Fungi range from the familiar mushrooms and toadstools to microscopic moulds and yeasts; their study is known as mycology. Many fungi have hugely beneficial effects, for example in the production of medicines and food, but the purpose of this competition is to focus on fungi that cause harm. Here are some such common problem areas with specific examples of the materials or processes involved:
- Diseases of trees, e.g.ash, elm,oak, horse chestnut;
- Diseases of other plants, e.g. potato* cereals and grasses, coffee, ornamental plants;
- Diseases of insects, e.g. Honey Bee;
- Diseases of humans and other animals such as farm livestock, pets, fish, amphibians, e.g. skin, nails, lungs, central nervous system, ergotism;
- Food poisoning, e.g. aflatoxins and other mycotoxins, poisonous mushrooms;
- Food spoilage,e.g. fruit and vegetables;
- Deterioration of buildings, e.g.dry rot;
- Military activities, e.g. trench foot in the First World War (also at music festivals!), contamination of fuel tanks
* The Irish Potato Famine may be included for the purposes of this competition although the microbe involved is now not classified as a fungus.
Fearsome fungi: a report on the 2014 Annual MiSAC Competition
The aim of the 26th MiSAC Annual Competition was to develop an appreciation of the range of problems caused by fungi by producing an A3 poster to inform classmates of the involvement of one fungus of choice in a specific event which either was of historic importance or has been newsworthy in more recent times including the present day. Special sponsorship for this year’s competition was generously provided by the British Mycological Society (BMS) which, in addition, is one of MiSAC’s annual sponsors.
The competition was a great success. As usual, there were two entry groups: Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 (Secondary 1/2 and 3/4, respectively, in Scotland) which attracted entries from throughout the United Kingdom and, maintaining the international appeal of the competition, also from Eire and Belgium. There were 108 group entries from 92 schools and colleges (i.e. 16 presented entries to both entry groups, a larger number than last year), yielding some 580 separate entries (80% from the KS3 (S1/2) group) and, taking shared entries into account, involving more than 700 students. The continued growth in the number of establishments entering the competition for the first time is encouraging.
Members of MiSAC were joined on the judging panel by representatives of the competition sponsor: Dr Kay Yeoman, Chair of the BMS Fungal Education and Outreach Committee, Professor Anthony Whalley and Dr Margaret Whalley who is also a member of MiSAC. They faced an impressively wide range of entries that encompassed the full range of the provided list of suggested areas. Those most frequently chosen were food poisoning and diseases in humans, and spoilage and diseases of plants; diseases of amphibians and insects also featured strongly. Entrants who chose a problem associated with an historic event referred mainly to the Irish potato famine, the Witches of Salem (ergotism) and the First World War (trench foot) whilst those who focused on a more recent problem referred mostly to poisonous and psychedelic mushrooms, diseases of the skin (e.g. athlete’s foot) and lungs (e.g. farmer’s lung), and losses affecting bees, frogs, crops and trees (e.g. ash dieback).
The judges looked particularly for entries which adhered closely to the detailed specifications of the competition and showed an understanding of what makes a good poster. Money awards totalling £1,240 were made to 1st, 2nd and 3rd student prize winners and their establishments, in which connection MiSAC is most grateful to the competition sponsor for generously increasing the values of the student prizes from those advertised. In addition to the prize winners and those who were awarded a Certificate of High Commendation, all other student participants will receive a Certificate of Entry and each establishment some microbiology teaching resources provided by BMS. A fuller report on the competition will be sent with the certificates.
Whilst congratulating those who received awards, MiSAC warmly thanks all student participants for making the competition such a success and their teachers for their support for this important event in the school calendar. The competition topic is always linked to the National Curriculum but with requirements framed so as to draw students into exploring beyond its confines. We hope that students enjoyed the experience as well as having their interest in and understanding of microbiology stimulated, and we look forward to their participation in the next (27th) MiSAC competition to be sponsored by The Quekett Microscopical Club in the year of its 150th anniversary.
Key Stage 3 Secondary 1/2 Winners:
Key Stage 4 Secondary 3/4 Winners: