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Dancing with Extinction: Florida Field Reporting, 2013


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Sustainable Living Fair attracts ‘green’ crowd

Osage Sierra Club Chapter volunteers encourage passers-by to sign their petition of support for a single-use plastic bag ban in Columbia at the 2014 Sustainable Living Fair outside city hall Saturday. (Photo by Jessica Stone.)

Sierra Club volunteers encourage passers-by to sign their petition of support for a single-use plastic bag ban in Columbia at the 2014 Sustainable Living Fair outside City Hall Saturday. (Photo by Jessica Stone)

By Jessica Stone

COLUMBIA — A plastic bag “monster” appeared outside of Columbia City Hall for the 2014 Sustainable Living Fair Saturday, but instead of terrorizing residents, the monster educated them about environmental waste.

“The average shopper uses 500 plastic bags per year,” said the monster, Osage Chapter Sierra Club volunteer Carolyn Amparan, with only her head and neckline visible in a bulky garb of 500 plastic bags.

Sierra Club volunteers took turns donning the plastic bag suit they call the “plastic bag monster” to attract passers-by to their booth to sign their petition of support for a single-use plastic bag ban in Columbia. The ordinance will be presented to the city council at Monday’s meeting.

Nancy Boon of Pierpont attended the fair to support building contractor Robyn Magner’s presentation on solar home design. Boon said Magner’s knowledge of passive solar and design principles, combined with her architectural plans, led to construction of Boon’s sustainable home in 1983. Boon said the reduction in her environmental impact has been worthwhile.

“There comes a time when doing it ideally is just not worth it, so you do the best you can,” Boon said, speaking up near the end of Magner’s lecture. “If you’re satisfied with keeping your environmental impact to a minimum, don’t fret for that last 10 percent, unless you’re real motivated to. But if you’re doing 80 percent efficiency on everything you’re doing in the house, you’re doing really well.”

More than a dozen educational booths on sustainable living were set up inside Columbia City Hall for the fair, which attracted environmental enthusiasts of all ages. (Photo by Jessica Stone.)

More than a dozen educational booths on sustainable living were set up inside Columbia City Hall for the fair, which attracted environmental enthusiasts of all ages. (Photo by Jessica Stone.)

Stephanie Childress and her family traveled Jefferson City to see what the fair had to offer. She was most interested in learning more about rain barrels and listening to environmental speaker Christina Mattson’s presentation on ecologically friendly eating.

“The lady [Mattson] is vegan and I’m a vegetarian,” Childress said. “So I was interested in that, and she has children, too.”

Childress considers herself “eco-friendly.”

“I bring my own reusable bags to the grocery store, I compost, I save water,” she said. “I drive my family crazy.”

The fair attracted two Westminster College students who live in the EcoHouse. The house, built on campus, promotes eco-friendly living for students and the community.

“I really love getting to know more of what everyone else is doing trying to be more sustainable,” sophomore Olivia Andoe said. “At EcoHouse, we try to be more sustainable, so this seems like a perfect place to learn what other people are doing about that.”

The Sustainable Living Fair featured eight workshops on sustainable living philosophy, three off-site tours to solar buildings and more than a dozen educational booths promoting eco-friendly lifestyles.

Despite high water, group cleans Missouri River at Jefferson City

By Jessica Stone

A boatload of trash retrieved Saturday from the Missouri River near Jefferson City by volunteers from Missouri River Relief. (Photo by Jessica Stone)

A boatload of trash retrieved Saturday from the Missouri River near Jefferson City by volunteers from Missouri River Relief. (Photo by Jessica Stone)

JEFFERSON CITY — Strong winds and high waters couldn’t dampen the spirit of volunteers at the Missouri River Relief Big Muddy Clean-up in Jefferson City Saturday.

Volunteers checked in at Noren Access in Jefferson City, where River Relief staff assigned each group a cleanup location at nearby river accesses and public park areas. Volunteers picked up trash at 12 river and stream-side places in Jefferson City and Hartsburg. Designated cleanup sites included Turkey Creek, Ellis Porter Park and Wears Creek.

