This summer, I've been researching mushrooms! I'm specifically interested in the ways in which mycelium (the thin threads that grow into networks which eventually grow fruiting bodies, i.e. mushrooms) releases enzymes. Those enzymes allow them to break down surrounding material so that the mycelium can absorb nutrients from its environment. I'm curious if specific mushroom species can be bred to release stronger enzymes that can potentially break down plastics (Styrofoam, PET, etc.) and other substrates such as old newspapers, shredded papers, cardboard, and coffee beans.
So far, I have learned how to grow mushrooms, the various health and ecosystem benefits of mushrooms, as well as how the concept of circular economy is applied through aquaponics and vermicomposting (composting with worms!). Conversing with small business owners during our Saturday Farmer's Markets has also taught me the importance of supporting local businesses --- personally, I'd rather spend my money knowing it's going towards a family rather than the pockets of million-dollar corporations.
A note from her supervisor: "Alejandra is always ready and willing to jump in, specifically on any science-related task. She is never afraid to ask questions because she wants to be as knowledgeable on each topic as she can. Although she is technically an "education" intern, I am confident she could succeed in any program at Plant Chicago!" - Rock Evans, Education Manager
To learn more about Alejandra and our other summer 2021 interns, click here!