Stories in Missouri

It's in Our Nature: A Podcast Celebrating the Connection Between People and Nature

We're sharing inspiring stories and lifting up the people and partners making positive impacts on conservation in Missouri and beyond.

It’s in Our Nature is a new podcast that shares inspiring stories and highlights Missourians who are making positive impacts in our communities and to conservation at large. 

"I feel fortunate that on a regular basis, I get to be deeply involved in conversations with partners and colleagues celebrating the large and small wins of our work," said Adam McLane, Missouri State Director—and host of the podcast. "We hope you enjoy this dive into some of those conversations."

Check back for new episodes or subscribe with one of our podcast hosts to be notified when a new episode is added. 

Missouri's podcast that celebrates the connections between people and nature.
It's in Our Nature Missouri's podcast that celebrates the connections between people and nature. © Route 3 Films

Growing an Oasis in North St. Louis

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Opening: You're listening to It's in Our Nature, the podcast that celebrates the connections between people and nature with hosts, Adam McLane, The Nature Conservancy's Missouri state director for more information, visit nature.org/missouri

Adam McLane: Hello everyone. I'm Adam McLane, Missouri state director for The Nature Conservancy. We're excited to have you listening today. This is our first ever podcast episode, and I would say you are in luck because we have a great show planned and really our goal with this podcast and the future ones is going to be sharing amazingly inspiring stories of what can happen when people in nature work together. Because that's our vision at The Nature Conservancy, which is a world where people in nature thrive together and it can and does happen before we get started. I have one request. That is, if you like this podcast, even just a little bit, please share it with others. We hope the stories we share inspire a deeper connection with the nature around you. So let's get into it. Today we're talking with some incredible people about an incredible Oasis in North St. Louis and I'm joined by the people that made it happen. Rebecca Weaver is our city's program manager. Donna Washington is the urban farm manager at project Oasis and Pastor Andy Krumsieg, did I get it?

Adam McLane: You got that.

Adam McLane: We've in practice beforehand. My goodness, Krumsieg. Right. Okay. Well, um, thank you both so much for, for joining, or all three of you. Um, and I say it's hard in my mind to think about how to paint the picture of this place over the airwaves like this when we don't have videos, but could you to try to do that for me, just take me to Project Oasis and what it looks like and what it feels like.

Pastor Andy: Wow, that's pretty cool. Um, Project Oasis, Donna's been a few years in development, isn't it?

Donna Washington: Yes it has.

Pastor Andy: And we have, um, started with a vacant lot. It's an acre and a half vacant lot, uh, used to have a warehouse on it years ago, and then it was just kind of no man's land. And then Jubilee Community Church, we got it from the city and then we just kind of cut the weeds. And then we did a project with, uh, MSD Project Clear, and we were able to dig a hole, 10 foot deep and a hundred foot square and put a water retention system in the ground. And it was a big project. We learned a lot of lessons on that. And, uh, so we we've been, we started working on this several years ago and then, uh, we were able to, uh, Dr. Moore who's our senior pastor, he was the one along with me and several others that were able to do this project. And then we, the purpose was to create it so that we could irrigate this acre and a half of property. And, um, we didn't know how we were going to get all this done, but we knew were supposed to move, move forward and doing it. And, uh, we had had a very small, um, plot of, you know, six, what did we have done with about six beds before that? Do you remember?

Donna Washington: Um, I wasn't a part of the church then, but I heard that, you know, people inside the church came out and they had sweet potatoes and cabbage and, you know, mostly the vegetables that are easily to grow in those areas. Yeah.

Pastor Andy: And we had Carol Campbell and Carol Aucamp and several other volunteers, Joanne, and uh, some other guys as well. And we did these little plots and then we thought about doing something bigger and it just became something that we thought, yes, we should do this. And we did. Um, and it's amazing how the resources have come together over the past few years. And Nature Conservancy was a big part of that in, after we were getting going, then you guys heard about it. Somebody introduced us and it was just a wonderful partnership that began to happen. And, and you guys have been so gracious to us as we're in our learning curve. And, uh, I don't know, we've learned a lot of good things...