Missouri River Relief has participated in and hosted river cleanups since 2001, going as far as Nebraska over the course of a typical year. The group last cleaned the river at Jefferson City in 2011 because of high demand for cleanups in other communities, Missouri River Relief Director Jeff Barrow said.

This year’s cleanup here was different from other years because this week’s heavy rainfall made the river rise near flood stage, Barrow said. The cleanup was originally canceled for safety purposes, but the staff later decided conditions were acceptable and sent out two boats with more experienced volunteers to collect trash.

“Because of high river conditions, we’ve had to go to land-based cleanup,” Barrow said. “It just makes it a lot more complicated. People have to drive, convoy and get directions instead of just getting in the boat.”

Despite the complications, 80 volunteers, along with 20 River Relief crew members, picked up a considerable amount of trash, he said. In addition to the typical assortment of plastic and glass bottles, volunteers found an eclectic mix, including an old teddy bear, a compact car hood, a giant deflated inner tube, a grave marker and a huge piece of carpet.

Volunteer Jed Friedrichsen said he got involved with Missouri River Relief cleanups three years ago because he’s paddled in rivers for 50 years and has seen too much trash polluting the Missouri.

“It’s kind of sad to see the human footprint on things when there’s thousands of bottles of water and things like tires floating around,” Friedrichsen said.

When hundreds of volunteers show up at cleanups for a few hours, they make a significant difference in reducing that footprint, he said.

For Jen Davis, an internship with the group turned into a fun habit when she participated in her first river cleanup last spring and “immediately got addicted.” Davis said she has become “heavily involved” and helped coordinate the Boonville River Festival in September.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s a great thing to do. You get to meet all kinds of fun people, volunteer for the crew and camp out in places.”

The cleanup was one of many that were part of the group’s 2014 Big Muddy Clean Sweep, which will conclude on Oct. 18 in Herman.

Six Weeks in Sinks Canyon

Editor’s Note: In the summer of 2013, Teresa Avila spent six weeks as both a geology student and a science journalist at the University of Missouri’s Branson Field Laboratory, a geology field camp in Wyoming. Avila is pursuing a double major at MU — in Geology and in Science and Agricultural Journalism. She successfully completed the geology field class. She also reported and wrote the following piece of literary journalism as part of a journalism independent study class.

By Teresa Avila

A rusty red wall of rock sits at a tilted angle in central Wyoming. The highway next to it, U.S. 287, is a relatively quiet one. Especially so at 8:00 in the morning, when the wind rattling past green-silver sagebrush is still chilly enough for a jacket.

The low whooshing sound of an approaching vehicle echoes in the distance. Soon enough, a caravan of six white vans rushes into view. Leading the caravan is a navy blue truck, driven by a woman in her thirties with a tomboyish figure and a cloud of dark, curly hair above a tanned face. In the back of the truck, Miriam Barquero-Molina has a bicycle for when she makes her way back to the University of Missouri’s Branson Field Laboratory, about 22 miles and two hours away.

The truck and vans speed past the red rock, only to pull into a small gravel parking lot a few minutes later. From the vehicles clamber 43 undergraduate geology students, seven teaching assistants, one geology professor and one Australian shepherd/border collie mix.

The only thing in sight besides the fenced-in lot, the highway and a faded blue Porta Potty is a landscape of geology. Massive layers of rock rise up from the earth, their reds, pinks, oranges and tans dominating the landscape’s color palette far more than the ragged vegetation.

The students keep up a low chatter of conversation as they slather on sunscreen and adjust packs. Yesterday, the first official day of field camp, was all basic work done in the camp’s back yard. This will be the first real day in the field.

With a signal from Miriam, the crowd begins hiking toward the red tilted rock cut they passed earlier. Miriam’s dog — Kilah — prances through the students with her pink tongue hanging out at an angle.

