Rhode Island student's research casts doubt on previous ocean fungi discoveries

University of Rhode Island undergraduate Victoria Fulfer recently presented research calling into question previous research on discoveries of fungi in seafloor sediment outside of their normal habitats.

Fulfer's research looked at six research papers claiming to have discovered fungi not generally native to the ocean. Her research found that much of the fungi were normally found on human skin, in indoor environments created by humans, or on terrestrial plants or soil.

“I’m the first person to formally question the findings in these papers, so it’s a bit controversial,” Fulfer said. “But it’s definitely a concern that so many of the fungi have this human association. It makes us think that it could be that the samples collected for those papers were contaminated. It highlights the need for better quality control when collecting and handling the samples.”

Fulfer began her research at the encouragement of Professor Steven D’Hondt, a sub-seafloor life expert. She presented her research at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, which is the largest gathering of earth, ocean and space scientists in the world. 

She is currently writing a research paper on her findings and will submit it to a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

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