Donna Washington: And some bad things, too.

Adam McLane: Okay. I want to hear the bad things, Donna. Spill it.

Donna Washington: Well about it. What about a year ago? We, we use black tarp over the wintertime. You know, the black plastic where we were told that we, you know, we should use clear. Well, we found out this year, that that's not a good idea. That's more for keeping the plant warm and nice and toasty in the wintertime. So we had part of our garden was covered in black and the other part was covered in clear, well, the black is nice and dark and beautiful and ready for planting the clear...weeds, all vegetables and everything. So that was a good lesson to learn.

Adam McLane: Yes, we can all take that lesson and I'm calling you next time I need to tarp something just to make sure I get it right. Well, Donna, I'm really interested in how you said you weren't there at the beginning of the project, how you became involved in the project and, um, what that looks like.

Donna Washington: Well, in the beginning I went, I left the church that I was at because it just stopped happening and I was looking for a church. So I saw Jubilee, it wasn't too far from where I lived and I went in. And then that's when I met Andy and I met Dr. Moore. They were in the garden, it wasn't a garden at the time. And they were always digging. They were always muddy. They were all, you know, and then I heard about the stories that were happening back there. How, uh, Dr. Moore would call Andy and Andy didn't hear him or vice versa because of the noise from the machines. And then we asked the congregation, you know, would they like to come in and help? And so when they asked that I wanted to help, I just wanted to get in there and help. Cause I like working outside versus inside. And in that process, more people started coming and more people started coming. So then we got people and then Mission St. Louis brought volunteers. And then Andy was told about other volunteers from out of the state. And then they were coming in helping us dig and make the berms and cover it and bring in chip wood chips. And it just took off. And we grew plants that we didn't know how it was gonna, you know, happen or what it was going to do, but it flourished. We would go out there and we would be pulling weeds. And then me, myself, I would pick up, wipe it off, pop it in my mouth. And it was the most, ahh words, I can't even say the words. It was different than the stuff that we bought in the grocery store. It was more tastier. It was more fruitier. So from there, the people that came to help us, they were always coming from all over and then the COVID happened. And then that kind of put a stunt on us. We still grew, but we didn't have as many people as we had before pulling the weeds. So the weeds were trying to overtake the plants. Yes.

Adam McLane: Wow. You took me there. I was tasting cherry tomatoes. They're still warm right off the line as I was popping into my mouth. So thank you very much for that. Um, Becca, I'm going to invite you to chime in too, about from The Nature Conservancy side, um, what this partnership has looked or felt like for you.

Rebecca Weaver: Um, yeah. Thanks for the opportunity, to join y'all this morning, um, to be a part of this project has been a dream come true for me. I think what, from my perspective,, the best part of this project are the strength of the relationships that we have with each other. And so it's been an honor to be in relationship with Pastor Andy and Pastor Gill and Dr. Moore now and Donna and Carol. And so from my background, you know, in community-based conservation work, these are the dream projects that we get to be a part of and collaborate alongside. And what's happened at Jubilee Community Church really speaks to the leadership, um, in a vision that lies within that neighborhood and within that church. And so to be a supporting partner in this effort has really been such an incredible opportunity for a demonstration of what happens when we collaborate across different sectors, across different areas of expertise. We all have something that we bring to the table, and it's been such a wonderful opportunity to see kind of how all the different pieces have been able to weave together in a way that is supportive of, you know, overall the vision that's kind of emerging through everybody participating in this project. Um, and I feel like it really is representative of what happens when we're not going to prescribe, you know, should go in what area or, you know, even from a nature perspective, it's like, yes, we know that tree canopy is beneficial. We know that it's important to have equitable access to healthy green spaces, but really what's most important, especially in a place like St. Louis is having the opportunity to support people in their own visions for what sustainable redevelopment looks like in St. Louis. And I feel like we've been able to be a part of something like that with Jubilee. Um, and it's been such a, an opportunity to, to work in this way. And I think it's important for TNC, um, to be in supportive projects like this, where we don't know necessarily what the outcomes are going to be. However, we know it's important to really listen and support community vision.

