Marek Scholarship Winners Share Their MONAMA 2022 Experiences

This year two winners of the Marek Scholarship went to the annual NAMA foray. It was held in Missouri, just outside of Potosi, where hundreds of NAMA members gathered at a lodge on a beautiful campground owned by the YMCA. There was so much to do and learn. We will let our members who won the scholarship to attend for the first time, share some of their highlights.

Ayah Mohammed, 2022 Marek Scholarship Recipient

During the 2022 NAMA Foray in Missouri, I had the opportunity to connect with many mushroom enthusiasts, and while I was nervous about being in a new environment with strangers, I have never felt more welcomed. The schedule was jam-packed with so many incredible lectures and workshops. I stayed in a cabin with a beautiful forest view.

Shiitake Log Inoculation Workshop

I participated in the Shiitake Log Inoculation Workshop with Mike Snyder, where I inoculated a log with Shiitake mushroom spawn, a method of inoculation that I had never done before. I was provided with sawdust spawn colonized with WR46 and a Black Oak tree log. The best part? I got to bring my log home- it was definitely worth transporting 500+ miles back home. In a few months, I’ll enjoy the fruits of my labor!

Watercolor Painting workshop with Benjamin Dennis

The Watercolor Painting workshop with Benjamin Dennis was inspirational. As an artist who has worked with acrylic paints before, I struggled initially as I am used to bold pigments and starting from dark to light as opposed to watercolor, where the pigment is translucent, and you start from light to dark. I learned several watercolor techniques to paint realistic mushrooms, and by the end of the workshop, I improved considerably. Watching Benjamin paint was a magical experience, and the session was therapeutic.


I got to explore mushrooms on a microscopic level with A. Miller and A. Methven during the Microscopy workshop. The last time I took a biology course was in High School, which might have been apparent because, at first, I thought I was looking at spores when it was just dust on the lens of the microscope…Oops! During the workshop, I learned the different parts of a microscope and its functions. I also learned useful skills in identifying mushrooms by their spores. I got to look at the spores of Old Man of the Woods and Chanterelle.

Petroglyphs at Washington State Park

On the way to the Washington State Park foray, I got a glance at the past when we stopped to check out petroglyphs on dolomite rock. Although it was mainly dry, I did manage to find some mushrooms. My favorite part of the foray was sharing what we had foraged among the group! I got to taste the delicious and creamy Pawpaw fruit for the very first time and even brought back seeds to propagate.

In the evening, the main lodge was filled with mycophiles. I got to meet so many amazing people with different backgrounds and build new relationships. I had important conversations regarding diversity in mycology. I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend the NAMA foray in Missouri, which wouldn’t be possible without the Marek Scholarship.

Heather Erickson, 2020 Marek Scholarship Award Recipient

The Early Bird Foray

There was so much to love about NAMA 2022 National Foray, starting with the first day. I rode down with John and Claudette Lamprecht, so we made sure we arrived in time for the Early Bird Foray. I am happy we did. It was probably my favorite. It was right on the lodge property. And we had a lot of great people that went for this hike which made it particularly informative. This is also where I gleefully found lots of Black Trumpets, which were already dehydrated due to how dry the weather had been. This saved us a lot of work, and they were everywhere on this foray.


While the drought made it tough to bring home baskets full of edibles, there was still a lot of variety to be found. The I Naturalist app was quickly adopted by the foray attendees.

As of 12/16/2022, I Naturalist says that for the NAMA 2022 Project, 83 observers made 1402 observations, and of those observations, there 310 species were identified by 72 identifiers.


Still life of a polypore on a stick from watercolor class by Heather Erickson

I learned a lot from all of the classes and speakers, but my personal favorite was Watercolor Painting with Denis Benjamin. I hadn’t painted since I was young, so it was wonderful to try again. I remembered how fun it was to try to recreate something on paper.

The teacher was very encouraging. His philosophy is that we do the best we can, but it is art, not the real thing, so it is nice to let the viewer fill in some of the details themselves as they engage with it. I had never thought of it that way before. This mindset is a great way to eliminate perfectionism from your art. And when you paint, constantly trying to improve the painting can sometimes cause trouble. The instructor recommended that you stop painting before you think it is time to stop.

His wife also assisted in the classroom. She was equally encouraging. When she saw my painting, she stopped and said, “This isn’t your first time.” I told her it had been about a quarter of a century. She said, “I hope this inspires you to take it back up.” I think I might. Especially with the winter months approaching.

The NAMA Community

After having some time to reflect on it, I would say that the most valuable part of the NAMA Foray was the community. Some members of that community were people I knew from our club. I was pretty proud to learn that the MMS had the close to, if not the most, members in attendance of any club.

We are also very fortunate to have some pretty amazing members like Kathy Yerich, who won the 2022 Harry and Elsie Knighton Service Award. This award is presented to one person at NAMA each year for their service to their local club. It was well deserved.

John Lamprecht was diligent in observing as many mushrooms as possible. In fact, he made the most observations of any NAMA member at NAMA 2022. But even more important, he also helped other NAMA members who were new to I Naturalist get comfortable using the app and making observations.

I got to meet many other great people at the foray. Some were people whose names I have seen in newsletters, emails, and magazines for years but had never met in person. They were all so down to earth and, like John, were generous with their time and their knowledge. I think that is something that can be said for most people who are interested in mycology. So long as we don’t have to tell you our secret foraging spots, we will tell you just about anything else you want to know.

Consider Going to NAMA

If you get an opportunity to go on a regional or national NAMA Foray– I highly recommend you take it! I had that opportunity thanks to the Marek Scholarship. I am so grateful for the opportunity the scholarship gave me to experience the NAMA Foray for the first time. If you have never been to the NAMA Foray, consider applying for the scholarship.