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Week 7: Furbearers

furbearers 1

Week 7: Furbearers

By Heather

“Here, come October, I sit in the solitude of my tamaracks and hear the hunters’ cars roaring up the highway, hell-bent for the crowded counties to the north,” writes Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac.  “I chuckle as I picture their dancing speedometers, their strained faces, their eager eyes glued on the northward horizon.  At the noise of their passing, a cock grouse drums his defiance.  My dog grins as we note his direction.  That fellow, we agree, needs some exercise; we shall look him up presently.”

This is my favorite quote from this week’s reading.  The narrative of all the “average” people hurrying to the same place for the same thing and here, Leopold is with his grinning dog already on the hunt.  I also enjoy his storytelling in these passages.  How he gets distracted so easily and quickly, like we all do, in the woods.  I would spend hours outside on our several acres mostly by the creek looking at mosses, birds, insects and shards of glass; the glass from a different era when farmers would dump their trash over the edge of the road.

Controversial.  That is how I have always thought of trapping.  Discussions were always avoided and I tried to never take sides, even though I understand both sides.  I grew up a bit different than most which I am sure, you are all starting to realize.

My grandparents used to rendezvous.  Some call them black powder shoots and many more can relate to them as more of a reenactment.  Yet I lean far away from the latter because that is not what we did by the modern definition.  We slept in tepees, wedge or baker tents.  All items displayed must be of the fur trade era, so well before said time period of “civil war reenactors.”  We dressed in buckskins and furs.  We were adorned with colorful blue, white, red, green and yellow trade beads that hung from our necks, ears, pouches and sashes.  I could throw a tomahawk and hit a target at 20 paces by the time I was eight.  The first gun I shot was a black powder rifle crafted by my grandfather.  Rain, shine, frost and early spring Wisconsin temperatures never stopped us from camping so primitively we only had wooden outhouses; no electricity, no running water, all food was cooked on an open flame and we didn’t wear civilian clothes for sometimes totaling up to 14 days.  In this way of era camping and the eccentric people we interacted with, one can only assume there was fur.  I love fur.  I grew up wearing it.  I still have an ermine tail hanging on my pouch in my rendezvous basket.  Everyone wore it.  Coon, fox or coyote hats to buffalo rugs to beaver capes, it was a part of my youth into adulthood.  Many people trapped lawfully as a hobby.  As I grew older my love of fur never died but what did happen was my intelligence regarding fur harvest grew to an understanding and a dichotomy of wanting it yet not purchasing more.

As we walked into the meeting room the main display table was littered with pelts of many different animals: skunk, coyote, beaver, otter, cougar, deer and I think opossum.  My eyes lit up.  I was able to identify all the pelts and had to touch them almost immediately.  Our presenter on Furbearers and Wildlife Management was Micah Glover, Wildlife Resource Assistant for the Missouri Department of Conservation at the James A Reed Wildlife Area.  Glover discussed with us the importance of wildlife management and the necessity for all animals.  He shared with us that the Reed area is 3,000 acres with 12 ponds.  The Reed land is not just for wildlife, it also has some acreage for agriculture and crop rotation.  Glover discussed his agricultural background and described how most farmers leave approximately 20 percent of their harvest for the wildlife.  This not only helps with food during winter months but also gives prey animals a buffer zone, similar to what feathering of trails or the edge of field accomplishes.

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To properly manage wildlife it is necessary to have food, cover and water.  Each species has different specific needs to attain all three life-sustaining items.  The different types of management areas include: wetland management, flooded fields, flooded cropland, and flooded timber.

Glover talked to us about how important controlled hunting is for over population and how important it is as a hunter to take the time to complete hunter surveys.  The surveys help the Missouri Department of Conservation have an idea of how many animals are harvested and assist in determining the remainder of populations.  

There were several different traps set out on the table next to the pelts.  Glover went over the different types of traps and showed us a video about the leg trap.  I have a better understanding of why these traps are used and how they do not hurt the animal.  The leg trap is usually used for purposes other than harming animals such as tagging and release or relocation of the animal.

Aldo Leopold juxtaposes the thought of conservationist and hunter; how we all have to learn how to balance the ideas or ideals we have.  I know I have mentioned in previous posts and our class discussed at length how humans have intervened so much with our natural world that now have to continuously be involved.  There must be a balance and we must create this balance to ensure all animals have a place. 


Week 6: Missouri Geology

Soil horizons

Week 6:  Missouri Geology

By Heather

Rereading, for the third time, our assigned essay from A Sand County Almanac, titled Odyssey, I realized with each read the essay rendered itself easier.  Aldo Leopold writes about the “x” and eventually the “y.”  Both letters commonly used in mathematical expressions, here represent an atom.  Each letter, or atom, represents a different lifecycle, per se, of that atom.  An atom never dies but is recycled as it progresses from one object to another, living or inanimate this is the never ending journey of an atom.  It is interesting to contemplate that every atom has always been here.  There might be atoms in our daily lives, in our bodies or a surrounding object that were in dinosaurs or even when the plant was devoid of life even at the microscopic level.