Adam McLane: Thank you, Becca. Okay. Pastor Andy. I'm going to go back to something that you said that you said, um, during the process you had done a little bit, and then you said you knew we were called to do more. I don't know that you use that word, but that's the sense that I got. Can you tell me a little bit about what that was or what that feels like? What, what was that thing that had had it become very clear that this vision needs to take place and we're going to start.

Pastor Andy: That's a good question, Adam. And I think what I've seen over the years, I'm starting to get to be an older man. I got a grey beard and, uh, life moves on. And I think we need to, when, when we look at things in life, I think we need to kind of understand the times. Whether it's on a bigger picture or certainly on a smaller picture in our own little worlds. And there had been ideas that came our way from other people prior to when we did this, that just, they were great ideas, but it just wasn't the right time. And then, uh, one of the guys that helped introduce us to this in the very beginning was a guy named Jim Holtzman. Jim's become a very good friend and he did a great job of vision casting and all that. But at the beginning, when I first met him, it just didn't seem like it was time. And later on, we got reconnected that, uh, so that he could come and get the ideas back together and it fit. And then Jim actually connected, I think, to N nature Conservancy. And it just, things started to line up in the right way. And we were able to do the, um, MSD Project Clear project. And then we created, we we've named this Jubilee Oasis Farm, right? So we're in the middle of North St. Louis in the heart of North St. Louis. And we have a challenging community and as a challenging history for a long, long time. And there are so many good things in North St. Louis, but we don't hear about the good thing. And so that's part of who we are at Jubilee. Jubilee means a new beginning. It means a new start, a fresh start. It means leaving the past behind, learning from the past, but not getting stuck in the past.

Donna Washington: Right.

Pastor Andy: And then Oasis is the concept of, ahh...something refreshing for a change, those kinds of things. Oh, I was waiting for this.

Donna Washington: New birth.

Pastor Andy: New birth, that's right. And so that's what Jubilee Oasis Farm is. And so, you know, the blackberries and the bush cherries and the tree cherries and the pawpaws and the jujubes in our little orchard space and the serviceberries and the figs, and then in the garden, we can grow anything we want every year, you know, and the partnerships, sometimes they're repeating partnerships. And sometimes there are new partnerships that develop. So you have to remain fluid, but you keep going through with a, with a persevering spirit that doesn't give up and looks for hope all the time.

Adam McLane: Wow. Thank you, Donna. Do you think you're growing more than vegetables in this project?

Donna Washington: I think I am. Uh, when we started, you know, I knew very little about nothing, you know, uh, growing up my mom and Mr. Eddie, that was my mother's friend. They always had a garden on the side of the house. So I knew about it, but I never really worked in it. I never really tilled it. I never really harvested. Only thing I did was eat it. And it was good. But working in the garden at the church, we had lots of people that came out to help us. And one of them was Matt. Matt came and helped us with the orchard part of the garden, the fig trees and the, and I've never eaten a raw fig before. And when he told us to pick it and eat it, I looked at it. I said, I don't know if I want to eat this. But when I ate it, Oh my mouth was like, wow, what was that? I want more. So you learn a lot of things. Cause I never knew that's what a fig looked like, because I've always had the fig newtons.

Adam McLane: Right.

Donna Washington: You know, the stuff in the middle. But if I had a choice between the fig newton and the raw fig, I'd take the raw.

Adam McLane: That's saying something fig newtons are pretty darn good. Huh?

Donna Washington: You wait till you taste it.

