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Celebrate Fall!

Louisiana Master Naturalists – Northeast will have its biggest presence ever at Fall Celebration this coming Saturday, Oct. 12, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

This is our third year to be at Friends of Black Bayou’s annual event. But this year, instead of one table, we will have two, plus not only displays and information, but t-shirts to sell and coloring pages for the kids.

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Kim Paxton’s tri-fold of her certification project, Healing Nature, along with a tri-fold brochure we had made of the key content, will share a table with our long-sleeved blue Louisiana water thrush t-shirts. I can’t wait for weather cool enough to wear mine again!

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The other table will feature our organizational tri-fold and our organizational brochure, plus the yellow black bear t-shirts. This is the t-shirt I’ll be wearing Saturday, and I love it, too.

Along the front of both tables, we’ll have assorted crayons and color pencils, plus individual coloring pages. Kids of all ages will be welcome to color a page and either take it with them or let us tape it to the edges of our tables for others to see.

And now I must share the saga of the coloring pages. Would you believe purchasing a coloring book of nature-themed images of good quality but easy enough for kids of all ages is currently impossible in Monroe and West Monroe, La.? I couldn’t even find anything online except “free” pages that you had to download someone’s app to get! No, thank you.

Now, you want unicorns or mermaids? Or cartoon characters? Pile them in your cart! But what are we teaching our kids? That a fake creature is more interesting than the wonderland we live in? I was soooo disgusted and have concluded that we need to create a “Master Naturalist Coloring Book.” We’ll be talking about it….

Coloring Pages
Multiple copies of these coloring pages will be available for kids Saturday.

In the meantime, I found ONE very nice coloring book for adults that had quality, but way too complicated images. So I bought it and traced selected pages, leaving out the excess complexity, and ending up a lovely set of drawings suitable for kids. This will do for this time, but it is probably questionable under copyright law. Again, in the long run, we need our own coloring book!

I, Suzanne, Kalem and at least one of the Paxton’s will be on duty at our tables, but it would be wonderful if others would come by and help out from time to time. And if you’re not yet a Master Naturalist, we’ll sign you up on the spot!

See you Saturday.

Hug a Tree for Science!

A picnic shelter at Kiroli Park turned out to be a great place to begin. Birdsong, an occasional frog, early morning light and a gentle breeze provided a delightful backdrop to Dr. Joydeep’s introduction to Ecosystems & Restoration Ecology.

How does one convey in a short period of time the “flavor” of a field that begins with the premise that “everything is connected”? It’s a tall order, but Dr. Joydeep engaged us with tales of his own research in the Himalayas, basic concepts well explained, and activities that gave us a taste of what an ecologist does, whetted our appetite for citizen science and affirmed our value as naturalists.

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Stephanie & Maggie Herrmann collected insects for Maggie’s school project along the way.      (photo by Charles Paxton)

“Ecology is grounded in patterns.” I had never thought of it that way before, but it made sense immediately. And then with one aerial photo of a landscape, we dived in, making observations, identifying patterns, and generating questions for further investigation.

We could have spent all day listening and discussing, but… there we were in a park full of trees! So we learned how to estimate the diameter of trees. I was astounded that after practicing on just 5 trees, we were able to estimate the diameter of 5 other trees within a few centimeters. I used the “hug a tree” method and it served me reasonably well.

Before leaving Kiroli Park, we walked a short way down a trail to a platform on the lip of a small ridge overlooking a wet area. From that vantage point, we could see the change in plant life from the mesic habitat at the top of the ridge (white oak, musclewood) to the hydric habitat at the bottom (water tupelo, river cane).

water testing
Dr. Joydeep goes way out on a limb to drop the water testing sensor into the still water of a pond at Restoration Park while I read off the numbers for others to record.     (photo by Charles Paxton)

We reconvened at Restoration Park after lunch. There we did some water quality testing in order to observe the differences between a stagnant pond (lentic) and a flowing stream (lotic), and between water on the edge of the park and water deeper into the park.

One of the great values of natural areas like Restoration Park is their ability to improve water quality, and we were able to demonstrate that. The moving water deeper inside the park was cooler, contained more dissolved Oxygen and had a lower pH.

All in all, it was a fascinating and fun day. Many thanks to Charles Paxton for providing photos for this post and to David Hoover for sharing his excellent notes.

green snake
On our way out of Restoration Park, we encountered this adorable little rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus).     (photo by Charles Paxton)

LMNA Board Meeting

The Louisiana Master Naturalist Association Board of Directors met last Friday, Sept. 6, at the Louisiana Arboretum at Chicot State Park for one of our two face-to-face meetings per year. Fourteen of 21 Board members were present.

Fall LMNA Mtg 2019
Attendees at the LMNA Board Meeting, left to right: Marty Floyd–VP, Acadiana; Bob Thomas–Pres., Greater NOLA; back row: Bette Kauffman, Northeast; Tracey Allen, Greater BR; Janie Braud–Treas., Greater BR; Liz Manhart, Greater NOLA; Angie Normand, CenLa; Betsy Trammell, CenLa; front row: Debbie Frank, Southwest; Amber King, Greater BR; Clay Ardoin, Southwest; Larry Raymond, Northwest; Sonny Trammell, CenLa; Tom Goleman, Northwest.

Much of our work was rather tedious but important stuff Boards are elected to do! We did a line-by-line review of our organizational by-laws and came up with a list of changes–mostly things made possible or necessary by our greater maturity as an organization. These changes will be voted on at our next conference call meeting.