I was curious as to how and why Leopold wrote this.  I found an article written about what his point was regarding the “x and y.”  Here is a link if you are interested in the differentiation between his “x” journey and his “y” journey.  I know the night we discussed this we were all curious about the purpose.  After reading the interpretation it makes sense.

Something else piqued my interest which is how he viewed and learned about atoms versus what newer science has discovered.  The article I linked has to do with quantum physics but the writer puts it in more laymen terms for the rest of us that are not physicists.

Approximately three years ago I was attending college at Florida Gulf Coast University majoring in communication with a minor in astronomy.  Fascinated by the stars and planets I was more than happy to take one of the required classes, geology.  My grandparents were rock hounds.  I guess that is where I got my affinity for shiny rocks.  They would attend and were active participants at rock shows.  Some of those rock finds were attributed to our weekend excursions to Lake Superior to pick agates. 

I think another attributing factor to my fascination with rocks/soil was in the 6th grade.  My school district had a school forest. As students we were required to spend three days on location in 5th grade and then again in 6th grade for one week.  It was during my 6th grade year we were out in the forest; I clearly remember one of the teachers using a tool to remove a horizons soil sample.  It was one of the coolest things ever to look and see the different colored soil layers.  It answered questions yet inspired more.  The intrigue grew in me as I aged.  But what really grasped me about geology, is how our soil is formed, how the tectonic plates shift, how Hawaii and other volcanic islands are formed and how mountains became the towering peaks they are.  

Even though I have taken a college level geology class there is always something one forgets or something to be learned from a new lecturer.  This class taught me about Missouri’s geology; how similar it is to other places and yet so unique, from upland hills and prairies to the southern boot heel filled with cypress swaps.

Our guest lecturer for the evening was John D. Horn, Ph.D., from Maplewoods Community College.  He is a professor of environmental geology.  Dr. Horn’s enthusiasm was definitely catchy and radiated on all of us.  His discussion included question and answers as well as class responses to his questions.  The lecture and discussion were enlightening and engaging, plus, we got to play in a bag of dirt.

The lecture was chock full of information on soil formation, what the soil horizon is and represents, along with how soil is made.  Horizons are the distinct layers of the soil roughly parallel to the surface as the soil develops over time. Each layer of the soil sample from the horizon is represented by a letter:  O, A, E, B, C.

Dr. Horn shared with us how we can tell what is in the soil just by the color.  Black contains high organic material and is carbon based.  Red displays high iron content, iron oxide, and only has iron in it.  Bone white soil has no nutrients in it at all.  Grey or glay soil is water logged meaning there is no oxygen for life to sustain itself.  A good example of the grey soil would be in areas of perma frost or stagnant water in swamps.  An interesting piece of information he shared with us is grey soil is 30 million years old.

We also participated in an exercise with books which display the types of soil throughout the state of Missouri.  The books are called a Soil Survey.  They are categorized by counties and within those counties are the cities.  Some of the information found within the soil survey includes drainage types, formed landscapes and what kind of material the soil forms.  The books were a tad difficult to read at first but once we got the hang of it, they started making more sense.  The soil surveys can now be found online and from what Dr. Horn said you can still order them in paper copy.  Here is a link to the Missouri’s soil survey information if you are curious or save the link for later use.

Dr. Horn presented us with so much information and knowledge that it makes it impossible for me to share everything.  One piece of information he shared resonated with me.  Everything comes from our soil.  We must keep it clean and enact better practices such as bioremediation for polluted soil and reduce soil pollution by reducing chemical use.  Our country continued lawfully unrestrained for so many years without a plan of where our pollution went or how and why to control it.  No thought went into our waste disposal, factory run off into rivers, leaking underground tanks or spraying pesticides for crops.  But now we know.  Now we can educate more people, petition the government on all levels and spread the word about how our soil is the foundation for life, all life.

Forestry Field Day

Trailhead sign
Getting started

Forestry Field Day

By Heather

Greyish white clouds blanketed the sky as we entered the Burr Oak Conservation area. It was humid and rain was not in the forecast. Paul Whitsell, Resource Forester for the Missouri Department of Conservation, and some fellow classmates were already there, gathered around his conservation truck, picking up packets of information and signing in. We gathered our small backpacks with the Fifty Common Trees book issued to the class, pencils, water and of course, my camera. I was a bit surprised I was the only one who brought one. 

This was my first trip out to this area. It was enjoyable getting away from the city. At some of the locations I have spent time, like in Parkville or Smithville Lake, there is still an overwhelming presence of human life. Granted, we did meet others on the trailheads and trails at Burr Oaks but as we drove to the area and got closer, there were no houses to block our views, not many vehicles speeding around us; only green woods and fields surround the car.

Example of Feathering

At around 8:30 am Whitsell started to give us our day’s agenda. First we were to start in the meeting area discussing tree identification. Then we were to start walking to the trails across from our meeting point. Along the way we discussed several of the trees and their common identifiers. As we crossed the road and headed to the trailhead we discussed some of the forestry work he has been doing to create one of the prairies.