Adam McLane: Okay. So I, um, you know, I can picture, and I know about the project obviously. So you have all this water, that's not going into the combined sewer overflow system because it's going in from your roof right into this giant cistern and that you can use for irrigation and watering. Um, you've done a lot of the work up top already of getting things installed. That'll be ongoing, working with community with volunteers and I'll, I'll make sure that I, well, let's just do that now. How would people come to connect with you if they want to come out and help? And will you give them a fig Donna? If they come out and help?

Donna Washington: Yes. Yes. If there's any left.

Pastor Andy: Contact us. Uh, my email address is S T L Andy. So stlandy at, would you believe it, aol.com.

Adam McLane: Wow.

Pastor Andy: And, uh, then my phone number is 314-518-0419, 518-0419 with that 314 area code. And Donna, what's your number?

Donna Washington: Okay. My, um, email is Donna57washington@yahoo.com. And my phone number is (314) 652-7116. And if not there, you can always leave a message.

Adam McLane: So what what's next for, ah what do you see coming this year, next year? Where do you hope this grows? Um, what's that vision look like?

Donna Washington: Well, we hope that because we didn't get enough volunteers last year, we did get volunteers, but not like we did the year before, but we're hoping that more will come out. And we did have our first group of volunteers that came out this past Saturday and it was nice cause we were able to do what about six berms or more? And um, they look good. I wish we had, it took some pictures to show you, but they look good. We have not started planning. Hopefully this Saturday on the 27th, we may be able to plant. Depending on the weather. Yeah. Yeah.

Pastor Andy: Well, we had an, uh, uh, was it last fall? We had a group from Spire that came out. That was really neat. And I had, uh, a great workday over there and Nature Conservancy has come. We've had other groups that come, so we welcome any groups to come. There's plenty of things to do, pulling weeds, spreading wood chips, and organizing things. And then there's other projects that we need to do. We want to develop the composting area and some of the other kinds of things and the more volunteers, the merrier and we can organize people, can't we Donna?

Donna Washington: Yes we can.

Pastor Andy: I call her Sarge. She's good.

Donna Washington: Twenty-six years military.

Adam McLane: I shoveled some mulch right next to Sarge and so I remember her glancing over every once in a while to make sure I was still not just like leaning on the rake or the shovel. So I can attest to that.

Pastor Andy: We have, um, uh, this year we're going to, this will be the first time that we've done a hundred percent of the garden. And, uh, we have some partnerships with a couple of restaurants that have, are, we may be gonna to use some of our things. And then what is the, uh, local, local, uh, Local Harvest? Is that the one on the south side? Yes. Forgive me for forgetting the name right off hand, but there's a nice little grocery store on Morganford. Right? And they, they liked to buy our things and we're getting, we just did a little bit with them last year. This year, we're going to be doing a lot more, uh, the Food Hub, uh, right over on Sarah is going to, they they've showed, they asked us what to, uh, or we asked them, what can we grow for you that you would want to buy from us? And they said, the gives a whole list of peppers and all kinds of other herbs and other things. And then they buy, they've got some funding that they're working with. And then they prepare meals. And we actually pick up meals from them to distribute in St. Louis, we feed over 300 people a week, uh, through this whole COVID situation. So lots of cool things happen. And then the orchard is getting more mature. And we probably won't see any pawpaws for another year or two, but I can't wait until we get those. And then, uh, the next things again, this is one of those things where we know we're going to get there, but the time's not right yet, yet...is honey. We're going to eventually do honey, but we've got to develop the berms a little bit more surrounding the property. And the native flowers have been, uh, the native plants have been planted by seeds this spring. Tell them about the, uh, little, uh, thing we did last year, the demonstration.

Donna Washington: Okay. We have, um, we have a tool shed and we have, uh, two little small plots of lands. And we use that for our demonstration garden. That's where the plants that are native to Missouri. And, um, we planted them in and we didn't think they were going to flourish, but we were surprised. They came out and they were beautiful. We're going to have to show you those pictures too. But, uh, but now we have the berm that's on the Obear, that's up near the orchard and it's bare right now. And, um, me and a couple of, and Carol and a couple of other volunteers came and we planted with seeds, not with plants this time. So we're hoping that some of that, uh, starts sprouting up soon.

