Researchers horsing around with FUNgi

Have you ever thought about what’s in the food you’re eating? Have you ever wondered if there was anything that could grow in your food? With the food health and safety regulations, there’s no need to wonder. But what if you were a horse?

Three senior high school students are finding the answers to exactly that - are there fungi present in horse supplements due to improper storage and handling? Sabina Mangat, Charlene Jee and Darcey Thompson are currently conducting scientific research at the King’s School alongside researcher Emma Winley from Quantal Bioscience to unearth the truth from the haystack.


At the Future Project, this team has investigated the presence of a specific fungi called xerophiles. These fungi love dry environments, which can be dried out by sugar and salt. The students have sampled horse supplements and put them on sugar agar plates where fungi have sprouted beautifully. The equestrian sport and equine food industries benefit from this research as horse supplements are made of predominantly high sugar and salt based ingredients. The improper conditions some horse owners may be keeping their food in, such as high moisture environments when food is not properly sealed or kept in unsuitable packaging, can lead to the presence of fungi resulting in potential health complications. Through this investigation, horse owners can become aware of the impacts of improper storage of their horse’s food.


In the midst of research, they were alarmed to find that there were so many gaps in knowledge on salt-based media. So, they set out on a new mission: to expand the scientific knowledge on salt chemistry. From horse supplements to salt chemistry, what a wild ride! “The more we know, the more we realise we don’t know,” which the students have uncovered throughout their endeavours as budding scientists. Will they become the future problem solvers of our world? Well at yeast they’ll try!


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