Whitsell showed us an example of feathering between prairies and other areas such as roads, trails or woods. Feathering is when native grasses and wildflowers grow creating a transition between one type of an area to another. This provides a type of boundary for native wildlife to hide from predators, create homes, or have food. It is quite lovely with wildflowers dotting the swath of tall native prairie grasses. Only one of the flowers was recognizable to me, the Queen Anne’s Lace. I am still adjusting to Missouri’s flora types. I am hoping through my MMN certification I will be able to learn a bit more.

As soon as we entered the trail from the prairie area the smell was quite recognizable. The forest on a damp day, the rich soil smell; yet at the same time it smells clean, natural, like nothing you smell in town. The aroma is devoid of exhaust, trash or hot black top. As we hiked along the trail we continued our discussion of tree identification. Whitsell also talked about the importance of tree maintenance along public trails. He showed us what we should be looking for such as dead trees and limbs to keep trails safe for public use.

Walk and talk

There are reasons proper tree and invasive species identification is necessary. One of the forestry management purposes is to…wait for it…manage. Sounds simple enough but what they do is a balancing act. The forester has to consider different factors such as wildlife, what areas should be where, how many of these specific areas are necessary for wildlife, how many trees to take down and what type of plan to derive to accomplish their main goals. For example, wildlife, when the forester cuts down trees they leave the branches and leaves on the ground for the wildlife to use. Feathering between transition areas is also something the forester creates and must keep in mind.


When we first started the class I was a bit apprehensive about cutting trees down and using chemicals to eradicate vegetation which cannot be eliminated by other means. I have a clearer understanding of why it is necessary. We have meddled so much within our habitat we now have to continue to find ways to create a balance. This is what forestry does, or tries to do with the best of their abilities and knowledge.

Single Selection Harvest Sign

Foresters have to first and foremost create a plan for tree selection. First they need to determine what it is they want to accomplish within a specified area. Whitsell had an exercise for our class which helped us better understand their tree selection process or what they call a forest inventory. He demonstrated the use of a prism which shows which trees are inside 1/10th of an acre. First there is a post in the center of each 1/10th acre plot. A 1/10th acre plot extends 37.5 feet from the post located at the center point of each plot.  The person with the prism stands next to the center post, closes one eye, holds up the prism and scans over the trees. The trees will appear broken or will look like a chunk of the tree is missing. If the piece looks removed but is still touching the tree while peering through the prism it is within the 1/10th acre plot and will be counted. If the section of the tree is not touching it is either too small or is outside of the 1/10th acre. If it is difficult to tell whether it is in or out of the plot these are considered boundary trees and the forester will count every other tree being in the plot. This process is repeated while working in a circular motion around the plot. At each tree within the plot we had to give a rating for the tree chosen from several options. We also had to determine what the plan is for the tree and the diameter of the tree.


The diameter is determined by using a Doyle stick. To use this measuring device, which closely resembles a yard stick but has a greater thickness, you measure 4.5 feet from the highest ground side of the tree. Then you use the stick to measure 25 inches between you and the tree at the 4.5 foot height. Then place the stick parallel to the ground, at the proper height and distance. Closing one eye, line up the edge of the stick to one side of the tree and then gauge the lines on the other side of the stick. Round up or down to whole numbers depending upon where the line of the stick shows the edge of the tree. I could not find a link on the Missouri Department of Conservation website so here is another link that helps to explain this process in a little more depth.

By the time we finished the exercise and reconvened at the picnic tables the clouds started to dissipate and the temperature began to rise. Whitsell did mention earlier in the day there were two other hands-on projects we would be assisting with today. We set off on another trail. As we walked we had to be a bit cautious due to the large stones on the path. We walked down a hill, over a creek then back up a hill. Grandmother’s house was nowhere to be found. As we continued down the trail we came to a clearing. Whitsell asked for volunteers to mark areas with long stakes for mowing or actually mark areas not to mow. About 5-6 stayed there and the rest continued down the trail to help remove cypress trees. I stayed behind and took pictures of the work.

After a few minutes and some colorful conversation I continued on my way to the group working on the tree removal, I heard a screech. I already knew it was a hawk, red tail to be exact. It circled in the distance more than likely eyeing up an afternoon meal. It must have been photo shy; it never circled near me for a close up shot. I took my time and noticed all the spiders in the grass. Thumb size carrying egg sacks. Not a huge fan of spiders so I continued on to notice an array of butterflies and other insects. Turkeys must have passed through earlier in the day. Their large tail feathers were dropped about like a trail of breadcrumbs but not alluding to which direction they went; turkey tracks were not visible due to the grass on the pathway. Tall grass jutted out, some crowned with purple. I have never seen purple grass before.

