Stevani of the University of Sco Paulo leans in to collect a sample of bioluminescent fungi from the forests south of Sco Paulo, Brazil.
In addition to helping researchers decipher how and why mushrooms glow, Stevani is studying the bioluminescent fungi's ability to signal the presence of toxins in the soil. In the lab, his team has developed a procedure that shows that fungi emit less light when exposed to several metals and organic pollutants.
"In a near future we can use it to evaluate the toxicity of environmental samples of soil and sediments," Stevani said in an email to National Geographic News. The researcher also says that the fungi could serve as a tool for bioremediation (cleanup using living organisms) of contaminated soil.