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Speaker: Theo Witsell, Botanist, AR Natural Heritage Commission

From the High Ozarks to the swamps of the Mississippi Valley, Arkansas was once a rich and patchy mosaic of grassland, forest, glade, and wetland. Theo’s talk will explore the state’s natural communities past and present, visit remnants of rare landscapes, and meet rare, endemic, and otherwise unique flora and fauna. Emphasis will be on how ecosystem processes, including anthropogenic management, shaped the native biota and how modern conservationists are working to secure the future of our natural heritage.

As the senior botanist and ecologist with the Arkansas Natural Heritage Program, Theo explores and inventories some of the best remaining natural areas in the central United States. His research helps identify conservation targets and prioritize sites for protection, restoration, and management within the state’s System of Natural Areas and beyond. He works closely with state, federal, municipal, and private partners to achieve conservation goals. Theo collaborates widely with both professional and amateur naturalists, publishing regularly and speaking to a variety of audiences. He serves as a regional reviewer for the Flora of North America Project, was co-editor of the recently published Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas, and is co-author of a new guide to the state’s woody plants. In 2014 he was named a Research Associate at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

Meet at 7:00 a.m. at the south end of the commuter parking lot at the I-630/I-430 intersection at Shackleford Road in Little Rock. We’ll stop at the McDonalds in Hope (Exit 30 off I-30) around 8:45 a.m. for those in south Arkansas who would like to join us. Look for Great-tailed Grackles at McDonalds. We should arrive at the Bois D’Arc WMA at 9:15 a.m. Our target birds will be Purple and Common Gallinules and their chicks, Least Bitterns, Anhingas, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, herons, egrets, and possibly an alligator or two! Very little walking will be involved. Bring scopes, plenty of water, snacks, and lunch. There are several restaurants in Hope if you prefer to eat lunch in town.

Bois D‘Arc WMA is located 10 miles south of Hope. Take Exit 30 off I-30 and go east. Continue past McDonald’s, then under the railroad overpass. At the light at the big intersection, turn right onto Hwy. 67. Go 1/3 of a mile. At the brown sign, turn left onto Hwy. 174. Take Hwy. 174 south 6 miles to the stop sign at Spring Hill. Turn right onto Hwy. 355. Go west for 4 miles. Turn right at the white wooden WMA sign just before the highway ends in the lake. Follow the paved road, then turn left onto the first gravel road and go down to the lake. GPS: 33.558062, -93.694239