Cutting 2
Chemical on tree

After I reached the group they were already busy using hand saws to remove the cypress trees. Whitsell has been trying to create an area with oak trees and needs to remove the cypress trees so the young oaks can have enough light to grow. To ensure the trees do not grow back they use a special chemical sprayed directly onto the cut trunk. I was never overly fond of the use of chemicals anywhere. But I have learned to understand the necessity of them when it comes to forestry. The group worked diligently for about 45 minutes then followed the trail back. I narrated to my husband during the return trip about what I saw and where. Pointing out the turkey feather breadcrumbs and searched the sky for the hawk in hopes of maybe getting a photo op, I did not.


It was definitely a long day. We walked approximately five miles. I enjoyed my time hiking the trails and getting a hands on look at what the Missouri Department of Conservation Forestry division does. Their purpose is clear, once you spend time in the classroom and in the field you get a better understanding. Their hard work is displayed within these conservation areas and their use is demonstrated in how the plant and animals respond to the habitat. I encourage all to learn and understand what the Forestry Division does and how they perform these goals.

The photos included vary from different life we saw during the day, different information signs found on the trail, tools used in a tree inventory and pictures of the work performed at the end of the day.

Purple top grass, Queen Anne’s Lace, Turkey Tail Fungus:

Purple grass
Queen Annes Lace

Week 5: Forest Ecology & Management

Our Good Oak 3

Week 5: Forest Ecology & Management

By Heather

As I sit here in the early morning hours thinking about what to write I realize even though I live in an urban environment, ecosystems and the lives of many that we cannot see, continue.  I see it quite often in our yard, the hummingbirds fighting over our two feeders, the bees fighting with them on occasion; the large dragonfly that seems to have taken up residency in our large fallen “good” oak which will be cut to fuel our fireplace this winter; the adult deer with their fawns eating my garden and who are still speckled with white; the reddish orange gleaming coat of a healthy, bushy tailed fox who is probably responsible for keeping our rabbit population low but I do wish it would come around more often, and early this morning the smell of skunk wafting through our open skylights, the latter being new to me at this residence.  I was pleasantly surprised as that smell dissipated and the air in the house filled with the smell of brewing coffee and just a few moments after that I inhaled the fresh morning air which harbored a tinge of rain.  I am not sure what the forecast is for today.

Our good oak 1.1

Clicking away at the key board I am contemplating our essay discussion from Tuesday evening called Good Oak.  I actually read this while I spent a few days in my childhood home in Wisconsin.  The essay combined with a flood of memories struck me.  Aldo Leopold’s chronological life of an oak tree to which he states, “we sensed that these two piles of sawdust were something more than wood: that they were the integrated transect of a century; that our saw was biting its way stroke by stroke, decade by decade, into the chronology of a lifetime, written in concentric annual rings of good oak.”   Not only was his scripting of his words unique and fascinating it gave me insight on the conservation history of Wisconsin and the lack thereof.

As he saws through each ring, he recounts the happenings within that year, the year that stopped the oak from making wood, until the tree’s beginning.  In a chronological reverse order he talks about how much the tree has witnessed.  I found this to be a truly unique way of sharing the lifetime of this oak and how specifically it provided fuel for his stove through the winter.  Growing up, most of my childhood weekend memories entailed making wood at our land. As Leopold describes it, “If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the week end in town astride a radiator.”  The work put into something shows its value or worth to the person who creates it.

On the first night of our class we had an ice breaker which I mentioned in my first blog titled Orientation Night.  We had to choose a quote and place our name on it.  Then discuss with whomever else chose that quote as to why we chose it.  The quote I chose was the leading paragraph of this essay, “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.  One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”  Within today’s cultural and societal norms many school programs that taught such things have been cut or defunded.  Many kids and young adults do not have any idea of where our food comes from nor do they know how their electricity is produced.  It is with the lack of these basic understandings that our environment has been on a decline.  I would like to believe now with food awareness programs and the expansion of renewable fuel sources that knowledge would be increasing.  I can hope can’t I?

Not many were as fortunate as I.  We had a wood furnace; we grew a huge garden, canning or freezing a majority of our harvest and provided supplemental meat through hunting and fishing.  We also had dairy and crop farmers around us.  The things we did not grow or harvest ourselves we could purchase at a very low price or were given to us because we did what most rural farm communities did and banded together to help one another.  Times are different and it is up to us to help educate those who are not aware.  This is something I think we, our class, has in common…education.

One last phrase I found interesting was at the end of each section he says, “Rest! Cries the chief sawyer, and we pause for breath.” No one mentioned this during our discussion and my cat-like curiosity, of course, got the best of me.  I really didn’t know or quite understand his repeated phraseology.

Our Good Oak 2

In general, when I search for information I start with the words I do not understand and go straight for the definitions.  I looked up what a “chief sawyer” is.  The chief is the leader, logical. The definition of “sawyer” according to is, “1. A person who saws wood, especially as an occupation  2. Also called a sawyer beetle.  Any of the several long-horned beetles, especially one of the genus Monochamus, the larvae of which bore in the wood of coniferous trees.”  According to a blog I found called dated February 1, 2013 she writes that the “Rest!” is yelled to give the sawyer a chance to stop and catch a breath.  Makes perfect sense, I could not imagine having to use a long crosscut saw without taking a break.

