Get to Know: Toby Kiers

And why she believes fungi hold the key

We have a new feature here at The Instigator! 

Many of you have asked me who I think is doing interesting work that we can learn from. There’s so many to list, but I didn’t want to just name names. I wanted to give you an inside view.

So in our new occasional interview series, I’ll introduce you to some of the folks I work with and admire a lot. I hope these snapshots and diverse perspectives will inspire readers in thinking about how they can make a positive impact too. 

So without further ado.. 

Meet Toby Kiers

Who knew that fungal networks were responsible for massive nutrient movement underground? Toby Kiers does, and she’s making the world appreciate the beauty and complexity of underground ecosystems. Toby is my friend, a Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Executive Director of SPUN, a new non-profit working to protect and harness the fungal networks that regulate the Earth’s climate and ecosystems. She is widely published in peer-reviewed journals such as Science and Nature, was named by TIME as an emerging leader of 2022, and is the 2023 recipient of the Spinoza Prize — the highest scientific award in the Netherlands – for her work decoding complex nutrient flow patterns in fungi.

I admire Toby and SPUN very much of course. Therefore I am thrilled to serve as Board Chair and serve with fellow board members Rose Marcario and Jeremy Grantham. Toby and I have even written here about SPUN’s work before.