A world expert on fungi is to meet with the Australian Federal Police to discuss how pollen and fungal spores can be used in crime fighting.
From mildew to mushrooms, fungi already have a vital role in food security, the health of native plants and human disease. They are now playing a role in forensic police work.
David Hawksworth, the honorary president of the International Mycological Association, will this week have an unlikely audience with the AFP, and says fungi can be used to help tackle crime.
"Basically the people pick up traces of pollen and so on as they move around, and fungal spores as they move around, and these act as a sort of fingerprint for the place where people have been, connecting people and places with individuals or bodies or whatever," he said.
"My wife, Dr [Patricia] Wiltshire, has used it now in about 150 cases. I have been involved in about 20 and in every one it has been very satisfactory.
"Often we actually get confessions from the people involved."
But there is so much more to learn.
Professor Hawksworth says fungi research is often underestimated.
"It's really quite dire in that the Australians have estimated there may [be] a quarter of a million species in Australia but they only actually have so far documented about 15,000," he said.
He says finding and naming fungi is very important.
"So much food production is actually lost through pest and diseases and it is reckoned that probably about 40 per cent of world production is just lost through ravages of fungi and insects while the crops are growing," he said.
"And also while things are in storage and shipping and so on and also if diseases do arise, they need to be recognised early before they spread too far so you need to have these organisms documented so they can be recognised."
Professor Hawksworth says historically mycology has been overlooked by the science research community, often absorbed into botany when it should be regarded as a mega-science itself.
"The idea of the mega-science is where you need a lot of collaboration between different bodies to actually get things done," he said.
"We have such gaps in knowledge about very important things of concern at the moment to do with things like global climate change and carbon sinks and so on, and there is virtually no information about what the situation is with fungi and what might actually happen as things change.
"The volume potentially involved with some of these is so enormous that these are factors that really need to be taken account into models that are produced for things like global climate change."