Sister Marie Kopin wins national award for amateur mycology

From left, sorting mushroom specimens at a table; group doing mushroom field experience at a Michigan Nature Association preserve in Clare County; David Rust, president of NAMA, presents Sister Marie with the Harry and Elsie Knighton award; contributed photos.

I feel honored, humbled, happy and encouraged to have received the national Harry and Elsie Knighton Service Award through NAMA, the North American Mycological Association, at the Oct. 13 awards ceremony during the Salem, Oregon Foray. It really was a surprise too! Thanks to those Michigan NAMA members who nominated me, and thanks to our Congregation and the many organizations in Michigan who have generously supported my teaching activities, field experiences and continued learning experiences with fungi.

I have done mycology since I was a little girl with my father, and the learning continues, adding the spirituality of the forests which I recently studied when a doctoral student explored with me some of the wisdom of our Creator, especially with networking in a forest. The mycelium of fungi provide the network with roots of trees and plants so they can grow, just as we humans network with all of life in God’s Creation, just as the symbol of the Blood of Jesus encourages.

The Harry and Elsie Knighton Service Award recognizes and encourages those who have distinguished themselves in service to their local mycology clubs. It consists of a plaque; publicity for the winner and club in The Mycophile; a one-year membership in the organization; and registration, housing and foray fees for the next NAMA Foray.

In my situation I started leading forays (educational field experiences) in the late 2000s and began teaching indoor classroom-type experiences in the 2010s. I was secretary of the Michigan club for eight years and co-sponsored many kinds of yearly events, including networking with:

I have also provided:

  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation 101 classes.
  • Educational programs in six state parks.
  • Educational events for six garden clubs.
  • “Brain training” workshop for the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters.
  • Activities at the annual environmental fair for Isabella County third grade classes.
  • Field experiences with fungi for children.

Now I am working with leaders of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, planning a series of events with them. Also, I have been interviewed by several radio stations and was videotaped this past spring for a WCMU public television program called Destination Michigan.

I also write many articles for our Michigan mushroom club state newsletter, Spores Illustrated; the NAMA newsletter; and our own Grassroots newsletter, and I am on the board of Midwest American Mycological Information (MAMI), preparing for licensing Michigan inspectors of wild foraged mushrooms by materials, classes and testing in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Agriculture. I have also mentored several future educational foray leaders.

Again, I thank the Creator for sending me on this fruitful fungal journey, and all who have assisted. Remember the motto “Mycologists Have More Fun-gi” and let us all enjoy and give thanks for our life here promoting, preserving and using God’s environmental creations here on earth. Remember, there is no real life without spirituality. Fungi help to clean up our environment; they have been used to remediate toxic waste pits and even break down nonbiodegradable plastics. Fungi are thought to be the first form of life and have been created to continue to support the scheme of life in God’s creation.

Story by Sister Marie Kopin

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