Pastor Andy: So what's the picture of this around is if you can picture an acre and a half piece of land and surrounding the land is a berm. That's about 18 inches tall, and it's about 20 feet from one side of the berm to the other side of the berm. And that is so it's 18 inches. And we didn't want to put a fence around this property. We didn't want to say, we don't want you here. We want it to say, let's create boundaries. Okay. Boundaries are good. And an 18 inch boundaries, not enough to keep anybody out and neither as a fence, anybody anyways. So let's create an inviting place that says, come in here. And so we planted these plants will be somewhere between 18 inches and three feet high. So we will have a natural fence of, um, about five feet tall. That will be beautiful. The bees will like it. The birds will like it, the butterfly, but yeah, it's just going to be beautiful. So it's going to take a few years to get there, but we are so much looking forward to it.

Adam McLane: Wow. That sounds amazing. And I can picture it. Um, you know, in the work that we, we do with native plants, I, you took me to a prairie, um, and I can picture what a period looks like. And, um, and I love them dearly. So I'm, I'm, I'm excited to see that get incorporated in and the bees and the whole system. Um, it sounding like each year, it grows on itself and, uh, in a way that is sustainable and thoughtful and, um, serving the community and really neat ways. So.

Pastor Andy: You know, Adam, the other part of this, the bigger picture of this, okay, this is Jubilee Oasis Farm. We have a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and volunteers, and it's all really good, but it's part of a bigger picture because our neighborhood has been so challenged over there. There's been 70 years of disinvestment in North St. Louis. And there's been all kinds of systemic things in individual things. You just name it, all. It's all happened in our neighborhood. And as North St. Louis is poised to rebirth, the geospatial agency is happening. Herbert Hoover Boy and Girls Club is doing something with the PGA and Urban Klife. There's a lot of things that are happening. We have to make sure that the people in our community can stay in our community and that they have ownership and Jubilee Oasis Farm's, right there on Obear and Carter and Penrose and Grand Avenue. Right across the street are some abandoned buildings. We're going to rehab those abandoned buildings. There's some abandoned lots. We're going to put new construction on these things and make things viable for our neighbors. So that there's health and beauty and refreshment and renewal that happens in our community and the, the garden, Jubilee Oasis Farm is the seed part of that that will grow to flourishing as time takes its course. And we do the things that we're supposed to do in the now to plant seeds for the future.

Adam McLane: Hmmm, very neat. Becca, anything you'd like to join, you've been instrumental in, um, from The Nature Conservancy side of, of, um, working in this space. Is there anything else that you would like to add about the project or the discussion today?

Rebecca Weaver: Just an immense amount of gratitude, um, to everyone involved in the project. Um, it's been, um, a few years now since I've had the privilege of knowing Andy and Donna. Um, and I think from the TNC point of things with our focus on supporting community-driven green infrastructure work, I mean, what an example to come out of the gate with, um, and, and being able to support what's happening at Jubilee Community Church. So a lot of appreciation for everyone that's helped to make this happen. And, uh, we're honored to be a part of this.

Adam McLane: I agree. I feel that gratitude as well. Well, Donna, I'm going to ask you to, to bring us home here a little bit. So, um, this podcast is about stories of people in nature, thriving together, trying to come up with solutions and projects where people can thrive and they can be taken care of their needs are met, but nature is not, is also thriving, alongside and supporting. Does that feel like what this project is in your mind and what any advice to anybody else thinking about similar projects out there?

