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.

Gloomy Weather, Great Fun

We were all so glad we stayed the course and conducted our quarterly meeting at Poverty Point today! Yes, it was a tad cold, but it didn’t rain. A little muddy, but we were wearing boots. And the grey skies did not dampen our spirits.

The staff at Poverty Point was awesome. Eric in the museum demonstrated  the technique whereby the ancient people of Poverty Point drilled holes in all kinds of things–including rocks to be tied to fishing nets to facilitate casting.

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About to lead us to the top of the biggest mound, Ranger Mark explains that we really don’t know why the people worked so hard to move all that dirt in such a short period of time to build the mound.     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

Ranger Mark taught us to throw a spear using an adle-adle, then took us on a hike around the mounds, explaining what we think we know about the people, what they did and why they might have done it.

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Terri Maness’ great arm action makes good use of the adle-adle and her spear soars toward but falls a bit short of the target.     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

Here are a few highlights from our meetings:

!. We will join the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations. This will enable us to get a discount on liability insurance to protect our officers and board members in the event of a lawsuit.

2. We decided to keep the logo given us by the statewide association and put it on the front of our t-shirt in the breast pocket position. We chose two back designs, the Louisiana waterthrush and the bear sniffing fire pinks. Kim Paxton and Suzanne Laird-Dartez will now research t-shirt printing options.

3. We agreed that the same officers should continue for another year for the sake of continuity, given we are such a young organization. However, Stephanie Herrmann asked to be replaced as Treasurer due to time pressures and Charles Paxton agreed to take that position.

4. We formed a Certification Committee consisting of Bette Kauffman, Charles Paxton and Suzanne Laird-Dartez. This committee will address the issue of interpretive project requirements/guidelines and will plan the next cycle of certification workshops.

5. We would like to form a Program Committee to help plan our quarterly meetings and family fun outings–anything else we want to do. One person was nominated to work with the president but has not been asked yet. Anyone interested in working on this committee, please respond to the president ASAP!

Good meeting! I’ll be working on updating the calendar with a host of upcoming events. Look also for a blog post soon on a 1st Day Hike opportunity.

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Standing near the top of the largest mound, I suddenly realized that the heavy rains of the last few days had done us a huge favor. The shallow ridges constructed in concentric arcs oriented toward the mound were made visible because the lower areas between them held several inches of standing water. The people lived on these shallow ridges.     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)`

 

BioBlitz Set!

I just received word from Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjee that the BioBlitz flooded out last spring has been rescheduled Saturday, Oct. 6! Here’s hoping some Master Naturalists will be able to participate.

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An awesome colony of fungi from the 2016 BioBlitz, but I still haven’t identified them!     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

The ULM Biological Station, Charles Allen Nature Trail is near Columbia, La. It is a wonderfully diverse habitat ranging from a low-lying cattail pond along the east side bordered by Fischer Road, to high bluffs overlooking the Ouachita River, and down again to very low ground next to the river.

Google Map
The green twig on this map marks the entrance to the ULM Biological Station, which is the area between Fischer Rd on the west, the river on the east, and bayous to the north and to the south. Fischer Road can be accessed from the southeast corner of Columbia or from Hwy 849 and Huff’s Bend Road.

Several ULM faculty members will participate in the BioBlitz. Details are not yet set, but typically hikes begin about 7 a.m. Graduate students will go down the night before to set live traps in the pond.

Birds, trees, herbeceous plants, reptiles, aquatic life and more will be on the agenda. I will be looking for the crane fly orchid locations I marked a couple of years ago! Of course, the orchids are past blooming, but I might be able to locate the sites that still have spent flower stalks.

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Getting to the top of the bluff is well worth the effort!     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

This will be a great opportunity for a family-fun outing, so bring kids and grandkids who are old enough to do a little hiking. This 100-acre site is a great place to introduce them to the great outdoors, as the trails are wide and relatively easy to walk. Some are a bit steep but not rocky, and you can stay on gentle grades all day if you prefer.

This will be a great opportunity to practice what we’ve been learning in our certification workshops. Not only will we contribute our observations to a BioBlitz Species list, but we can generate one for our group’s observations, and we can add them to the iNaturalist project I started for this location some time ago.

Wading In to Watershed Dynamics

report & photos by Charles Paxton

As the dominant terrestrial species on this planet we naturally have a rather grounded perspective on our environment. We named our home “Earth” despite the fact that about 70% of its surface is covered with water.

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Prof. Bill Patterson of LaTech talks about how climate change is causing arid conditions to creep eastward across Texas.

Saturday, Sept. 25, 12 members of  Louisiana Master Naturalists – Northeast learned more about the crucial relationship between earth and water in a workshop on Watershed Dynamics delivered by Dr. Bill Patterson, Associate Professor of Forest Soils and Watershed Management at Louisiana Tech University.

We gathered at Louisiana Tech University’s Reese Hall, where we met Prof. Patterson unloading boxes of scientific equipment from a sleek minibus and accompanied him to a classroom for an illustrated presentation and discussion.

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The lecture and discussion continue on the banks of Redwine Creek in Grambling.

He began with a basic introduction to the concept of a watershed, defining the term as any area of land that drains water into lakes and rivers. Watersheds are crucial sources of clean freshwater.

We learned how relatively scarce and precious, clean, fresh, liquid water is on planet Earth. Less than 2.5% of our water is fresh (that is, not saltwater), and of the 2.5%, 68.7% is locked up in glaciers and pack ice. Very little of the remaining surface water is clean enough to be potable.

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Procambarus clarkii for our species list, captured and released by Suzanne Laird.

Here in northern Louisiana we are blessed with, and dependent upon, the Sparta Aquifer — a pressurized body of fresh groundwater which overlays ‘fossil’ saltwater from our marine pre-history.

The forest soil to the northwest of the twin cities in Webster, Bienville and Winn Parishes, with its natural mixture of invertebrates, bacteria, and fungi underlain by porous sandy soil, makes an excellent watershed to feed the Sparta aquifer. Two thirds of our drinking water is organically filtered through forest.

 

Searching for Life
Searching for life at Redwine Creek checkpoint 2. Prof. Patterson has just thrown a cast net.

Nevertheless, the Sparta Aquifer is stressed. Fifteen to twenty years ago, industrial and commercial activities in the twin cities used more water than domestic households, but now domestic use exceeds industrial use. Overall, we are drawing upon the Sparta at an unsustainable rate; the level is dropping two feet per year.

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Bette Kauffman shows dragonfly and damselfly naiads she collected from under foliage in the water at Redwine Creek checkpoint 2. Prof. Patterson, Terri Maness and Jeff Barnhill look on.

After soaking up information for two hours, we loaded gear and ourselves into the minibus and headed for Redwine Creek in Grambling. There we waded in, testing water quality and searching for marine life at two checkpoints, one above and one below the water treatment plant.

Some had waterproof chest waders. Others just got soaked when their waders leaked! All in all, it was another glorious certification workshop adventure.