Aileen Baird. Photo provided by Aileen Baird
Aileen Baird. Photo provided by Aileen Baird

Aileen Baird is a fungal ecologist, with a particular interest in forest fungi. I’m currently in the 3rd year of her PhD at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, where she’s investigating the impact that increasing the carbon dioxide concentrations in the air has on fungal populations in our oak forest. You’ll find her tweeting @alienbaird about her research, any and all mushrooms she finds in her everyday life, and trying to convince everyone that mushrooms really are amazing!

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early Bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?


4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

I have various mushroomy ornaments that I’m acquiring! I’d love to do more mushroom themed decor when I move out of short term rentals into somewhere more permanent!

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

French…. fairly badly now! I studied French for a number of years, but I’ve not really spoken it for 6+ years so I’m getting very rusty.

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

Something in the world of professional cycling- I don’t think I’ve got the legs to be an athlete myself, but working behind the scenes would be cool!

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Sport/exercise science or Nutrition (maybe a combo of the two!)

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Can I have a European Interrail pass instead?

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?


12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Listen- Scary Pockets, otherwise I’m a sucker for film soundtracks.
Watch- by far the best thing I’ve watched recently is Stranger Things!

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Go for a bike ride (with a coffee & cake stop)- I’m loving mountain biking adventures at the moment, but I also ride on the road.
If its the winter- hot bath, roast dinner, film on the sofa with my partner.
If its the summer- fish & chips eaten outside!

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Friends, cycling, sleep!

15 What beverage gives you life?

Cloudy lemonade

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

Harry Potter series was a big defining part of my childhood. Otherwise, Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?


18 What drives you and keeps you going?

Seeing other people’s passion for their subject, new scientific discoveries happening every day!

19 What got you excited in science?

My first proper passion was human biology- finding out all the inner workings of people was amazing!

20 What excites you about science now?

I just love fungi. They’re really cool, we know hardly anything about them, and I get to be a small part of the scientific community that is finding out new stuff all the time. Also, I love being able to see positive scientific stories in the news which can often be very sad and frustrating.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Why feel guilty about something that gives you pleasure?

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I can bake cakes without scales or a recipe. I also recently learnt how to ride no handed on my bike!

23 What is your favorite game?


24 What is the last book you read?

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Do the things that actually interest you, not the things you think others want you to do.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Travel to more places!

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Go out and meet more people!

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Cycling (notice the theme yet…), cooking without a time limit!

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Jane the Virgin (Series 1, Episode 1)

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

I hand delivered a 96 well plate of DNA samples to a lab on the other side of the UK once. Otherwise I frequently have soil & mushroom samples in my bag, but I don’t think that’s especially weird- I’ve seen many a weirder one on Twitter! The worst one was the stinkhorn mushroom which stunk even after I quadruple bagged it. I ended up freezing it for the journey home because it was so bad.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Quokkas & tardigrades

32 What is your favorite book?

For most read favourites I’d have to go anything in the Harry Potter series. Otherwise I’d probably pick Birdsong- extremely sad but extremely good.

33 What is your favorite comfort food?


34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Summer solstice!

35 What is your favorite plant?

Oak trees & then any other plant that makes delicious fruits (apples & raspberries are high up on that list)

36 What is your favorite science fact?

The biggest organism on the planet is a fungus

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Petrichor – The smell of freshly dampened earth when it first starts to heavily rain after a long dry spell

39 What is your favorite sound?

Waves breaking on a beach. A forest.

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I’m approachable

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?


42 What is your proudest moment?

Graduating my Masters degree.

43 What kind of tree would you be?


44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Birmingham is a wonderfully diverse city with lots of cultures, it’s also right in the Midlands so its easy to get to other places in the UK, and also it’s pretty easy to get out into some beautiful countryside.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

There are more species of fungi than there are species of plants!

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Adriana @fungi_lover