By Hulya Onel, Secretary & Communications Officer for Louisiana Master Naturalists Northwest
Our first graduates, Class of 2015: Standing: Terri Jacobson, Amanda Lewis, Hulya Onel, Eric Vardeman, Thomas Goleman, Larry Raymond. Sitting: George Gehrig, Diane Mastrodomenico, Micha Petty.
Our mission is to assist the general public to a better understanding of our natural world and to promote conservation and preservation of native plant and animal life and habitats within Northwest Louisiana Area. Our objective is to create a group of volunteers who are acquainted with the educational environmental public programs and annual events offered by the nature parks and the wildlife refuge in Shreveport and Bossier City.
For our purposes, we decided to offer foundational biology subjects in order to equally acquaint members with basic biology / Life Sciences. We also included a workshop about “Interpretation and Volunteering”. In this workshop, a speaker comes from parks / refuges or a different organization such as a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Aquarium, Sci-port or Shreveport Green. They give information about their organization, what they do and the type of help they need from their volunteers. This way our members stay in touch with these organizations and take the opportunity to volunteer. When we finalized our preparations for our first Workshop Program in 2014, we started a “trial -run” of the program with the present Board and committee members. The registration fee was $100 then, now $125 in 2021, and the members need to complete 7 out of 9 courses offered within two years in order to certify. Each workshop is 6 hours long and two of them are mandatory for our purposes: Interpretation and Volunteering and Ecology and Biodiversity. The other courses are Ornithology, Entomology, Herpetology, Wildflowers, Trees and Shrubs, Mammalogy and Aquatic Life. We try to add new courses every year either to the basic program or for Continuing Education, such as Snake Identification, Mycology, Phenology and Geology. Those who complete the courses take an open book group test. Those who pass the test becomes eligible for certification. The certified members need to fulfill the requirements each year to maintain certified status. Each certified member has to complete a 6-hour course which is different than the ones he/she had taken and also fulfil 20-hours of volunteering in nature-related local events. Our yearly membership due is $25.
A fine White-tailed buck crossing the levee at Red River NWR Headquarters Unit early morning on May 31, 2021. Image and copyright Ronnie Maum.
Our Northwest Chapter coalesced in 2013. The initial core group was composed of Rusty Scarborough, Larry Raymond, Tom Goldman, Mac Hardy, Terri Jacobson, Donna Burney, Amanda Lewis, Hulya Onel and Micha Petty, along with a few more individuals who parted shortly after.
These members formed our Board, then we created our committees and elected officers. As the Board started working on our by-laws, the committees started working on our curriculum, publicity and so on.
Our first meeting of 7-24-14 in Baton Rouge with the other Chapters wasattended by Bob Thomas from the Greater New Orleans Chapter, Alexandria and Lake Charles Amity Bass, Sariah Javed from LDWF and Rusty Scarborough, Larry Raymond and Donna Burney from Northwest Chapter (Shreveport-Bossier City area). Rusty Scarborough gave the first report for Northwest Chapter. Subsequent Meetings: Our Board meets once every odd-numbered month. Currently, we have 9 Board members: Rusty Scarborough -President, Larry Raymond-Treasurer, Hulya Onel Secretary & Communication Officer, Tom Goleman, Terri Jacobson, Sarah Philyaw, T.J. Luoma, Sandra Roerig and Richard Maxwell. We organize an open house General Membership Meeting twice a year, before we start our new education period and at the graduation. We have an ongoing problem that we have been working on to find solutions: we are having difficulty in keeping our certified members involved in our group, our activities and programs. It seems like after they are certified, the majority of them go on their way. This is a pity because they have much to share with new members. Our accomplishments: We consider ourselves very lucky and take pride in having very knowledgeable lecturers who voluntarily invest their valuable time and energy -free of charge. Our lecturers are professors, teachers, assistants and experts from LSU in Shreveport, from local Community Colleges, naturalists, rangers, and wildlife rehabilitators, all of whom are experts in their fields. Also, despite the fact that we could not do any activity in 2020 due to Covid-19, we are still standing!
At present, we have 12 newly registered students in the 2021 program. Although some of our certified members have either moved away, got health issues or passed away, as of March 2021, we have 33 active certified members.
Did You Know? Forests in the Northwest feed the important Sparta Aquifer, the crucial watershed that provides freshwater to North central Louisiana and the Twin Cities of West Monroe and Monroe.
Images from Red River NWR Headquarters Unit May 1, 2021, courtesy and copyright Ronnie Maum. Top - Blue Buntings on Red Mulberries, left - Black-bellied Whistling Duck, right - Northern Cardinal hen with nesting materials.