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Meet the Funga Team: Caylon Yates

Get to know the Funga crew with this newest installment of our "Meet the Team" series. Come back monthly to meet more team members, hear about their journey to Funga, and understand their vital role in our community.

Caylon holding a mushroom found on one of our trial sites.

We’re big fans of the “Today I get to….” mentality. So, what do you get to do every day at Funga?

What I enjoy most about my role as Microbiome Scientist at Funga is the variety of ways in which I get to conduct primary research and apply that knowledge at-scale. Some days I am in the nursery collecting data on seedling growth and cataloging soil samples, other days I am traveling across the southeastern US, setting up field trials or collecting samples. Every day is a new adventure!

If you had to explain what Funga does to a third grader, what would you say?

Forests are home to a large underground world that helps the forest grow and survive. This underground world is full of microbes. We help young forests establish a healthy underground world to improve their growth.

Caylon and his wife Laura, with their new pup Twig.

Tell us a little bit about your life. How did it lead you to Funga?

I’ve always been interested in biology. When I was young, I was fascinated by every new fact I learned in my biology classes. I continued to pursue this interest in college, and became especially drawn to soil microbial ecology. I fell in love with the vast diversity of soil microbes, and the important function they served in their ecosystems. This led me to pursue research even further, and in 2023 I completed my PhD in Ecology at Penn State University.. Before graduating, I had become connected with Funga and was very excited about the opportunity to translate my interest in microbial ecology research into climate action. They offered me a job as soon as I finished my degree, and I have been communing with baby pine trees and soil samples ever since!

What is your favorite part of the job?

I love having the opportunity to work with an incredible team of people who are both kind and committed to Funga’s missions and values. Everyone on the team continually seeks to expand their knowledge base from soil ecology to carbon markets, and we all want to use that knowledge to create positive climate outcomes. 

What is one workflow/productivity tool or trick that you can’t live without?

My go-to productivity trick is constantly switching up where and how I work. Sometimes I work at home, sometimes in the office. Sometimes I’m indoors, sometimes I take my work outside. Sometimes I’m sitting, sometimes standing. A change of scenery always resets my energy levels and with a cup of tea it’s like starting the day fresh! 

What trivia round would you know every answer to?

Disney music or fantasy comics/graphic novels!

Can you share a favorite memory of/with the Funga team?

Caylon using a dibble bar to plant trees at our trial site near Athens, Georgia.

At a company offsite in winter 2022, the team planted one of our first trials in Georgia. The installation took longer than expected and near the end the last few seedlings were planted by cell phone lights. Even though we were all completely exhausted by the end, there was so much positive energy pouring from everyone. That trip highlighted how much easier tough work can be when everyone brings a positive mental attitude, and there’s plenty of it at Funga!

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