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!

IMGP4943 72-15
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!

Screen Shot 2019-08-29 at 10.02.21 PM
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!

Two Fall Workshops

Ecosystems & Restoration Ecology, Sept. 14, 8:30 – 2:30

IMGP3045 72-12
Dr. Joydeep introduces us to our field work in Kiroli Park at our August 2018 workshop.

Once again, Dr. Joydeep Battacharjee of ULM will lead this workshop. We will begin in Kiroli Park, as we did last year, but he is going to look at trail options. Kiroli has several, so we might walk a different trail than we did last year.

The classroom portion of the workshop will again be in West Monroe. I don’t have a space reserved for that yet, but I’m looking.

Over our lunch break, we’ll move to Restoration Park and reconvene in the pavilion at the main entrance, 700 Downing Pines Road, for our afternoon field work.

It can still be pretty hot in September, and that’s why the 8:30 a.m. start. My apologies to those who drive from greater distances.


Fungi, Oct. 26, 9 – 3

Dr. Laura Sims

This is a brand new workshop for us! Our workshop leader will be mycologist, Dr. Laura Sims. So glad that La Tech added a mycologist to its faculty!

We don’t have the details of this one worked out yet, but we will convene at La Tech for classroom work and do field work after lunch as usual.

Suzanne Laird Dartez whetted my appetite for this topic with her excellent certification project presentation last Sunday afternoon, so I am especially delighted that we can offer this workshop.

And that’s a segue to mention that I owe you another blog post – one about those presentations, all three of which were approved by the jury. Suzanne, Kalem Dartez and Susan Hoover have all completed requirements for certification. I’ll get to it asap!

Note: The featured photo at the top of this post is a white-tail deer crossing the water in Restoration Park, West Monroe.



Round Two

Come to Black Bayou Lake NWR this Sunday, August 11, for three more certification project presentations. We begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Education Center.

Like the first three, each of this week’s presentations offers a unique look at an aspect of our interests as naturalists. Here they are in the probable order we will see them:

Fungi project image

Fungi, More Than Just Mushrooms by Suzanne Dartez – Suzanne will discuss fungal biology and ecology in the Southeastern United States, as well as mushroom identification, something I have heard many of us say we need to know more about!

Ecothology image

Welcome to the Northeast Louisiana Ecotheology Forum – by Susan Hoover. This one is all about getting us talking about an ecotheological ethic that we can take back to our respective religious or social organizations, one that we can not only agree upon but act on. Wow! Fascinating.

Stormwater runoff image

Urban Ecology and its Effects on Water Run Off – by Kalem Dartez. Did you ever wonder where all that water goes when the skies open and we get a Louisiana deluge? Kalem is going to explain how it works and the consequences. What a startling image!

I’m not going to promise that we’ll be done in an hour. That didn’t work out too well last time! But, hey, there were no complaints then and I don’t expect any now, as these are fascinating topics. But if at the end of the presentations you’re up for a walk in the Refuge, I’m game!

The jury for this set of presentations will be Nova Clarke, Bette J. Kauffman and a third person to be named. I’m working on it! Hope to see you there, and feel free to invite interested friends and family.


And that’s good news! Congratulations to Bette Kauffman, Charles Paxton, and Kim Paxton. The certification projects they presented Sunday afternoon, July 11, were judged good to go. Each of us got valuable feedback, so here’s a few details.

Kim Paxton lead off the presentations with “Healing Nature.” She cited research that documents the health benefits of time spent in the woods, and presented quotes and points from those studies on an attractive trifold display. Moreover, she mentioned science that documents the negative consequences of “nature deprivation.”

We have already decided…, Ok, truth: I decided her work needs to be turned into a public service brochure that we can hand out. Kim and Charles have produced a draft. Here’s a screen capture of the outside of the brochure.

Kim's project brochure

Kim’s project trifold remains on display at Black Bayou Lake Education Center, so if you’re out that way, stop and have a look.

Bette Kauffman went second and is, first of all, very grateful that people tolerated her Power Point presentation that went longer than it was supposed to! That was, in part, because the nature of the project expanded a bit from its inception. In looking into the natural history of Camp Hardtner, she found an important connection to the larger history of the lumber boom at the turn of the 20th Century in Louisiana, and the resulting devastation of our forests.

So the project is now titled “Camp Hardtner: 100+ Years of Restoration,” and that’s a bigger story than this post can handle! She is still working on getting Camp Hardtner into the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program, and to that end, she and LDWF agent Chris Doffitt have tentatively identified three “natural communities” at Camp Hardtner.

CH Natural Coms slide

Each of these areas exhibits characteristics and has species identified with it. The “Glade” especially caught the attention of Arthur Liles, who has already provided interesting resources that will inform additional work on this project. Is it a “sandstone glade” or a “calcareous prairie”? That’s a really good question that needs to be answered.

For now, work on the project continues and this presentation is available to groups that might be interested in not just Camp Hardtner, but how lumber became a sustainable industry in Louisiana and/or restoration projects in general.

Charles Paxton was the third presenter and his film project an instant hit. “Why join Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast?” is jam-packed with gorgeous, compelling images and solid information, not only about who we are and what, why and where we do what we do, but also about the natural history and current state of Louisiana’s awesome natural resources.


Wait a minute. Is that black bear wearing a fig leaf? Yup! Added by Charles, of course. So there’s a good laugh in the film as well.

Scenes from our first series of certification workshops and our quarterly meetings occur throughout the film, interspersed with Charles’ fabulous wildlife photography. And on the soundtrack near the end, the mating roar of a bull alligator! What an awesome touch!

Charles has a few corrections to make to the film–e.g., names mispelled or wrong–and the audience uniformly called for it to be stretched out a bit to give us a little more time with some of the images. So… what we expect to be in final cut about a 20-minute film will be up on this website for all to watch as soon as Charles can get it finished.

All in all, a grand day! Thank you again to our jury of Nova Clarke, Arthur Liles and Amy Ouchley. And don’t forget the next one! Kalem Dartez and Suzanne Laird Dartez will present their projects in the Education Center at Black Bayou Lake NWR Sunday afternoon, August 11, at 2:30 p.m.