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Eerik Kumari award won by mycologist Erast Parmasto


On 12th of May, Deputy Minister of the Environment Rita Annus presented the 2008 Eerik Kumari conservation award at the opening ceremony of Conservation Month at the Tallinn Botanical Garden. This year marks the 20th time that the ministry has selected a winner for the award. From the list of very worthy candidates the prize went to well-known mycologist, biology doctor and academic Erast Parmasto.

“Erast Parmasto has dedicated his life’s work to studying nature and to promoting its protection among the public,” said Jaanus Kala, Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Environment and chairman of the jury who chose the recipient of the Eerik Kumari award. Parmasto has published more than 150 papers and 200 articles during his academic career, the majority of which have been on current nature conservation subjects. His writings have also earned him the recognition and respect of readers, be they newspaper articles on popular science or research pieces in magazines. For his tireless efforts in describing the diversity of the mushroom world he has even been affectionately nicknamed ‘Seenevana’, or the ‘grand old man of mushrooms’.

Parmasto currently works as the senior researcher in the Mycology Department of the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the Estonian University of Life Sciences. He previously worked as the chief researcher, research secretary, sector manager and laboratory director of the Zoology and Botany Institute (renamed the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 2005) at the Estonian Academy of Science (renamed the Estonian Agricultural University in 1997). Between 1973 and 1981 he was the academic secretary in the Department of Chemical, Geological and Biological Sciences of the Estonian Academy of Science, while from 1987 to 1995 he was the professor of the Botany and Ecology Chair at the University of Tartu.

Parmasto has been actively involved in the development of databases for Estonian species of mushrooms, and he was the author of the first Estonian-language textbook on biosystematics. It was on his initiative that a mushroom herbarium was established in the Zoology and Botany Institute in 1950, which currently boasts more than 160,000 samples, 37,000 of which Parmasto himself collected.

In addition, Parmasto was the president of the Estonian Naturalists Society between 1973 and 1976 and has been an honorary member of the society since 1988. It was also under his guidance that publication of the Eesti Loodus /Estonian Nature/ magazine began, of which he was the first editor-in-chief, from 1958 to 1960. He has been awarded the Science Prize of the Republic of Estonia for his work on two occasions – in 1994 and again in 2002.

The Ministry of the Environment has awarded the Eerik Kumari prize during Nature Conservation Month every year since 1989. The prize is designed to highlight the work of individuals and groups in the protection of communities, species and special sites and the distribution and promotion of information on these and related subjects. The very first prize was awarded to Fred Jüssi, while the 2007 award went to soil scientist and biology doctor Loit Reintami for many years of promoting soil conservation.

Eerik Kumari (1912-1984) was the chairman of the Nature Conservation Committee of the Estonian Academy of Science for almost 30 years and was behind the launch of the country’s ‘red book’. In the wider world the professor of ornithology is well-known for laying the foundations of bird-related research and nature conservation in Estonia.

The Eerik Kumari award is valued at 30,000 kroons.

For further information please contact:
Tiit Sillaots
Adviser, Nature Conservation Department, Ministry of the Environment
+372 626 2873

Brita Merisalu
Public Relations Officer, Ministry of the Environment
+372 626 2908 / +372 52 76 851

Background information:

Previous award recipients

1. Fred Jüssi (1989), nature photographer, producer of nature programmes
2. Aare Mäemets (1990), lake researcher
3. Rein Maran (1991), producer of nature films
4. Viktor Masing (1992), promoter of nature conservation and natural sciences, University of Tartu professor
5. Mari Reitalu (1993), botanist, nature conservation official
6. Madis Aruja (1994), prominent nature conservationist
7. Ilse and Lemming Rootsmäe (1995), Tartu medics and nature researchers
8. Arvi Järvekülg and Linda Metsaorg (1996), river researcher and recognised biology teacher
9. Hella Kink and Juhan Lepasaar (1997), well-known hydrogeologist and author of nature stories
10. Vaike Hang and Anto Raukas (1998), nature conservation secretary & recognised geologist and academic
11. Vilju Lilleleht (1999), student of Eerik Kumari, famous ornithologist
12. Veljo Ranniku (2000), long-serving conservationist
13. Ann Marvet (2001), long-standing editor of Eesti Loodus
14. Edgar Valter (2002), artist and author
15. Jaan Eilart (2003), well-known figure in nature conservation and culture
16. Tiit Leito (2004), nature photographer, author of nature books, conservationist
17. Enn-Aavo Pirrus (2005), geologist
18. Tiit Randla (2006), long-serving conservationist, ornithologist
19. Loit Reintam (2007), soil scientist, biology doctor, academic