Mycology crucially contributes to our understanding of the threat fungi present for humans, plants and animals, as well as their role in ecology and environment diversity. David Hawksworth, Editor-in-Chief, and Wieland Meyer, President of the International Mycological Association, tell us more about the journal IMA Fungus, now publishing with BMC.
What makes this journal unique?
David: It is the official journal of the International Mycological Association providing, in addition to original research papers regarded as of wide interest to mycologists, reports and news or concerning activities of the IMA and member organizations, and also with the unique role as the place where proposals to modify the international rules on the naming of fungi must be published, as are lists of names for protection.
What does excite you most of your research activity and field?
Wieland: The beauty of fungi, their diversity in color and form are an art in itself. I work with both environmental and pathogenic fungi and both overlap. My work is directed towards understanding the spread of those fungi globally and this gets me in contact with a very diverse range of people in many places of the globe.
It excites me to be able to help to be part of a big picture, which hopefully helps to get better diagnostics and treatments of fungal infections, improving and saving lives. My work has a direct impact on the quality of human life.
David: The sheer enormity of fungal diversity. How little we know and what unexpected fungi turn up. When I make a microscope slide of some little black dot it is quite a thrill to see something no-one ever appears to have seen and described before, even after all my years of study.
What are the challenges and the future direction you envisage in the field?
Wieland: The greatest challenge is, that besides the raising threat that fungi present for humans, plants and animals they are largely ignored by governments and funding bodies globally, besides the fact that they cause big financial losses in agriculture and forestry and big financial burdens for the health care system.
I envisage that new technologies in genomics and proteomics will allow us in the near future to describe the vast majority of currently unknown fungi and enable us to develop easy, fast and affordable ways to identify and diagnose the agents of fungal infections. I see IMA Fungus as one of the ways mycology is gaining visibility.
How is the journal supporting the community of mycologists, and microbiologists more widely?
David: By providing news and comment on topical issues though editorials and reports, promoting stability in the application of names of fungi, and through the IMA, continuing to offer awards and support workshops and symposium worldwide.
Why open access?
David: As the IMA represents mycologists and mycological organizations worldwide, it is crucial to make research content freely available to all scientists in the field, as has been the practice from the start of the journal in 2010.
What are the main highlights and aims of the International Mycological Association?
David: The IMA is the global focal point for general mycology, with regional and national member organizations, and is recognized as such by the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS). It decides on the venues for the now four-yearly International Mycological Congresses, at which it presents medals and awards for established and early-career mycologists (the latter are awarded on a regional basis), and where appropriate campaigns on matters of concern to mycologists.
David Hawksworth has wide interests in the systematics, diversity, and ecology of fungi, especially ascomycetes (including lichen fungi), but also their overall classification and improvements in nomenclatural systems. Amongst other things, he pioneered the use of lichens as bioindication or air pollutants, showed what a rich source lichens were for associated fungi, demonstrated how species-rich a single site could be for fungi by field-work over several decades, and established the use of fungi in forensic investigations. He was involved in preparing three editions of the Dictionary of the Fungi, and is well-known as an editor of scientific journals and texts. David was the last Director of the International Mycological Institute, and now holds honorary research positions at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and The Natural History Museum London.
Wieland’s research focuses on the evolution, phylogeny, speciation, population genetics, genomics, molecular epidemiology, genotyping, and molecular identification of human pathogenic fungi, and the understanding of fungal pathogenesis on a molecular level. He leads an international research team investigating the global epidemiology of the Cryptococcus neoformans/C. gattii species complex, and also an international consortium of microbiology reference laboratories establishing a quality controlled fungal DNA barcode database as a basis for precision-based diagnosis and personalized medicine. He is head of the Molecular Mycology Research Laboratory at the Center for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at Westmead Hospital, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, and Professor for Molecular Medical Mycology in the Faculty of Medicine and Health and the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity at the University of Sydney, Australia.