I am sure some of you already knew what it meant but since it was something Leopold wrote after each yearly ring I felt it deserved the few moments it took to look it up and understand his purpose.  This seems like a perfect way to naturally segue into the next year.

Once our essay discussion was finished Stacy discussed our first field expedition this weekend. I am super excited and cannot wait to write about it!  I will also be taking my camera in hopes of getting some good photos of our group and scenery.  Did I mention I am excited?  😀

Our guest lecturer was Paul Whitsell from the Missouri Department of Conservation who is a Resource Forester.  He led our informational session on forest ecology and management.

We discussed the different types of forest ecologies such as ecosystems, ecological regions, forest types, forest sites, forest structure, tree index and succession.  All of the lecture information is noteworthy but I cannot share all of it here.

One of the pieces of information I do want to share is what an ecosystem is made up of.  The lecture slides state the following:  Communities include animate, living, things, plants, animals, insects, microbes, etc…; collections are made up of inanimate, nonliving things such as rocks, water, soils, gasses chemicals, etc… and connections tie everything together by using matter and energy with both systems.  I think if more people knew or realized how important the ecosystem structures are they would have a better understanding of why it is important to preserve some areas and conserve others.

Which leads me to the second piece of knowledge we absorbed; the difference between conservation and preservation.  Paul’s slide presentation had two different quotes from two different iconic men.  The first was from John Muir who wrote, “Government protection should be thrown around every wild grove and forest on the mountains, as it is around every private orchard, and the trees in public parks.”  The second is from Gifford Pinchot who said, “Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of men.”  To be blunt, if anyone would have made better policies and choices or if our egocentrism would not have gotten away from us earlier in our U.S. history we could have conserved more and destroyed less.  Now we need both, preservation and conservation.  We need to protect areas that have recovered and areas that have not been touched.  We need to have strong conservation for land, ecosystems and everything encompassed within those systems.  We have gotten so intertwined in the process of interfering with ecosystems that now all we can do is continue to balance and interfere to ensure the systems receive proper conservation and preservation.

Paul made a comment at the end of his lecture, “nature isn’t static.”  There will always be changes; ebbs and flows with flora and fauna.  But it is up to us to create a sustainable future for the many different ecosystems which encompass our earth which includes our human race.

Pictures:  The two of the large oak is ours from our front yard.  The third is a cross section of just one of the branches.  We have not yet cut into the main trunk to see the rings.  It will be pretty cool when we do!

P.S. Does anyone have a chainsaw that big? We have a good size chainsaw but it won’t come close to cutting the main trunk. 😀

Week 4: Botany Basics

Missouri Extension map of hardiness zones

Week 4: Botany Basics

By Heather

Tonight we started off with an essay discussion from A Sand County Almanac titled “December: Home Range.”  This was quite an interesting short read.  Aldo Leopold writes about his “township” and how the “wild things” on his farm will do not divulge their whereabouts or goings on.  He further writes about the range of his banded chickadees and his compulsion to be aware of where the grouse are or have gone.  Leopold’s dog chases a rabbit and the rabbit knows exactly where it needs to go to escape the encroaching pursuer.  This leaves Leopold questioning if he or his “wild things” know his farm acreage better.  This is a perfectly understandable question he raises.  I would have to say, of course, living creatures in any area know their surroundings and territories better.  They have to survive it where we are merely onlookers.

In the last section Leopold writes, “Science knows little about home range: how big it is at various season, what food and cover it must include, when and how it is defended against trespass, and whether ownership is an individual, family or group affair.  These are the fundamentals of animal economics or ecology.  Every farm is a textbook on animal ecology; woodsmanship is the translation of the book.”

We then had a bit of housekeeping.  Ariel Paulson gave us a short presentation on how to navigate where we log our volunteer hours.  This is a very simple procedure.  So if for some reason you want to take this program but are apprehensive about the tech part of it, don’t be.  Ariel did a great job of informing us on the process.  I can’t wait to start logging some hours!

For our informative lecture Lala Kumar from the University of Missouri Extension shared much information with us on botany.  I have to say this was an incredible lecture.  I learned so much in those two hours!  I already possess great affection for plants and my house is slowly becoming a jungle besides planting an herb and vegetable garden this year with several berry bushes.  But what he taught us made me look at plants in a whole different way.  I have an overall better understanding of their biology and how they respond to certain situations.

We learned the two plant categories, the life cycle of plants and the parts of the flower.  Lala taught us about plant classification and the different taxon for each plant: Kingdom, Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus and species.  He discussed leaf type identification such as the leaf shapes, leaf attachments, leaf margins and modifications.  Leaf venation was something new to me.  Some of the types are pinnately lobed, needle-like, palmately compound and odd pinnately compound.

