He’s a Fun-gi

by Courtney Wight '26 on November 10, 2023


There is hope for the future generation in 10-year-old Silas Claypool, who is passionate about the environment and our planet. Claypool, a Rhode Islander, made local news headlines for finding a species of mushroom new to the state. The mushroom, named Boletus billeae, or Billie’s bolete, had been previously discovered in nearby states like New York and Massachusetts. However, since the species is on a list of potentially threatened fungi, its discovery in Rhode Island is notable.

Deana Thomas, head of the Rhode Island Mycological Society, is very concerned about the health of fungi because they are a key part of the ecosystem. Fungi are decomposers, meaning they are responsible for breaking down material such as dead animals and returning the nutrients to the soil. Therefore, without a fungi population, nutrients are not able to be returned to the soil for other plants to use.

Claypool is just one example of a dedicated youth who desires to pursue a degree in mycology. Since fungi are understudied, many of their characteristics and purposes are unknown. These species need to be studied further since they are key players in the natural ecosystem. By learning more about how these organisms contribute to the environment, scientists can more accurately know how to protect these species from extinction. Like all other species, fungi have been affected by global warming and changing climates. However, while other organisms and their impacts have been studied in more depth, the domino effect of losing certain species of fungi is not known.