Donna Washington: Yes. Um, very much so. Um, I've been in North St. Louis all my life. I'm 63 years old. I did come and go being in the military, but, uh, came back and I came back on the north side cause I could have went anywhere. I wanted to go once upon a time on North City, used to thrive with everything from grocery stores to laundry mats, to, um, what, anything that you can basically think of furniture, stores, uh, they had gardens and everything. And then, you know, as I grew up and got older, everything started moving out and when things started moving out, crime started coming in. So I feel that if we put this garden there and that garden is to help the community because we are in a desert, vegetable desert. And if people are able to get decent vegetables, decent food, that would help them on that end. And then from there, we can give them jobs, where they can make money, where they can take care of their families. Um, I feel that because we've been disenfranchised, if you will, that a lot of the stuff that's happening there is the reason behind that, all of that. So I know that it's not going to help a hundred percent of everybody, but if you could just help one, that one can help another and then that can help another. And then as far as the volunteer side, you might hear some real negative stuff about the north side, but if you just come in and you just meet us and you just work alongside of us and you just be with us, you know, you will see a difference. We're not asking you to live here, we're just asking you to come be a part, and then as you go away, spread it to someone else. So others can come.

Adam McLane: Thank you so much. And I, um, I echo that encouragement for anyone that's listening to this podcast. Um, I think that was a great call to action for you to reach out and just go see and volunteer and participate in this incredible project. It's inspiring and, um, nothing beats a good day at work, getting in the mud a little bit and pulling out some weeds and plants and moving some things around. So thank you for that offer. And I just want to say, thank you so much from The Nature Conservancy to both of you and to everybody that's been involved in this project. And I know that as a large, large group of people and we're inspired by it, um, to Becca's point it has, um, been a great starting place for us to start working in, in the city, um, in ways that we never had in the past. And I think you all have, have done an incredible job of teaching us how to do that equitably and the right ways and how to be supportive. So thank you deepest gratitude from The Nature Conservancy to both of you. So in closing, thank you to our guests for sharing the story with us, and thank you for tuning in for more information about the nature Conservancy and what we do visit nature.org/missouri, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast so you can catch future episodes.

 

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Episode 1: What was once a vacant lot in the heart of North St. Louis is now a flourishing urban farm, providing so much more than just fresh produce to the community. 

In this episode, you'll hear from Pastor Andy Krumsieg and Donna Washington from Jubilee Community Church, and Rebecca Weaver, TNC Missouri's cities program manager.  They will talk about how Project Oasis Farm came to life and how they turned the church's vision into a space that's providing solutions for nature and people. 

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It's in Our Nature Podcast guests © Route 3 Films

Fight for Survival: Missouri's Endangered Species

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Opening: You're listening to It's in Our Nature, the podcast that celebrates the connections between people and nature with host, Adam McLane, The Nature Conservancy's Missouri state director. For more information, visit nature.org/missouri.

Adam McLane: I'm Adam McLane, the Missouri state director for The Nature Conservancy. Thanks for joining us today. This is episode number two of our new podcast. Where the goal of that podcast is to share stories that we just think really highlight the connection between people and nature, the amazing things that can happen when we work together. And fun episode today, I'm prepared for laughter. And because I'm spending time with someone who usually does that to me, we have a fun episode. It might get a little nerdy, just caution, but we have a guest that many of you know, and surely admire, but before we get started, my one request always in these podcasts, if you like it, please share it with others. So drum roll for our guests, Doug Ladd, the former director of conservation for The Nature Conservancy. How long Doug, how many years?

Doug Ladd: A little over 32, little over 32 years.

Adam McLane: And today the reason we brought Doug in today, we're talking endangered species. In 2019 TNC launched a partnership with the giant screen/IMAX film, which is called Back From the Brink. It tells the true story of three animals rescued from the brink of extinction California's Channel Island, Fox China's golden monkey and the migrating crabs of Christmas Island. And exciting for us...TNC is featured, with our colleagues in all of those places. And it's been playing in museums, science centers, and other cultural theaters, actually playing at our science center here in St. Louis now, depending on when you're catching this podcast. I'd encourage you to go to nature.org/backfromthebrink tocheck it out. And if you're an educator by chance, or if you're stuck at home with kids like I am and looking for something to listen to, you can also download a Back From the Brink activity guide for grades three through eight, from that site - nature.org/backfromthebrink So check it out.

