Author Archives: Bridgit Bowden

Field Reporting Institute Day 1 Reflection

The first day of the FRI has been overwhelming and completely awesome.  I have already started a running list of story ideas to pursue in the future. 

 One of the biggest surprises for me is the openness of the traveling faculty.  I’ve been able to sit next the most of them on the bus today, and have had some great conversations with them all. 

 One conversation that really sticks in my mind is my chat with Greg Laslo on our way from Peck Ranch to the restaurant.  We talked about the possibility of writing news stories in more experimental forms.  It really made me think about how we, as journalists, shouldn’t be afraid to break away from the way we learn to write in school.  Maybe being a little creative will make our work more appealing to a wide audience.  

 And, I can’t wait for tomorrow’s adventures!  But first, some sleep. 

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Stories are better with people

By Bridgit Bowden 

Yesterday was a real reminder that stories are better if you understand the people in them.

I can’t think of a better end to the FRI than visiting the Barnitz farm.  Their strong ties to the land, passion for their work, and candid attitude was refreshing for me.  I was especially struck by 14-year-old Kennedy, who was so happy to be inheriting the farm and so proud of her family’s work, even at such a young age. 

This weekend we learned about a lot of serious issues.  We spoke to a lot of people that work for government agencies.  We figured out that every story has more than meets the eye.  

One of my main takeaways from the FRI is learning how to peel away the layers of a story, and not accept everything at face value.  At the heart of any story are the real people, and meeting the Barnitz family reminded me of that.  

Tiny organisms give big clues on water quality

On a sunny fall day on the Jack’s Fork River, Chris Long flails around when he discovers a small leech on his ankle. 

 For scientists and conservationists, even the tiniest creatures provide hints about the water quality and how it’s affecting the river’s ecosystem. 

 “Leeches are actually a sign of poor water quality,” said Rebecca Landewe, who manages the Nature Conservancy’s Current River project.  “In a healthy area, trout would eat the leeches and you wouldn’t find them,” she said.   

 But, the news isn’t all bad. 

 Looking into the horizon, you can see swarms of gnat-sized mayflies in the air and water.  For Landewe, these tiny organisms are a clue that the water quality on that portion of the river is good. 

 The water is important to the insects because they lay their eggs in the river, where they feed during their larval stage.

 Once they hatch, the mayflies only live for one day, said retired USDA entomologist Dennis Kopp.  In that day, they mate, fly upriver, lay their eggs and die.  “It’s a very big day for these mayflies,” he said. 

 In the scientific world, mayflies are known as ephemeroptera.  “It’s like the word ephemeral,” said University of Missouri forestry professor Rose-Marie Muzika, “isn’t that so fitting?” 

This is what I get to do for my job?!

I’ve been thinking a lot today about how reporting is an awesome job.

We addressed several topics that I know very little about on our stops.  For example, until about two weeks ago, I thought forestry was simply identifying trees.  I never knew about forest management or any of the science that goes into managing a a project like MOFEP.  It’s almost hard to wrap my head around the amount of information I learned today.

As I sat on the bus, I realized how awesome that is.  As journalists, we get to spend every single day learning.  I can’t believe that’s what I get to do for my job!

In the past two days, I’ve been completely overwhelmed by how much I don’t know about the environment.  But at the same time, I’m reassured by the fact that there will always be more to learn.

I can’t wait for tomorrow, and learning even more.

Edited by: Alicia Stice

An Audio Postcard from Big Spring, MO

Hear from Rose-Marie Muzika, Bill Allen, and Margaux Henquinet on their visit to Big Spring in Ozark National Scenic Riverways park.

Prescribed Burning on Stegall Mountain

Walking up the trail to the top of Stegall Mountain, some of the trees have black charred bark.  The area has been burned in a prescribed fire, a tool that forest managers use to regenerate the land and create animal habitats.      

 

Rose-Marie Muzika, a professor of forestry at the University of Missouri, said that all fires (even naturally occurring fires) were put out during the “era of fire suppression” from the 1930s through the 1990s. 

 

“We didn’t want to lose this valuable resource. But then we learned that some areas are supposed to have fires, and that wasn’t conventional wisdom until relatively recently,” Muzika said. “So with that increasing scientific knowledge, we realized that it’s important to put fire into these areas.”

 

Now that the area has been burned, the landscape looks different. The top of the mountain, which was once covered in forest growth, is dotted with huge pink rocks covered in green lichens.  These rocks provide the habitat for certain species like the collared lizard. 

 

“These open rock areas are necessary habitats for the collared lizard, and so without fire, the forest encroached upon here and the habitat was gone,” Muzika said. 

 

Edited By: Caroline Murray 

Expectations for the Field Reporting Institute

By Bridgit Bowden 

In anticipating this weekend’s field trip…

I expect to be completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of stories we’ll encounter and the amount of information we’ll have to process.  

I expect to fill up at least two notebooks and at least three memory cards. 

I expect to write a story about elk, the beef industry, or forestry for my final project.  But then again, I expect to change my mind every single day about which story I will actually pursue for the final project. 

I expect meet a lot of interesting people and I expect to have lots of great conversations on the bus. 

I expect that the batteries in my recording equipment will die at least four times during the three days. 

I expect to get dirty.

I expect that at least one person will flip a canoe while we’re floating on the river, (I just hope it’s not me).  

I expect to be completely exhausted by the time we get back.  

Most of all, I expect that this trip will be a huge adventure!

 

Supervising Editor: Rachel Raines