Category Archives: Environment


Hellbender Conservationists Continue Saving An Endangered Spiecies

Hellbender at Saint Louis Zoo. Photo: Ray Meibaum, Saint Louis Zoo

Over 800 hellbenders from Saint Louis Zoo released into native Ozark rivers by Missouri Department of Conservation this summer

Over 800 Ozark and eastern hellbenders raised from eggs at the Saint Louis Zoo were released into their native Missouri Ozark rivers this summer by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) State Herpetologist Jeff Briggler, Ph.D., in cooperation with the Zoo and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Since 2008, 9,476 Saint Louis Zoo-raised endangered hellbenders (8,599 Ozark and 877 eastern) have been reintroduced to the wild in Missouri.

Even through the COVID-19 pandemic, the team of biologists from MDC and the Zoo have continued to collaborate while staying safe and providing the best care for the hellbenders. In 2020 and 2021, more than 1,800 hellbenders were successfully reintroduced.

“We have continued our COVID-19 safety precautions, such as reducing contact and maintaining social distancing, when transporting and releasing hellbenders into their native rivers. Release quotas for 2021 were achieved and successfully conducted, and now we prepare for upcoming collections of eggs from the wild and captive breeding to obtain future release animals,” said Jeff Briggler, Ph.D., Missouri Department of Conservation State Herpetologist.
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Washington University Receives Funding For Research Of New Biotechnology Products

Washington University in St. Louis Receives Over $740,000 in EPA Funding for Research to Assess Health and Environmental Impacts of Biotechnology Products

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Washington University in St. Louis is one of five institutions to receive a total of $3,041,583 in funding to develop science-based approaches to evaluate the potential human health and environmental impacts of new biotechnology products.

Washington University has received $744,262 to develop an “auto destruction switch” for genetically engineered microorganisms and a system to ensure lab observations can match field predictions.

“EPA is funding this research to better understand advancements in biotechnology, which have many potential benefits for society, and to ensure public health and environmental protection,” said Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development and EPA Science Advisor.

“Washington University is pushing science forward with this biotechnology research,” said Acting Region 7 Administrator Edward H. Chu. “Genetically engineered microbes have a lot of potential in naturally break down pollutants and the research Dr. Tae Seok Moon and his team are doing will help ensure that the solutions used in future applications are both responsible, effective and protective of human health.”

“Our project will provide novel technologies that minimize the risks associated with environmental applications of genetically engineered microbes to ensure their biocontainment and public safety,” said Dr. Tae Seok Moon, associate professor in the Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering at Washington University.

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Missouri Prairie Foundation Bestows 2021 Awards

The 55-year-old prairie conservation organization and land trust honored champions of prairie and native plant conservation on August 20 during its virtual Annual Dinner. Awardees hail from Marshall, Columbia, Harwood, Springfield, Meadville, and Eminence, Missouri, as well as Hudson, Wisconsin.

The Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Annual Dinner, held virtually on August 20, 2021, is a celebration of Missouri’s prairie legacy. During the event, the 55-year-old prairie conservation organization and land trust paid tribute to seven awardees.

“Missouri’s remaining prairies are rare and priceless treasures,” said David Young, Missouri Prairie Foundation President. “Protecting and promoting them requires dedication and commitment from many people. Our award program recognizes individuals who have made or are making a positive difference in the conservation of Missouri’s prairie legacy and in the promotion or protection of native plants.”

The Missouri Prairie Foundation 2021 awardees are:

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Expanding Bicycle Use On Conservation Areas Proposed by MDC

MDC has proposed regulations that would allow the expanded use of bicycles and electric bicycles on most department-area service roads and multi-use trails, such as at Canaan Conservation Area in Gasconade County (shown). Photo: MDC

Proposed regulations would allow expanded bicycle use on many conservation area service roads and/or multi-use trails while restricting access to heavily used areas and natural areas.

The Missouri Conservation Commission gave initial approval to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) at its Aug. 27 open meeting on proposed regulation changes that would allow the expanded use of bicycles and electric bicycles on most department-area service roads and multi-use trails. The Commission also gave initial approval to MDC definitions of bicycles and electric bicycles.