Adam McLane: So as we started thinking about that engagement, with that, that film, it got us thinking about our role here as The Nature Conservancy in Missouri, when it comes to species protection, reintroduction, habitat restoration, all the things that go into saving these last remaining populations of endangered species in our state. And there's a big group of people that are working on that tirelessly day in and day out. And we just wanted to talk a little bit about that work and we will phone in a friend a little bit later and to talk about one of those from the Missouri Department of Conservation, but for now, we're going to get started with Doug Ladd. So, Doug, it is great to see you again. Good to see you actually in person too. It feels weird for both of us. We've already established that. We're so zoom-oriented right now to actually sit in front of someone six feet away and have a conversation with them is, uh, different and feels good, but it is, it is different, isn't it?

Doug Ladd: Yeah, sure is.

Adam McLane: Well, I wanted to cover three different ones with you, Doug. Prairie, chickens, Topeka shiners, and American burying beetles. And Doug, as soon as he said, so we're going to talk about, you brought a botanist in to talk about three different species of animals, but I think you can do it.

Doug Ladd: Yeah, I think that, I think the key to think about endangered species is it's often thought as a, as a legislative issue or a, a pivot issue for controversy, but really we should look at them as a way to reconnect us with the natural world in which we all depend. And so they're more an indicator than anything else. And that's why the Conservancy has been deeply involved in them as you know.

Adam McLane: Well, how did - stepping back even further than that - how did you get into conservation? What was your pathway?

Doug Ladd: Well, I guess I've been interested in nature from an early age. I started out as a biochemist in college and just didn't hit all the bells for me. So I wanted to be in the field. And, uh, early in my graduate career, I took a backpacking trip on the, into the Ozarks on a bet from someone. I'd been raised in Vermont and Illinois, and decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life, trying to figure out what made those amazing systems tick. I mean, we don't have golden monkeys and migrating crabs, but we have critters every bit as exciting unusual.

Adam McLane: Yeah. Wow. All right. What was the bet?

Doug Ladd: I was dissing Missouri with a colleague he bet me that if we went on a backpacking trip in December into the Ozarks, that I would change my mind and he was absolutely right.

Adam McLane: And how long did you, how long ago was that?

Doug Ladd: That was in 1976.

Adam McLane: And so you've lived here ever since. Okay. Wow.

Doug Ladd: Got out of grad school and actively sought a job in Missouri. I've been here since 1980.

Adam McLane: That's great. And you started with Bennett Springs. Is that right?

Doug Ladd: Working for the state park system was a biologist and naturalist at Bennett Springs state park. And then when the Conservancy opened its first staffed field office here, I got hired as the first science and landowner outreach person. Then I just never got good enough to get beyond that. So I stayed in Missouri for my whole career.

Adam McLane: Very good. Well, um, let's start with prairie chickens. It's a good time to be talking about prairie chickens right now. They're booming on the lek and we have a prairie cam and all sorts of stuff that people can see in this virtual world. But talk to me a little bit about prairie chickens or tell the audience a little bit about them, what they require, why they, why you think they're unique and special.

Doug Ladd: Yeah, I mean, it's an amazing facet of Missouri's heritage that we're on the very brink of losing and it's especially poignant to me because when I first started with the Conservancy, I was dealing with a lot of elderly farmers in the landscapes of northern and western, Missouri who had vivid tales remembered well when there were thousands of prairie chickens in their areas and eating prairie chickens regularly to the point of not liking them. And they're just being a food of last resort sometimes. Um, and now the fact that we're down to the last hundred or so in the state is, is sobering, but it's, it's a bird kind of like the size of a chicken up to about three pounds, I guess. But it's just, it's amazing in that it's totally tied to our grassland systems. So it's a piece of our grassland heritage. And as you, as you said this time of year, they get together on these ancestral breeding and courtship grounds called leks and the males it's, it's basically a big singles bar for birds and the males strut their stuff and they put little horn, light feather appendages up in their heads and they puff up these orange throat sacs and they raise their tail feathers and they stomp and they stride and they faint and do mock battles when they chose.

