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University of Missouri Scientists Receive $4 Million Grant To Study COVID and Virus Variants Found In Community Waste Water.

The University of Missouri (MU) recently published information announcing a two year study of the COVID virus and the virus variants found in community wastewater made possible by a $4 Million grant. Please read below for more from the MU press release and link to the article.

University of Missouri scientists receive $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine clues about the rate of infection in communities and virus variants.

Using the 2-year, $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, scientists at the University of Missouri are collaborating with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, or DHSS, to figure out how differing levels of SARS-CoV-2 can appear in a community’s wastewater.

READ THE STORY FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI HERE.

Imagination, Creativity and the Arts In Service Of The Environment

by Don Corrigan

We are in a time of rebirth, resurrection and the revival of the creation. It’s spring. It’s also a time for renewal and the new energy of MICA, which happens at the First Congregational Church UCC in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis.

What is MICA?

MICA is the Ministry of Imagination, Creativity and the Arts, a concept developed by the Rev. Cliff Aerie. That concept has inspired “Journey through the Creation,” a year-long program with an environmental emphasis funded through a Lilly Grant from Calvin Institute of Worship.

“Our first program on earth, art and faith, featured environmentalist Jean Ponzi and storyteller Valerie Tutson, and was held last September,” said Aerie. “We’ve had to push things back due to the pandemic, but our final program will be on June 13 and will feature the Oikos Ensemble in an afternoon concert, Earth Walk 3.0.”

A program put together on March 20 featured community artist Tia Richardson and Michael Smyer, an expert on gerontology and CEO of Growing Greener: Climate Action for an Aging World.

“These webinars and worship services all coincide with the changing of the seasons,” noted Aerie. “The June program will be the capstone. If the pandemic continues to wane, we expect a concert to be held live.

“The concert may be outside,” added Aerie. “If not, we will bring outside inside, which we’ve done before through the generosity of Rolling Ridge Gardens. They have let us borrow trees to transform our sanctuary into a forest. Either way we will be blending jazz, stories, poetry, dance with video vignettes from our two previous webinars.”

Members of First Congregational Church UCC have been critical to the efforts of “Journey through the Creation.” Members of the planning team include Jan Barnes, Chris von Weise, Halley Kim, Debbie Tolstoi, John Paci, Phil Shoulberg, Ian Didriksen, Elston McCowen, Leon Burke III and Dave Denoon. Aerie serves as project director.

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It’s Time For Morels!

common-morel

Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

The Missouri Department of Conservation offers an abundance of information about Missouri’s nature wonderland. Early spring can offer a fun adventure in the form of mushroom hunting! Check out the MDC’s communication about all you need to know for finding those tasty golden shrooms – The Morel! 

To the uninitiated, a morel does not have the most appetizing appearance. Its brain-like form looks like something out of a campy horror movie, and a morel’s neutral, earthy color doesn’t command much attention. From about late March to early May, however, foraging for these small mushrooms is serious business—a business so serious that many folks refuse to reveal their morel spots even to their closest friends and family!

The question many people ask this time of year is, “How can I find morels?” Well, morels are finicky fungal organisms. The underground portion of the fungus only produces mushrooms in some years—mostly based on soil temperature and moisture availability (but other factors play a role, too). Ultimately, most of what we know about finding morels is anecdotal and widely variable, but here are a few tips to help you narrow down good places to look for morels:

  • Morels commonly appear after warm, moist spring weather with daytime temperatures in the low 70s and nighttime temperatures in the 50s.
  • South and west facing slopes are good sites to look for morels early in the season, with north and east slopes being better for later-season morel hunting.
  • Morels tend to favor tree species such as elms, ashes, cottonwoods, and even domesticated apples. Look around recently dead trees but beware of falling branches!
  • Areas disturbed by flooding, fire, or logging often produce loads of morels.
  • Morels peak when lilacs bloom!
  • Most public lands in Missouri allow the collecting of mushrooms for personal use, but always check the regulations before you collect to be sure.

Remember, these are just general guidelines – morels have been found growing in all sorts of locations and conditions!

Before setting off into the forest, make sure you know how to correctly identify morels. Misidentifying and consuming toxic mushrooms can cause anything from mild stomach issues to organ failure or even death! There are several mushroom species in Missouri, including the big red false morel, which are considered toxic and not recommended for consumption. Consult with field guides or a professional mycologist to be completely confident in species identification before consuming any mushrooms.

Browse MDC’s mushroom field guide for photos of the more common and noticeable fungal species in Missouri. Click here for tasty recipes using Missouri’s wild mushrooms!

Missouri Prairie Foundation & Grow Native! Offer Weekly Webinars & Master Classes in April 2021

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The Missouri Prairie Foundation and its Grow Native! native program continue its popular online programming.

More than 6,000 live attendees have enjoyed the online programming offered by the Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) and its 21-year-old Grow Native! program from January through March 2021. MPF continues its popular webinar and master class schedule in April.

During these virtual learning opportunities hosted each week at 4:00 p.m., participants can learn from a variety of speakers on topics such as native rock gardening, monarch butterflies, and native plants and water quality.

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Missourians Asked To Save Ticks and Mail To A.T. Still University For Scientific Research

MDC Tick

Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

MDC and A.T. Still University are asking Missourians to save ticks they find and send them to the University for scientific research to learn more about ticks and pathogens they may carry.