According to MDC, conservation-area users have expressed interest in expanding the use of bicycles and electric bicycles to include conservation-area service roads and multi-use trails for greater access to the areas.

Bicycle use on MDC’s approximately 1,100 conservation areas is currently restricted to roads open to public-vehicle traffic and some multi-use trails. Bicycle use is currently not allowed on conservation-area service roads.

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Prairie Chicken Count At 100 In Missouri As Habitat Losses Continue 

Photo Credit: Dan Wundrock. Public domain.

By Allison Hagene

The farming industry has been the biggest threat to the bird’s survival, destroying thousands of acres of natural habitat to use for agricultural purpose. Agricultural pesticides also kill insects that prairie chickens depend on.  

Greater Prairie Chickens are non-migratory bird. When their habitat is destroyed, they have nowhere to go. They have no alternate destination. The tall, dense grasses in Missouri prairies enable the birds to nest, hide, and raise their young, without the ecosystem they depend on, they are extremely vulnerable. Deprived of their homes the Prairie Chickens are unable to reproduce productively and lose diversity. 

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Spiny Soft-Shell Turtles: Healthy In Missouri, Struggling In Canada 

Turtle found traveling near a private lake in Crawford County Missouri. Photo by Allison Hagene

Allison Hagene

Missouri is home to a wide range of turtle species, with many different ecosystems to inhabit. A wide variety of turtles reside all over the state. One specific turtle has a very unique look: a large smooth speckled shell, a pointed, pig-like nose, and wrinkly feet. 

The Spiny Soft-Shell Turtle is found in Missouri in large lakes, rivers, and ponds with sandy or muddy bottoms. They can be found throughout the United States, and even in Mexico and Canada. They are exceptionally good swimmers and spend much of their lives in water, even burying themselves in lake bottoms to avoid cold temperatures in wintering months. 

The soft-shell turtle is actually not currently listed as endangered in the United States but is endangered in Canada. The major issue in Canada is the advancement of industry and water structures. The turtles are losing habitat due to dams, waterside development, water level changes, and human recreational intrusions. 

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MDC Offering Up To $75,000 Grants To Help With Conservation Projects In St. Louis Area Parks

Back to Nature STL

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) works with and for communities to sustain healthy fish, forests and wildlife.  One of the ways in which it does this is by offering funding for conservation-friendly projects in St. Louis area parks through a unique partnership and funding opportunity: The Back to Nature StL Grant.

Applications for the grant should be relevant to the goals of MDC’s Community Conservation Program.  The Back to Nature StL grant supports terrestrial and aquatic habitat improvement in urban area parks, encouraging partnerships for supporting community conservation efforts, native habitat restoration and long-term natural landscape management, and engaging the public through conservation education and volunteer opportunities.

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June Hutson: St. Louis Has Lost A Horticulture Legend

This writer interviewed June Hutson for the following EE article in 2017. It was the first time I met with her. June was welcoming to this stranger asking many questions about gardening and her life in general. She answered each one with a delightful enthusiasm and with a humble openness found only in rare spirits. She was genuine. She was real. She was kind.

Hutson touched many lives in St. Louis and the truth of that can be found in the observations today from her colleagues and friends. In her retirement, she said she intended to travel and explore historic U.S. gardens and maybe the grand gardens of Europe.

However, the true passion in her voice could not be mistaken and was not related to foreign travel – she was looking forward to making future memories with her two grandsons in her own garden.

Hutson’s love of people and passion for gardening left a lasting legacy. This St. Louis horticulture legend will be missed because she was the kind of person that made the world a better place.

—Holly Shanks 7/25/21

The St. Louis Post Dispatch obituary for Hutson can be found HERE.

A memorial celebration of life will be held at the Spink Pavilion at Missouri Botanical Garden on Wednesday, Aug. 11 at 5 p.m.

June Hutson: St. Louis Horticulture Legend

By Holly Shanks

(This article originally posted on Environmental Echo July 17, 2017.)

