Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Flora-Quest 2015 finale

For those who know me, the fact that I devote a good part of my year organizing Flora-Quest comes as no surprise.  Flora-Quest was the brain-child of Jim McCormac, and Paula Harper and I provided the first "boots on the ground" so to speak.  From 2007-2015 it has been a good run, many of those years were held in Shawnee State Park and Forest.  This year it was time for something new, and Flora-Quest 2015 moved to Mohican Forest and Malabar Farm State Park.

Maidenhair Spleenwort, photo by Steve McKee

With a name like Flora-Quest one might expect flowers.  Most of our Quests have been flora-centric, however this year we focused more on eco-systems. We wanted to convey a better understanding why the hemlock trees and hellbenders are as important as rare ferns, like this Maidenhair Spleenwort, and Roundleaf Orchids.

Mohican's own Steve McKee,  photo by Jennifer Kubicki
But a long time ago I learned what was really important at Flora-Quest: the people.  The incredible guides who share their knowledge.  The fascinating attendees - often guides, authors, conservationists and professional naturalists- who bring so much collective intelligence to our programs.  Many of them are old friends and even more of them have become our new friends.

Long-time guide, Bob Scott Placier and friends. Photo  by Mark Dilley
Bird Banding, photo Zach Pocock

Many of our guides have dedicated their lives to environmental and outdoor education.  Bob Scott Placier recently retired from a long career teaching Dendrology and Ornithology at Hocking College. He is Flora-Quest lifer,  and a guide I can always count on to pitch in and help out in the wee hours of the morning.  There is nothing in the world to capture one's heart like seeing a tiny wild bird, up-close and personal. Bob makes that happen.

Judy Semroc, photo by Jennifer Kubicki
One of our sponsors, The Cleveland Museum of Natural History sends people to our event.  Guides Judy Semroc and Larry Rosche are experts in the field.  They literally wrote the book on Northeast Ohio's Dragonflies. Their combined abilities identifying birds, bugs and plants is legendary.

Greg Lipps and Hellbender, photo by Jeff  Belth.
This year we went to -hellbender- in a basket, or rather a plastic tube. Greg Lipps, Ohio's foremost expert on these endangered, prehistoric aquatic creatures brought some fauna to our flora program. The health of our watersheds matter and the flora we love filters the run-off to our rivers.  Eco-systems are important and we must protect entire ecosystems to protect individual charismatic species, like hellbenders.
Lousie Warner, Chis Riley, Clyde Gosnell 
 For me, the addition of interns or Flora-Fellows took the entire event to a whole new level.  We provide students and young professionals the opportunity to meet the movers and shakers in the world of conservation.  Pictured here, Chris was sponsored by The Stratford Ecological Center (represented by Louise and Clyde.)

Tim McNiven, intern Nicole Hoekstra and Greg Blum
 Nicole Hoekstra brought her many talents to us as an intern, and she was funded by two wonderful individuals who have attended past Flora-Quests.  Greg and Tim wanted to provide this educational opportunity to someone who would not be able to attend without a scholarship.

These are the people of Flora-Quest: intelligent folks who want to share their knowledge and love for nature. People who care.

Mark and Michelle Goodman-  photo selfie
Especially nice for me, my daughter and son-in-law helped by coordinating the efforts of those interns. They also remind me why bringing people closer to nature and learning about our environment really matters.  We do this, not only for our own enjoyment, but rather for future generations.  We are growing a constituency for our parks and forests.

Sure, we all feel better when we breath clean air. We are happier when we are trotting down a wooded trail. My friends all want to have a personal encounters with a bird, butterfly or beetle. Flora-Questers are the people who help us ensure these special places are here for the next generations as well.

Special thanks to all those who have sent in photos!  I rarely have time to get decent pictures during the event. This blog is strictly the result of using the photos I have been given to share.  There were 20 fabulous guides, 4 awesome interns, 1 energetic emcee, 4 excellent speakers- and I will hope to share more of their photos in the future.  For now I would like to say thank you to the paying participants; YOU make this event happen.  "Thank You." 

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