It’s no small feat to get into the Book of World Records, but a Central Community College-Columbus alum and a CCC intern have managed to secure a spot in the famous collections of firsts and bests.
A mycelium boat has landed Katy Ayers, who is furthering her education at Washington State University, and William “Ash” Gordon, an intern in the CCC environmental sustainability office, a spot together for “Longest fungal mycelium boat.”
The boat – dubbed “Myconoe” – is made of vegetative part of a fungus (mycelium). Creating building and other usable material from fungal mycelium is an emerging science.
One notable use is substituting fungal mycelium for plastic foam packaging.
At one point in its growth process, the fungus can be manipulated into specific shapes. That is exactly what Ayers and Gordon did with their 2019-made creation, Gordon explained.
“We took oak slats of wood, and we steamed them and bent them into the shape of the canoe and basically created a skeleton.”
Ayers used that skeleton to create a mold out of paper mache. Eventually the form was filled with spawn, consisting of fungi carefully selected by Gordon, who is also owner of Nebraska Mushroom LLC.
Gordon said, “The spawn was wood particles that already had the mycelium in it. We basically took bags of that that we had that I had made and we had stored under refrigeration and we dumped those into the mold. Essentially what they did is the mycelium reconnected all of those pieces of wood in the shape of our mold.”
Mushrooms started to spring outside the mold within a week, Gordon said.
The resulting structure – measuring 7 feet, 6 inches – after drying, floats and works like a traditionally constructed canoe.
This isn’t the first mycelium fungi boat ever constructed, however, Ayers said. “There was another girl who made one she works with Ecoactive out of New York. She was able to make a much smaller boat that she called the ‘USS Mycelium.’ You can actually watch her first trip out on that on YouTube.”
Ayers said that as a child, she wanted to make the list of records someday. “It’s really exciting because as a child, I used to try and break the jump roping record or standing for the longest on one leg. Being able to actually be in it as an adult just feels really wonderful.”
Myconoe also has a spot in Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Ayers said.
Still, it’s not all about bragging rights, Ayers and Gordon said.
Ayers, who graduated from Kearney High School, said she has grown from the process. “One of the best things that I did was I really focused on connections and those that could help me achieve these goals. I reached out to a lot of different farmers and got connected with William of course. Then I was able to connect with people at CCC to find funding and a pathway forward. Through that I’ve just made my network has grown so large, just like the fungus.”