After spending more than 40 years working at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT), one might think, June Hutson, a master gardener and horticulturist, retired this past January for some much-deserved leisure time. Nope. She says she retired to do the exact opposite. She wants to spend as much time as possible feeding her passion – getting her hands dirty in the garden.

Hutson started as a gardener at MOBOT in the late 1970s. She spent the last 20 years as supervisor of the outdoor gardens at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening. The ordering of plants and managing staff and volunteers limited some of her time to physically work with planting and maintaining the gardens. The love for the hands-on work played a role in her retirement decision.

Hutson wanted to retire on a good note and her long-term staff was knowledgeable enough to function independently. It was the right time for her to make the change.

“I really missed the physical work and I had a wonderful crew when I retired. If I was going to continue gardening I needed to retire while my physical health was still good,” Hutson said. “I was 74 when I retired, so, you know, time-is-a-tickin’.”

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Alfred Satterthwait And The Bluebird Of Happiness

ScatterthwaitBy Don Corrigan

The Eastern Bluebird is Missouri’s Official State Bird. If you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, you may be disturbed to learn this.  How could the Missouri legislature diss the redbird and bestow state honors on the bluebird?

Blame the Webster Groves Nature Study Society (WGNSS) for the slight. Members lobbied Jefferson City lawmakers to cast their votes for the bluebird in 1927. Blame Alfred Satterthwait, founder of WGNSS. Maybe even blame Henry David Thoreau, the prince of nature lovers, who wrote that the colorful bluebird of happiness “carries the sky upon its back.”  

Satterthwait carries the legacy of the local nature society upon his back. He and his wife, Elizabeth, founded the group in 1920 and Alfred became its first president. The Satterthwaits immediately began leading nature field trips through Missouri that were covered by the Webster News Times. The newspaper listed birds sighted on the trips at sites like Jefferson Barracks, Creve Couer Lake and the Meramec Highlands.

A scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Alfred Satterthwait allowed nature society members to use his Entomology Field Laboratory at 527 Ivanhoe Place in Webster. The society had its regular meetings there. Young WGNSS members used its microscopes, binoculars and field equipment, and studied its insect collections. Some of them grew up to be naturalists and prominent scientists in their own right.

Throughout its century of existence, WGNSS leaders have fought to preserve wildlife and protect the environment with some important wins and losses. In the early years, they fought for municipal waste pickup, an end to open burning of trash, and preservation of Missouri prairie lands. In recent times, they’ve fought to spare flood plains from developers’ plans for strip malls, highway interchanges and sports complexes. Missouri fish and fowl would, no doubt, say “thank you,” if they could.

Environmental Echo will periodically single out outdoor / environmental heroes who have made a difference in the St. Louis area and beyond. Many of these individuals hail from the Webster Groves – Kirkwood area, where writer Don Corrigan is Editor Emeritus of the weekly Webster-Kirkwood Times. Corrigan is the author of Environmental Missouri by Reedy Press.

J.B. Lester: Local Steward of The Healthy Planet

JB LesterBy Don Corrigan

J.B. Lester, publisher of The Healthy Planet for a quarter century, shrugs off accolades for his nature advocacy and his editorial work to raise awareness on environmental issues. Instead, he describes himself as a messenger or conduit for environmental experts and real champions of the outdoors. He cites his many columnists and free-lance writers.

He is quick to single out one of his scribes, Jean Ponzi, whom he calls “Green Jean.” She is the Green Resources Manager for the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Earthways Center. According to Lester, Ponzi has informed, educated and entertained with prose and poetry on topics ranging from recycling to honeysuckle removal to wildflower gardens.

The Healthy Planet has a stable of writers from organizations such as the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, the Department of Conservation and a host of others. Lester adds a personal touch with his regular column about everything from the lack of social responsibility during a 100-year pandemic to his encounter with a moose on a trip to Colorado.

“My favorite columns are where I can take a magnifying glass to the eco-system in my Webster backyard – whether it’s on the hungry caterpillar on my tomato plants or our annual praying mantis family,” noted Lester. “By looking closely at what is right next to us, we can learn so much about how to view things farther away. I think the artists call this perspective.”

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