Research Volunteer Spotlight: How mushrooms change lives

March 9, 2010 Vera Evenson , Mycology Curator

A great quote I heard lately,   “ The first person served by Service is the Server,”   perfectly exemplifies the impact the Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi has had on our decades-long volunteer, Rosa-Lee Brace. Sam Mitchel, the founder of our mycology herbarium in 1965, inspired Rosa-Lee to study fungi during those early years and to become an expert and teacher of the Ascocmycetes and other mushrooms. Along with her husband Bob, this dedicated pair repowered the mycology collection by spending thousands of volunteer hours retroactively and meticulously going through thousands of specimens in the collection, boxing, assessing photos and correcting errors and updating the taxonomy.  The needs of a mushroom collection that they knew and loved provided this goal for them in their later years to do this great work.  They both felt valued.  They both knew they were doing a work that would be here for decades and decades.  They honored their friend Sam Mitchel. In their intense investigation of the mycoflora of the Wheat Ridge Greenbelt, Bob and Rosa-Lee discovered a very unusual puffball.  After years of collecting and studying this unusual mushroom, they showed it to world-renowned specialist Dr. Orson Miller who declared it a new subspecies of Mycenastrum.  The discovery was announced to the world in a fine article in Mycologia, a peer-reviewed journal in 2005, with Rosa-Lee as co-author; it was highlighted by Rosa-Lee’s amazing photomicrographs of the taxon. After the passing of Bob last year, our herbarium still provides a place where Rosa-Lee is honored for her expertise and sought after for her wisdom.  She considers it a sanctuary as well as a place to express her need for service. Rosa-Lee was honored last year with the prestigious Bernice "Pete" Peterson Award for exceptional volunteer service to the Gardens.  Her contributions equal over 7,500 hours, and between her and her husband Bob, were the equivalent of over 5-1/2 years of full-time service. If you are interested in the academic study of mycoflora, please contact us to explore volunteer opportunities.


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