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The fungus among us: it's a bird, it's a plane, it's a mold spore!Featured science projectScience project video


Based on your results from this science project, what conclusions can you make about the types of food mold prefers to grow on? Do you think that mold has preferences for moisture content and acidity of the food it grows on? Do you think different types of mold have different substrate preferences (did different colors of mold appear on different food, or was all the mold of the same color?) If you were unable to grow mold on any of your chosen foods, why do you think you got this result (consider temperature, moisture level of air in your home)?

Questions & Answers

Can you think of examples of fungi that you have seen in your own home or while outdoors? Provide as detailed a description as possible of the fungi and where it was growing.

1. Anywhere the reader has seen mold, lichen or mushrooms grow. For example, I found mold growing on a fresh orange this morning, but I live in a warm, humid climate. There is also lichen on a tree in my yard. Sometimes mushrooms even sprout on shower walls. etc.

Describe three ways that fungi are different from plants?

2. Fungi have chitin in their cell walls, while plants have cellulose. Fungi are commonly detritivores so they can live in dark places, while plants undergo photosynthesis and require exposure to light. Like animals, fungi lack chloroplasts (organelle inside cells used for photosynthesis), but have cell walls like plants.

Make it Your Own

Preservatives are added to many foods in order to increase the shelf life. Calcium propionate is commonly used as a preservative in breads, specifically to inhibit mold, while sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative in dried fruit. Design your own experiment to compare the effectiveness of these two types of preservatives in inhibiting mold growth. First, obtain samples of bread with and without calcium propionate. Bread without preservative needs to be purchased fresh from a bakery. Check the label of shelf bread to ascertain whether it contains calcium propionate. If possible, also obtain dried fruit with and without sulfur dioxide. Follow the above procedure, recording your data and observations over a period of one week. You can also compare a couple of different brands of bread with calcium propionate.


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    Complexity level:
    Project cost ($):
    Time required:
    You will need time to set up your food samples, make daily observations of your food samples for one week, then graph and analyze your results.
    Material availability:
    The materials needed for this lab can be found at home.
    Safety concerns: