “By knitting us together as a community, Bioneers does something quite remarkable…Bioneers is creating this biological network of like-minded individuals with very different skillsets. The skillsets are highly complementary. It’s created a symbiosis that I think is leading to some paradigm-shifting changes for the good at a time when we desperately need big solutions.”

The Magic of Mushrooms

In Bioneers, Stamets found an ideal outlet through which to share his findings and connect with people who have inspired him in his work. These connections have helped him spread the word about his research and some of the truly magical and restorative capabilities of fungi.

Take, for example, Stamets’ experimentation with oyster mushrooms. Most home chefs are familiar with these mushrooms’ culinary value. But in the late 1990s, Stamets was able to show that they had incredible chemical-digesting capabilities, too. Recruited by a national laboratory searching for innovative ways to clean up environmentally devastating oil spills, Stamets covered chemical-laden soil with myceliated wood chips. Within weeks, oyster mushrooms coated the soil, which had returned to its normal color and odor and become a haven for birds and plants. Studies showed the soil had been largely decontaminated.

Stamets has also found some mushrooms to be a promising defense against smallpox and the flu and also effective in certain types of pest control. One of Stamets’ most promising projects is related to colony collapse disorder: the widespread death of honeybee colonies in recent years. Stamets’ research has found that feeding specific mushroom extracts to mite-infected honeybees reduced viruses and increased the bees’ lifespans. The USDA is reviewing commercial use of the extracts.

Networks Built on Networks

It’s the development of community and the solutions Bioneers fosters that have garnered founders Ausubel and Simons the 2017 Goi Peace Award, “an international award presented annually to honor individuals and organizations in various fields that have made outstanding contributions toward the realization of a peaceful and harmonious world.”

For more than three decades, Ausubel and Simons have led Bioneers, an organization that has come to be known for its knack in identifying inspirational minds and giving them a platform from which to speak and connect. From that platform and the networks it’s enabled, dozens of groundbreaking ideas have become a reality.

Like the ancient mycelia Stamets studies and works to protect, the Bioneers network is valuable in its ability to breathe possibility into those it touches. “Having this community of voices that are multicultural, multigenerational, it speaks to why the biodiversity of our cultures is so important,” Stamets says. “It’s really refreshing to meet so many people from different ethnic backgrounds and see that we have a lot more in common than our differences.”

Read about Bren Smith, another successful Bioneer: 3D Ocean Farming’s Accelerated Success Through the Bioneers Community.

Paul Stamets’ 2015 Bioneers Keynote

Stay up-to-date on what world-changing Bioneers like Paul Stamets are accomplishing by signing up for our newsletter.

Latest Media

  • Engage
  • Our Mission

    Bioneers is a fertile hub of visionaries and innovators who are developing practical solutions for the world's most pressing environmental and social challenges.

This is your last chance to purchase discounted tickets to the 2018 Bioneers Conference before prices increase for good.
[wpdevart_countdown text_for_day="Days" text_for_hour="Hours" text_for_minut="Minutes" text_for_second="Seconds" countdown_end_type="time" end_date="17-09-2018 23:59" start_time="1537213426" end_time="15,11,13" action_end_time="hide" content_position="center" top_ditance="10" bottom_distance="10" ][/wpdevart_countdown]
Time is Running Out!
Thousands are gathered right now for the 2018 Bioneers Conference in California. And you're part of the community too - the inspiration and solutions found at Bioneers extend far beyond our annual event! Join thousands upon thousands more by signing up for our email list! You'll receive weekly messages from our community of worldwide innovators and problem solvers, sharing their work and how you can be involved in their efforts. Turn inspiration into action with Bioneers.
PGlmcmFtZSB3aWR0aD0iNTYwIiBoZWlnaHQ9IjMxNSIgc3JjPSJodHRwczovL3d3dy55b3V0dWJlLmNvbS9lbWJlZC9QVGpIRnJjYzFSQT9zdGFydD03JmNvbnRyb2xzPTAmc2hvd2luZm89MCIgZnJhbWVib3JkZXI9IjAiIGFsbG93ZnVsbHNjcmVlbj48L2lmcmFtZT4=
We’re living in a thriller that only reality could write. The challenges we face are daunting. But hope is within reach. Bioneers throughout the world are digging in and creating big solutions. The Bioneers network of innovators is vast, and a mighty portion of that network will be joining us at Bioneers 2018 in just a week and a half.

Join us, hear from those who are uncovering Pathways Forward, and be inspired.
Invest In Change! Bioneers Receives Challenge Grant
Starting today, our generous friends at Honeycomb Portfolio have made a heroic investment in Bioneers and are matching donations, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000! Double the impact of your support by giving today! Honeycomb Portfolio is a female-founded fund led by Bioneer Azita Ardakani, which invests in early-stage, nature-inspired, for-profit social enterprises. Support with Venmo or Paypal by giving to donate@bioneers.org or click the button below.