We also discussed the upcoming Rendezvous 2020, scheduled April 17-19, 2020, at Camp Hardtner. Much work is yet to be done to prepare, but we’re already excited. I am particularly pleased to report that I will present my certification project, “Camp Hardtner: 100+ Years of Restoration,” Friday evening, as it will help people plan where they want to hike while we are there. It will need some updating!

We began a process of creating a Policy & Procedures Manuel, something our Northeast Chapter also needs to do. And, last but not least, we decided to create a binder of information about the certification curriculum of each chapter to serve as a resource for people responsible for organizing workshops. I’m looking forward to having that to help us enrich our own educational experiences.

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It was a productive and fun day. Serving on this Board is a great privilege.

Ecosystems & Restoration Ecology

Time to get back into doing some workshops! Please note that I have put Graduation on the calendar, but this post is all about our Sept. 14 workshop.

Once again, Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjee of the ULM Biology faculty, will be our instructor. We will meet at 8:30 a.m. to get a bit ahead of the heat at picnic shelter #1 in Kiroli Park at 820 Kiroli Rd. in West Monroe.

Devil's Walkingstick (Aralia spinosa)
The Devil’s Walking Stick trees (Aralia spinosa) in Kiroli Park were fruiting when we were there last summer. I have never seen this before or since.

The exact order of the morning is up to Dr. Joydeep, but he will make his presentation in the picnic shelter (which has power, thankfully) and we will walk one or more trails. We’ll adjourn for lunch at 11:30 and reconvene under the pagoda at the 700 Downing Pines Rd. entrance to Restoration Park.

Picnic shelter #1 at Kiroli is reserved through the lunch period, but picking up food in West Monroe and eating under the pagoda at Restoration Park is equally appropriate. Your choice. After some remarks under the pagoda about Restoration Park, we will walk the trail.

Golden-winged Skimmer (Libellula auripennis)
My one and only photo of a Golden-winged Skimmer (Libellula auripennis) is from Restoration Park.

Please note that we will be outdoors all day. Most of the trails at both parks are shaded, so we will be in the shade much of the time. Nevertheless, be aware and make sure you keep yourself hydrated. (Those of you who have attended one of Dr. Charles Allen’s workshops know this is doable!)

The Certification tab of this website is ready for you. Click on the “Workshop 2 flyer” link to download a single sheet with the info you need. The “Ecosystems” PayPal “Buy Now” button is ready and has been tested. Go for it!

A few reminders: 1) If you did this workshop during Cycle 1, you may not repeat it for credit toward certification. Nevertheless, you are most welcome to participate. I expect a lot more to “stick” in this old brain than did the first time! 2) If this is your 7th workshop, it’s free. (I will check my records to see who qualifies asap.) And if you have credit for a workshop that was cancelled or that you registered for then weren’t able to attend, please remind me.

Three More to Graduate

At our August 11 gathering we heard three more compelling presentations. As I announced a couple of weeks ago at the end of the blog post about our upcoming workshops, all three were judged certifiable by the jury.

Suzanne Laird Dartez lead off the presentations with “Fungi: More than Just Mushrooms.” Her Power Point was full of information and interesting photographs, most of which she herself had taken.

The roles of fungi in the environment are diverse and critical to environmental health. These roles range from the somewhat obvious one of helping decompose dead vegetation to the mysterious process of plant communication through mycorrhizal networks provided by fungi. In addition, many mushrooms are medicinal and/or nutritious–but knowing which ones are safe to eat is not easy!

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Before Suzanne’s presentation, I might not have noticed this tiny trio of mushrooms growing out of a single leaf, doing the all-important work of decomposition. And who knows what else they might be up to!

Kalem Dartez presented second. His Power Point was entitled “Urban Ecology and Its Effect on Water Run-off.” Here’s one shocking fact I learned: 95% of land area is rural but 80% of the people live in cities. Not surprisingly, those concentrations of people and the hard-surface cityscapes they build to live in contribute to the problem and negative consequences of storm water run-off.

Fortunately, smart people have put their minds to this and “green infrastructure options” are increasingly available. These include “bioswales,” rain gardens, permeable pavement and more. My fave was planter boxes! Yes, putting a planter box outside a window helps, and the city of Pittsburgh has embraced the strategy. Good on them!

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Kalem told us that one of our local gems–Restoration Park–qualifies as a “giant green infrastructure project” because it drains water from a large surrounding area, much of which features roads, parking lots and buildings that contribute to the run-off problem.

For our third presentation, Susan Hoover invited us to indulge in refreshments and socialize while a delightful video montage of images from our year of workshops and meetings played on the screen–as if we were participants in a weekend conference gathering for our first plenary session.

When we were ready to take our seats and focus, she presented us with an agenda for an “Ecotheology Forum,” and proceeded to give an introductory talk that would set the stage for our mission: To discuss the possibility of agreeing on a standardized ecotheological ethic and call to action to take back to our religious and social organizations.

Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
Not the Garden of Eden, but perhaps this Tiger Swallowtail will put you in mind of it!

My overwhelming thought at the end of Susan’s presentation was, “I want to do the entire weekend conference!” Alas, that will have to wait. But my surprise and favorite thing she explained is that in one of the Genesis accounts of creation, the word “radah” is used, and is interpreted by some people as “dominion” and as permission for humans to dominate and exploit the natural world. But the other account of creation uses the word “‘abad,” which means to serve, to cultivate or to take care of. I can’t wait to teach that to my Middle School Old Testament class!

I am now working on plans for a graduation ceremony on a Sunday afternoon in October. Stay tuned!