Germination of plants was an interesting lead into the lecture on photosynthesis.  Lala showed us which leaves are the first to start making the plant’s food, the process of photosynthesis and that light, carbon dioxide, temperature and amount of water all have an effect on how much sugar is made by the plant.

Towards the end of the lecture we went over which growing zone the Kansas City area is in.  According to the Cold-hardiness zone map we are in 6a meaning that perennial plants can handle a freeze from -5 degrees F to -10 degrees F.  An interesting point he brought up was the zone map for the first time in more than 20 years has been changed.  We now have warmer minimum temperatures than we use to.  At this point my husband realized he wasn’t crazy.  When he first bought his house he landscaped accordingly and has been having issues over the last few years with those plants which need a colder zone to thrive. 

Our Kansas City zone went from 5b to 6a. Here is a link to the Missouri Extension article I found online if you are interested in reading more.  There is also a map on the right side bar you can click on to see the Missouri state zones.  Just click the following link:

After this class I was talking with my husband and said that even though I learned SO much tonight I still needed more.  My curiosity and wanting to better understand our natural world has kept me entranced.  I had a friend once say I would end up being a career student.  I have always felt that in order to learn ourselves and know our potential we had to keep learning.  But I know what she was referring too, yes, I will probably end up with another degree or two.

Week 3: Historical Overview

Native Baby Save the Planet

Week 3: Historical Overview of Conservation in Missouri

By Heather

Tonight Linda did some housekeeping with us.  She went over the Yahoo! Groups page to include the calendar and listed events, how to send messages and basic information necessary to navigate through the page.  She also took our pictures prior to the start of class time.  Of course I was thrilled to get my picture taken because I have had bad allergies leading up to a sinus infection; it will be interesting to see how it turns out! ;-)

Mallory, a fellow classmate, opened with the essay discussion from The Sand County Almanac.  The section was named Conservation Esthetic and discusses man’s desire to get into nature and asks the dubious question of, at what cost?  

Leopold writes, “…when the railroads which had banished the countryside from the city began to carry city-dwellers en masse, to the country side.”  He continues in the next paragraph, “The automobile has spread this once mild and local predicament to the outermost limits of good roads-it has made scarce in the hinterlands something once abundant on the back forty…Like ions shot from the sun, the week-enders radiate from every town, generating heat and friction as they go.”

This essay reveals to us the dichotomy every naturalist, environmentalist and quite possibly every scientist thinks about.  How do we balance visitation with conservation?  How do we balance animal population with hunting and fishing?  When asked or sometimes confronted about my thoughts on hunting and fishing I always said I believed in conservation as well as a healthy harvest.  This particular essay spurred my thoughts and made me think about why I stated my answer as I did.

My response was based on scientific survey. When I was up north and still married to my now ex-husband, we lived on an Indian Reservation.  We used his hunting and fishing rights to provide for us year round.  Deer season we stocked up on venison and spearing season we did the same but with walleye and Muskie.  The Department of Natural Resources conducted fish counts every year and determined what type of fish and how many could be harvested in each lake by the tribe.  We then bid for certain lakes in a non-monetary way and were subjected to fish counts when we returned from any spearing expedition.  There was always a conservation officer at the docks where we were required to launch from.  The non-Natives in Wisconsin were outraged because it would appear or sound like a lot of fish were harvested.  But DNR reports and surveys clearly showed “sportsman” fishing the same area took three times as many fish as tribal members did in any season.

When I think about this specific situation I see how Leopold wrote what he did.

“It has also an ethical aspect.  In the scramble for unspoiled places, codes and decalogues evolve.  We hear of ‘outdoor manners.’  We indoctrinate youth.  We print definitions of ‘What is a sportsman?’ and hang a copy on the wall of whosoever will pay a dollar for the propagating of the faith.  It is clear, though that these economic and ethical manifestations are results, not causes, of the motive force.  We seek contacts with nature because we derive pleasure from them.”

If those that flock to these natural areas go for the sheer pleasure derived from nature then fill up their SUVs, litter, produce large amounts of garbage or not feel climate change is human induced then their love is lackluster.  Modern conveniences then outweigh the inconvenient truth of it.  This thought then makes me look at my own life and see where small changes over time can equal less pressure on our natural world.  Leopold mentions “outdoor manners” probably not realizing how significant the need for those manners has evolved.  Regardless, we need to find a balance, which I believe some of us are trying to do.  But it will always be necessary to constantly contemplate, discuss and survey in hopes of bridging this dichotomy.

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After our essay discussion and break time we met in the amphitheater.  By the way, whoever brought those lemon bars…kudos!  They were scrumptious and heard others say similar!  Stacy had us partner up and play a game where we matched conservation history cards with the decades that the conservation event happened.  Not only was this enjoyable because of partnering with someone I didn’t know but we got to watch the hummingbirds while playing.  I was amazed at some of the early conservation starts like the Grand Canyon National Monument was established in 1908 and some reintroduction projects that more recently started.  For example, the Great Prairie Chicken reintroduction project began in 2008 and Elk reintroduction into Missouri in 2011.  I think Elk are fascinating and might have to plan a trip to go photograph some.