Most people who have ventured through Missouri woods, fields, yards, and other outdoor environments have encountered ticks. These small, creepy crawlers climb on and cling to clothes and skin in search of a blood meal. Some tick species and the bacterial pathogens they carry can also cause illnesses in people.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and A.T. Still University in Kirksville are asking people to save ticks they encounter and mail them to the University. The ticks will be used for a new scientific research study to help better understand the statewide distribution of tick species and the human pathogens they carry.

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Route 66 State Park: What A Bunch of Flowers!

by Don Corrigan

Nature often triumphs at environmental disaster sites, sometimes with the help of man – and sometimes not. There’s no
shortage of photos on the web of flora and fauna reclaiming damaged territory, such as at Chernobyl in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan, sites where nuclear plant disasters occurred.

In Missouri, Times Beach is an environmental Superfund Site that cost upwards of a billion dollars to rescue from major dioxin contamination. In the 1980s, debates took place on whether to bury the dioxin or flush it down the Meramec River. The final solution was to scoop up and burn the dioxin-saturated ground to neutralize the contamination.

Today, the city of Times Beach is no more and the dioxin is mostly gone. In its place – on land between Fenton and Eureka, Missouri – is Route 66 State Park. A nearby visitors center is across the Meramec River from the land known for its terrible legacy of dioxin contamination.

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From Classroom to Bookshelf: Publishing a DIY Guide to Local Environmental Issues

By DON CORRIGAN

A popular ad slogan for city tourism is “St. Louis has it all from A to Z.” That’s certainly true when it comes to hazardous waste issues or land, air and water pollution. It’s not hard to find environmental tales from the St. Louis region that grab my students’ attention and elicit incredulity.

A journalism professor in St. Louis can talk about dioxin at Times Beach, lead smelters in Herculaneum, a creek on fire across the Mississippi River near the Sauget chemical works, or the dangerous radioactive waste pile near a smoldering landfill west of Lambert International Airport.

Soon students will be asking these kinds of questions:

– How can a waste oil hauler get away with spraying roads of an entire town with a dioxin concoction?
-What prompts a state legislature to pass laws to immunize a lead company from contamination lawsuits?
-When does a landfill operator get sanctioned for allowing a landfill fire to smolder for months near a site containing radiation?

These are questions that can inspire students to research and write their own investigative stories. The local aspect of the stories propels a personal interest in the environmental issues. Knowing that these stories can be located in the students’ own backyards – sometimes literally – gives them a special urgency.

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Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood Is Now Open With Trial Hours Extending To 8 p.m. On March 14

Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

The Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center is now open for limited public access, following a COVID-19 closure. The building’s operating hours will be Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., with the gift shop closing at 4:30 p.m.

The nature center’s outdoor spaces, including all trails, remain open and fully accessible to the public. The trail hours will also be extended from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week with the beginning of Daylight Savings Time on Sunday, March 14.

Powder Valley’s front desk is available to the public for information or gift shop and permit sales. Due to ongoing public health and safety concerns, the rest of the building, including the exhibit galleries and classrooms, are currently not accessible.

“We are so excited to begin seeing people again,” said MDC Nature Center Manager Tamie Yegge. “Spring is almost here, the wildflowers will soon be blooming, and our staff is ready to welcome our visitors back.”

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Top Ten Environmental Issues In Missouri

Pictured: Rich Thoma of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society

by Don Corrigan

What are the Top Ten Environmental Issues that Missourians have coped with last century, from 1900 to 2000? Rich Thoma of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society (WGNSS) recently had a conversation about this. WGNSS members have been involved in a number of environmental battles. What quickly became apparent to me is that naming these Top Ten will depend in large part on what environmental groups you may have affiliation. St. Louis and Missouri have a number of such organizations that have been on the frontlines.

Here is one take on the Top Ten Environmental Issues in Missouri, but it is not definitive. Revisions and commentary on these are welcome. Additions and subtractions may be necessary to put an accurate list together.

1.)  Atomic City – radioactive waste issues in Weldon Spring, West Lake Landfill, Coldwater Creek.

2.) Lead Contamination – Lead smelter products poisoned people in urban center and the Leadbelt.

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Community Science Volunteers Needed For FrogWatch USA

Photo: Gray tree frog By Michael Dawson, Saint Louis Zoo.

Saint Louis Zoo virtual training sessions set for March 5, 13

Jump in and become a FrogWatch USA™ volunteer with the Saint Louis Zoo! Members of the St. Louis-area community are needed to monitor frogs and toads from their backyards, parks, fields, creeks or just about anywhere. The information gathered can lead to practical and workable ways to stop amphibian decline.
You do not have to be an expert to be help with frog conservation. All you need is an interest in frogs and toads and a willingness to participate at the level of commitment that works for you.
“We will train you to distinguish the croaks, peeps, and various calls of the 10 most common frog and toad species around the St. Louis area,” says Michael Dawson, Conservation Education Liaison at the Zoo, and coordinator of the St. Louis Chapter of FrogWatch USA. “Breeding calls vary greatly and are often mistaken for birds or insects. Their volume ranges from a soft musical trill to a deafening chorus.”

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