Herps this Saturday

This Saturday, June 10, we’ll convene at 9 a.m. at the Black Bayou Lake Environmental Education Center for our herps workshop with Dr. John Carr.

Herps is a huge topic, so this round Dr. Carr will focus Saturday’s lecture on turtles and snakes. After the classroom portion of the workshop, we will do field work at BBL, most likely walking the photo blind trail around the pond.

A Ouachita Map Turtle (Graptemys ouachitensis) hatchling beelines for the water upon being released on a sand bar of the Ouachita River. The egg was incubated and hatched in Dr. John Carr’s research lab.

For those who might not know, Dr. John does extensive turtle research and has hatched many clutches of turtle eggs in his lab. A couple summers ago, several of us participated in a release of hatchlings back into the Ouachita River, near where the eggs were collected to save them from foraging raccoons and other egg eaters.

One very wet spring of high water, this Mississippi Green (Nerodia cyclopion) took to the trees to dry off and bask at BBLNWR.

This workshop is the 6th in our third series of certification workshops and the last one planned for this spring. Those working toward certification have priority seating. Everyone else is welcome, including non-members who are interested in finding out more about Master Naturalists, up to 20 participants.

Don’t forget to bring plenty of water, lunch/snacks, and note-taking materials. Dress to be outdoors on what could be a rather warm day. The weather channel currently predicts 93 degrees and partly cloudy skies. The day will end no later than 3 p.m.

Click on the “Certification” tab on our website to enroll and find a printable flyer with all the details. See you Saturday!

Ecosystems & Restoration Ecology

You have heard that a butterfly beats its wings in Louisiana and the weather changes in Beijing. This May 13 workshop is all about how that is a telling statement and a necessary perspective for a naturalist to have.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis) photographed in Restoration Park during our first restoration ecology instruction there.

We will meet Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjee in the STEAM Room of the Museum of Natural History in Hanna Hall on the ULM Campus at 9 a.m. for Part 1 of the workshop. (Hint: It’s not a sauna!) The morning will be divided into three sessions featuring basic ecology concepts from a naturalists’ perspective, with activities we will do during and/or between sessions. We will need pen/pencil and a notebook.

If the weather permits, we will reconvene at 12:30 p.m. in the gazebo at the entrance to Restoration Park, 700 Downing Pines Rd., West Monroe. Bring lunch to eat in the gazebo while Dr. Joydeep tells us a bit about the park, before we walk the perimeter trail–a wide, well-maintained trail and boardwalk. (Sneakers will do.)

Right now, scattered thunderstorms are predicted for Saturday, May 13. We will go ahead with Part 1 regardless of the weather. If rain prohibits fieldwork that day, we will reschedule Part 2 when Dr. Joydeep can join us.

So this photo was taken in autumn, not spring, and it was not a workshop. But it is one of my faves. I had gone to Restoration Park alone and was standing on the edge of the wetland area when other hikers spooked a deer out of the woods on the other side of the open water. I managed to collect my wits enough to get just one shot before the deer disappeared into the woods to the right.

Mammals Workshop

This Saturday, March 18, we will gather at the Natural History Museum in Hanna Hall on the ULM Campus at 9 a.m. Biologist Kim Tolson is our workshop leader, a member of the ULM Biology faculty, and the director of the Museum.

Not to be overlooked: Kim will have a pot of coffee waiting for us caffeine addicted! I’ll pick up a box of donuts.

Canine, ursine, feline, or…? Studying mammals involves looking at lots of poop.

We will do our classroom work in the Museum, which has many wonderful mammalian specimens to study. We’ll break for lunch and reconvene somewhere in Russell Sage WMA for field work. A downloadable flyer with times and a few more details has been posted on the “Certification” page of our website.

We will see pretty things, too, like this Viola that was blooming Feb. 2019 when we did our field work in Russell Sage.

Carpooling to the WMA is advised, as long as carpool companions can agree on how to do lunch on the way! Boots will be needed, as well as the usual field gear: water, snacks, notebook, pencil, camera/phone. The weather is predicted to be partly sunny with only a 3% chance of rain, but it will rain Thursday and Friday.

Also important from the LDWF website: Either a WMA Access Annual or 5-day Permit is required for all users of LDWF administered lands, including wildlife management areas, refuges and wetlands conservation areas (LDWF website).

Hanna Hall is at the main entrance to the ULM Campus that has the huge Arkansas stone sign. It’s at 708 University Ave. and on a Saturday, parking in the u-shaped lot in front of the building should be readily available. The door to enter is marked with a “Natural History Museum” sign.

Basic Field Skills

We are on for Feb. 11! Basic Field Skills will begin at Black Bayou Lake NWR in the Environmental Learning Center at 9 a.m. and continue until about 3 p.m.

This photo of an American Coot (Fulica americana) is evidence of a feature of coots and their scientific classification that many people do not know.

Click on the “Certification” tab at the top of this page. A flyer describing the day is available for download. To register, you can either click on the PayPal “Buy Now” button or download and print the form. It might be a little late to mail the form, so just let me (Bette Kauffman) know if you’re coming and bring it with you. Anyone who wants to pay on site can do so, but please let me know you are coming.

For those who did a Basic Field Skills workshop before, this one will be a bit different. I have refocused my portion of it to emphasize our important role as Master Naturalists in putting our skills to work. Here’s how I describe it on the flyer:

“We will have 45 minutes to an hour of instruction on the importance and value of doing citizen science. We will discuss the nature of ‘evidence’ and how contributing to citizen science platforms is different from sharing with your friends on social media. This will include how to use eBird and iNaturalist and how to observe in order to produce data that enhance the scientific value of these platforms, as well as how to use them to extend your own knowledge and help others in the online naturalist community.”

My iNaturalist profile.

The structure of this workshop will be instruction followed by application in short forays into the refuge, then returning to the education center to discuss and share what we did. The last 45 minutes of the day will be spent on interpretation, which will include examples of what others have done for their certification projects and strategies for sharing your natural history knowledge with different kinds of audiences, e.g., kids.

For those who wish to become Certified Master Naturalists, this is basic and important material. For those who are already certified or don’t wish to become certified, I think you will find things of value here that will enhance your natural world experiences.

Hope to see you next Saturday!

Plants & Plant ID

This is the first workshop of our 3rd cycle of workshops for those who wish to become certified master naturalists. Our instructor is Dr. Charles Allen, a giant in the field, and basic knowledge of native plants and how to identify them is essential to being a naturalist.

Dr. Charles Allen

Dr. Allen will meet us at the gas station in Georgetown. Don’t worry, there’s only one! This particular gas station has a couple of picnic tables under a canopy just outside its front door, and the management has welcomed us again to meet there and use their restrooms. I, for one, will definitely show my appreciation by buying snacks and lunch there.

After Dr. Allen walks us through plant identification principles, we will drive to nearby sections of the Kisatchie National Forest for field work. I don’t know for sure where he will want to go, but we have plenty of options. The Catahoula Ranger District extends from behind the gas station south almost all the way to Ball.

Dr. Allen’s newest book.

I will have copies of Dr. Allen’s very valuable handouts available for all participants. I have also asked Dr. Allen to bring a few of his newest books to sell.

To whet your appetite, I went scouting on my way home from Camp Hardtner last Friday. I drove into the forest on Lincecum Village Road maybe a mile south of the gas station, and had not gone far until I saw a clump of narrowleaf mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) alongside the road.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the plant that put Charles Allen on the path to becoming a botanist. He calls it “grandma’s mountain mint.” As usual, it was covered with pollinators.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) on Narrowleaf Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)