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I cannot believe this Tuesday is our fourth class.  The last Saturday of August is the first field trip for Forest Management.  Stacy is letting us sign up for ones that still have slots open.  I am hoping I can get in on all of them!  If I do, I will share those trips with you, my fellow readers.

This upcoming class is on botany basics with Lala Kumar.  I am looking forward to this class!  I love plants and never had an opportunity to fit a botany class in my college semesters.

Week 2: Basic Ecological Concepts

Week 2: Basic Ecological Concepts

By Heather

One of our readings for tonight from The Sand County Almanac was “January Thaw.”  Aldo Leopold writes about a skunk who left its den in search of…whatever it is skunks search for during the January thaw.  Leopold followed the skunk’s trail discovering life under the snow and heavy bent grass.  The cycle of life continues as he watches a Rough-legged Hawk search for a meal.  As our group shared comments and memories I got to thinking about a January thaw.  I looked in the front of the book to notice Leopold was near Madison, Wisconsin when he wrote his essays.  I, myself, am from a few hours north of Madison.  This piqued my curiosity even more about a thaw in January.  I had to pose the question, “When has it ever thawed in Wisconsin during January?”  If you know anything about Wisconsin in January, especially more than 25 years ago, it is bitter cold and has many feet of snow on the ground.  The only thing to do is make snow tunnels in drifts and hope when your friend invites you to go ice fishing they have a fishing shack.

On a trip up to Wisconsin the weekend after our Tuesday night training I asked my grandmother, who has lived there her whole life; has there ever been a January thaw?  To which she replied it wasn’t so much of a thaw as a slight raise in temperature, just enough to get the crystalline icicles dripping and glimpses of roof top shingles.  She did say some call it such.  I guess it could be viewed as a bit of an oxymoron; January thaw.

Not only is it Leopold’s chapter name and something that kind of happens according to my grandmother but the Farmer’s Almanac has a small write up about it dated January 25, 2010.  Here is the hyperlink in case you are so inclined and your curiosity, like mine, won’t let it go.  Simply right click on the link below and it will take you right to the article on the website.

Our presenter for the evening, Betsy Betros, has always had a passion for butterflies which exploded into a love for all bugs.  Her book on butterflies reflects her adoration.  Betsy has such an intriguing way of being positive while injecting dashes of humor into her presentation as she crammed our brains with several weeks’ worth of college level intro class on environmental studies.  Within the weekly readings and her PowerPoint presentation, Betsy discussed topics such as limiting factors, carrying capacity, succession, restoration, preservation and wildlife in urban areas.

 “Science can explain the processes that sustain life,” Betsy stated during her presentation. This statement resonates with me because of the many different spiritual belief structures found throughout human societies and how some disregard science.  Regardless of beliefs or non-beliefs, science has been responsible for many human triumphs and yet at the same time the declination of our environment.

I would like to think the lack of science understanding in others is one of the reasons we have all decided to take this course.  To learn, change, evolve, grow and share with others how we can use scientific explanations to educate those who still believe climate change is a hoax, how the earth has a carrying capacity, how policy changes can keep our societies whole and save our only livable ecosystem.  It is truly amazing we are a ball of rock spinning on its axis within a solar system, in a galaxy surrounded by an infinite amount of stars, other galaxies and space.  This is our only place “we” can live. This is why, in some way, we have all decided to become an eco-warrior.

Orientation Night

Orientation Night, July 28, 2015

By Heather

Excited and unsure is how I felt walking into the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center. I think for everyone any new social situation can be a bit awkward and make you feel a bit unsure. Lala Kumar greeted my husband and me at the table, easing some of the tensions with his welcoming manner. We picked up our name tags and signed in. Being greeted by Stacey Davis not only infects any recipient with kindness but you can feel her passion for what she does.

Choosing seats in the front row, because I have a tendency to like a clear view of the speaker, we settled into our chairs. The room was filled with a diverse crowd. It was interesting to see the age range and varying backgrounds of our fellow classmates which made the first 10 or 15 minutes in a new setting more comfortable than I was anticipating.

I am pretty sure all of the other future Master Naturalists felt the same at first, the excitement of starting a new adventure. Since we are all there for the same purpose but varying reasons, I think I can safely say we are all adventurers seeking knowledge. It is nice to finely meet people that are seeking that same adventure.

We got to meet and mingle through two different ice breaker exercises. I was relieved when we didn’t have to take off our shoes. Sounds funny I know but I had an ice breaker exercise for a group last year in college where we each took off a shoe and had to put our foot next to the person on one side or the other. We then had to hold each other’s shoe as a form of being in someone else’s shoes. Ummm…yeah.  I was quite relieved Stacey’s ice breakers were not painfully awkward. Phew!

