Position: Science Team Leader, Biosystematics, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research.
Field: Biodiversity, conservation and ecology of New Zealand fungi.
Dr Peter Buchanan is a scientist with a long-standing passion for the study of New Zealand fungi and a desire for others to value these amazing and often overlooked organisms. Following his studies in botany and mycology (study of fungi) at the University of Auckland, Peter was employed by DSIR to study a fungal disease of pasture grass. Later, he undertook postgraduate training in the Netherlands to research wood decay fungi.
Peter now works for Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research as a Science Team Leader with a team of science colleagues who collectively study the native and introduced plants, insects, other invertebrates, fungi and bacteria of New Zealand. Peter's research interests are the biodiversity, conservation and ecology of New Zealand fungi, especially those causing wood decay and diseases of native plants. In 2013 Peter contributed to research to assess the potential of 8 fungi for medicinal use. This research is summarised in the article Antibacterial mushrooms.
He has contributed to several books on New Zealand fungi. In 2004, he was awarded the Science Communicator of the Year award from the New Zealand Association of Scientists. He is a regular contributor and organiser for the annual New Zealand Fungal Foray, now in its 23rd year. He also promotes public appreciation of urban biodiversity through Auckland BioBlitz events, where, during a 24-hour period, scientists work with the public to record as many species as possible of our flora, fauna and fungi.
Peter is actively involved in science outreach. Learn about one of the student projects he has contributed to in Healthy homes, healthy futures.
This article is based on information current in 2009 and updated in 2018.
Dr Buchanan has worked with te reo translators to write Ngā Hekaheka o Aotearoa, a teacher guide to support the student booklet on Fungi. The aim is to provide a resource on science in Māori language for students Years 7-10, from a 'Māori world view'. The subject matter of the student booklet aims to describe the form, function and importance of fungi followed by examples of Māori knowledge and uses of fungi. It allows students to draw a distinction between fungi, plants and where it sits in the ecosystem.
The Science Learning Hub has adapted these materials to provide online versions in both English and te reo Māori. A list of the links for the resources is summarised in Ngā Hekaheka o Aotearoa – kuputaka.
Hear Dr Buchanan talking about his work in this interview on Radio New Zealand - The hidden world of fungi and traditional Māori uses.
Read the 2016 New Zealand Science Association of Science Educators interview with Peter and learn some Forgotten fungal facts.