They stop in front of the red rock and wait for the stragglers to catch up, observing the way the layers shoot upwards going from right to left.

The Red Peak formation formed in the Triassic, most likely in a desert environment that stood next to an ocean.  Teresa Avila/University of Missouri

The Red Peak formation formed in the Triassic, most likely in a desert environment that stood next to an ocean.
Teresa Avila/University of Missouri

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A bug’s life and what it means for the river

By Brooke Holman

A haze of tiny insects hovers above the Jacks Fork River, swarming the gravel bank as they migrate.

With the dark trees in the background you can see swarms all around. Their buzzing is barely audible over the flowing current, crunching of gravel, the pulse of cicadas singing, and clanking of oars on the sides of canoes passing by. Areas of ripples appear on the surface of the water as the fish jump up to feast among the bug buffet.

“This is a fly fisherman’s dream,” said Dennis Kopp, an entomologist and curator in the National Insect Collection at the Smithsonian Museum.

His eyes remain fixed on one of the insects as it floats closer. With a quick jolt of his wrist, he snatches the insect like a quittage seeker catching a snitch. He opens his hand to reveal a tiny mayfly sitting in his palm.

“These bugs are really happy today. This is the only day that they can fly around having sex,” said Dennis.

These species of mayfly only live for one day, and Sunday September 22 was the one lucky day out of the year that they mate.

“This is an indication of river health and minimal aquatic disturbance,” said Rebecca Landewe, Current River project manager at the Nature Conservancy.

The forested riparian area, which is the area of land alongside the river, benefits the river’s water quality. Deep roots reaching down from the trees help prevent sediment runoff and erosion, and stabilize the soil. Forest management efforts are in place, but some land in the watershed is being converted to agriculture land. Weaker root systems and increase in nutrient and sediment runoff are affecting water quality downstream. Most of the conversion land is owned by private land owners.

“You may not realize how biologically significant the Ozarks is,” said Steve Mahfood, environmental consultant.

Rebecca said there are species here that don’t exist anywhere else. That’s one reason why different organizations and government agencies are working to conserve the area, while keeping it open to the public. Private land owners also play a large role in conservation of the area, and are targets for forestry education by groups such as the Nature Conservancy.

“If all of it is gone, it’s not going to reappear magically,” said Steve.

Hold your feral horses

By Brooke Holman

Ozark National Scenic Riverways is home to the only wild horses in Missouri ‑-  an olde-tyme western movie fanatic’s dream.

“The Wild Horse League has been trying to give wild horses (up for adoption) to get the herd back down to 50,” said Faye Walmsley, public information officer for Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

The Wild Horse League was created to manage and protect the wild horses in the area. A group of concerned locals formed the league in 1992 in response to the National Park Service’s decision that the horses should not roam freely on federal land.

The horses, believed to be descendants of those released 100 years ago by farmers during the Great Depression, are but one of the many tourist attractions that keep bringing people back to Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

 Edited by Margaux Henquinet

Amphibians and firearms

By Andrew Brown 

Dee Lloyd’s attire epitomized the inherent struggle at Fort Leonard Wood: a necktie covered in frogs and a camouflage lanyard that read “Go Army Reserve.”

“We try to limit our impacts,” said Lloyd, chief compliance officer for the environmental branch at Fort Leonard Wood, as he explained the environmental programs at the Army base.

Fort Leonard Wood, located in the heart of Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, has trained U.S. soldiers since 1940. In recent decades, the generals there have also battled environmental and cultural degradation.

“It’s impossible to train the military without having some type of impact on the environment,” said Charlie Neil, director of public works at the base.

Fort Leonard Wood contains cultural historical sites that must be preserved, and the military training performed there threatens the health of animals and the surrounding land.

The Defense Department must balance the goals of training the military and protecting irreplaceable history and endangered species.

Kenton Lohraff, the base’s director of natural resources, said endangered bats, aquatic mussels and salamanders live on the base.

“We work case by case, species by species and training need by training need,” Lohraff said. 

Edited by Margaux Henquinet