Black file boxes sat on top of a long table towards the back of the room.  I am a dragonfly nut which made me SO excited to see a dragonfly sticker on the front saying, “Master Naturalist.” Do you know that feeling when you order something SO awesome that when you get the box, internally you get all excited? Squeal out loud or in your head? For me, being a recent college grad, the excitement was when I got a new science related text book. THIS is how I felt when we got to go get one of these black boxes. Goodies! To boot it is educational goodies! This simple black box of educational bliss provoked such excitement I felt like I was getting a geology, oceanography or astronomy textbook. Well, thinking about it, I did get a bunch of informational booklets about all the things I love. Not much is better than that, other than actually reading them of course!

“Ooooohhh!!! Cool stuff,” my husband said to me when he opened the box like a child opening a present. He and I were both giddy and grinning as we found a spiral bound writing and sketch book and a schedule of what we will be learning weekly.  Flipping through the green file folders we found different colorful publications corresponding with each weekly session. All of us also received a book, A Sand County Almanac and Sketches here and There by Aldo Leopold. For one of the ice breakers we got a peek at some of the quotes found within its pages.

After a little while of discussion regarding expectations we got a little break. Snacks were provided this time around but like any community we are all responsible. Two people per week will be bringing and sharing snacks. Yum!

Earlier in the session Mr. Kumar shared with us information about the other state chapters and the state conference, which I can say I am excited for next year!  I was surprised to learn approximately 20-25% of those trained to become Master Naturalists actually continue staying certified. These percentages are not exact; I did a quick calculation when he displayed the actual numbers.

I know and have known many people with social anxiety issues when it comes to joining a new group or taking a class. Everyone in our course is cordial and accepting. On a personal note I believe everyone needs to take themselves outside their own comfort zone. The key is finding a place where the group has a common interest and goal. Within this group is where I found mine.

I am ecstatic about my new adventure, the chance to get to know my fellow classmates and the opportunity to share my knowledge with others.

Heather’s Bio:

Relatively new to the Kansas City area, Heather moved here to finish her degree and marry her childhood friend. She has Bachelor of Art Degrees in both Journalism and Public Relations with a minor in Global Sustainability. She has always been fascinated by the natural world whether it is deep in a forest, 60 feet below sea level or light years away. She grew up in North Central Wisconsin deep in Dairy Land and learned an unfathomable respect and love of the natural world from her grandparents. Prior to moving to the KC metro she spent over a decade on the west coast of Florida where she owned a pet grooming business. Heather became a certified scuba diver, snorkeled with manatees and spent countless hours on the beach with her son. Since Heather has been here she has finished her degrees, begun gardening, been watching hummingbirds from her office window and is working towards being a Certified Missouri Master Naturalist. She is excited to complete the training and share her experiences with you.

Bird is the Word at KU

Twelve Osage Trails Master Naturalists journeyed over to Kansas University in Lawrence on February 15 to visit the ornithology collections at the Biodiversity Institute.  Our host for the tour was Mark Robbins, Collection Manager for the Ornithology Department.

Our tour commenced in a room where there was some new specimen processing going on.  Mark explained how the birds were skinned and a wooden rod and cotton were inserted to give the bird some shape.  Tissue samples are saved during the process.  Most bird specimens are then stored in drawers in large cabinets since that's the easiest way to accomodate more than 107,000 specimens!  

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Here's a close-up of the tail of a subadult Red-tailed Hawk.  It still has some of the barring of an immature, but is looking more like the red tail of an adult.

Below is probably the most awesome drawer in the collection!  It contains the extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Eskimo Curlew, Guam Rail, Carolina Parakeet, Passenger Pigeon, and Heath Hen among others.  We were all amazed to see the birds we'll never see alive again.  Well….unless someone figures out how to clone them from tissue from the likes of these guys.  Might be possible in the future - who knows - but it wouldn't be feasible to bring back some of these birds due to the loss of their habitat.

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Remember the Snowy Owl irruption the winter of 2011 - 2012?  Here's where many of those owls that starved to death or were hit by cars ended up.  Mark will soon be publishing his findings from studying these owls.  He showed us the differences in size and markings between the males and females.

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Below is a whole drawer full of resplendent birds from not around here!  Lilac-breasted Rollers from sub-Saharan Africa are absolutely lovely.

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Elegant Trogons are a rare and highly sought after birder's delight in southern Arizona.

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Great field trip and learning experience visiting KU!  Many thanks to Mark Robbins for taking time out to show us around the newly-remodeled ornithology lab.  Afterwards, we all wandered around the rest of the Natural History Museum.  So much to see and learn!


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Welcome to the website of the Osage Trails Chapter of the Missouri Master Naturalist program!  

Please browse the different pages and learn how you can join us in teaching about the natural world and in helping to protect, restore and maintain natural areas around the Kansas City metro.

Our first class graduated in 2006 and every fall since then we have trained a new class with an average of 30 members in each.  

Our members all share a love and passion for the outdoors and a commitment to improve our environment for future generations.  

© Osage Trails Chapter Missouri Master Naturalist 2012-2020 ~ All Photographs © Osage Trails Members