Adam McLane: And then they do something like that's pretty good. I've been working on it. They do a call [Adam imitates the call sound]

Doug Ladd: It's booming, which is, it's almost indescribable as a sound it's kind of a cross between a, cooing and a moaning, or maybe like it's been compared to wind blowing across a bottle in this weird haunting reverberation that travels great distances off across the landscape. o you can sometimes hear it for more than well over a mile away this low undulating reverberation that there's nothing else like it. And it's, as I say, it's almost indescribable, but every Missourian should have the opportunity to hear that because there's nothing like it in nature. And it's just, it's emblematic. It exemplifies the prairie landscape.

Adam McLane: Wow. All right. And so how you say, you know, they were by the thousands, um, everywhere you turned in that region and now there's a hundred. How, what, what is the threat that put them in that place or loss of habitat? What's the, what put them there?

Doug Ladd: Okay. Good question. Um, first of all, I think the most compelling fact is more than a Missouri, more than a third of Missouri was once tallgrass prairie, but with European settlement and all the things we did to the landscape, um, to build the vibrant society we have today, the, the prairie was the victim of our success basically, and far less than 1% of high quality, tallgrass prairie of the original high quality tallgrass prairie remains in Missouri. So habitat loss is a major problem. And then as the prairies have been converted or lost, oftentimes brushier woody environments have replaced them or else, um, intensive agricultural practices, both of which can cause major problems for prairie chickens. So habitat loss, fragmentation, adjacent land use probably an increase in predators like skunks and raccoons and things like that. Cats, feral cats in some cases. And then some things we're not as sure about, but know for instance that in some parts of their range, um, ring, neck pheasants, which have been introduced from the old world, can parasitize prairie chicken nests, and that kind of like cowbirds where they lay their eggs in the prairie chicken nest, their eggs hatch first, and as soon as interestingly for a prairie chicken, as soon as an egg hatches, the mother follows the nestling out of the nest. And so if the pheasants hatch earlier, the prairie chicken eggs are abandoned and that we don't know in Missouri, the extent of what's, that is a problem, but it has been recorded elsewhere.

Adam McLane: Hmm. Interesting. So, um, you know, we talked about the challenges and those still exist, but there's also some partnerships to highlight and some areas of potential success. At least in the short term, we need to think more sustainably long-term, but do you want to talk about any of those partnerships with Missouri Department of Conservation or elsewhere on prairie chickens?

Doug Ladd: Exactly. Um, there's a, there's been a pretty exciting initiative that started in, I think, 2014 where The Nature Conservancy, The Missouri Department of Conservation, um, Nebraska Game and Parks, um, the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa, and a bunch of other partners got together and live-trapped prey chickens in an area where they're still abundant in Nebraska, brought them over here to Northwestern, Missouri, where The Nature Conservancy, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the Missouri Department of Conservation all have ongoing habitat management and prairie restoration projects that are run in a, in a big collaborative landscape. And they reintroduced the prairie chickens there and augmented that re-introduction over the next five years with annual reintroductions of prairie chickens. And it's, it's too early to tell if it's a success, but we're optimistic about trying to reverse the trend, at least in that little landscape and the concept being then, um, you're never going to be able to solve the prairie chicken problem on the, in the focal area of a few high-quality prairie restorations, such as the public agencies are doing, but that landscape is embedded in an agricultural landscape. Um, that's largely ranching. And many of those ranchers have long-standing multi-generational family ties to the landscape. And often they remember, or they remember their ancestors talking about prairie chickens in the landscape. So they're very interested in many cases in figuring out how they can configure their operations to maintain economically viable ranching operations, but also provide habitat for prairie chickens and other iconic wildlife. That's a part of our heritage.

Adam McLane: Yeah, that's awesome. Um, as you, you have the benefit of the rearview mirror a little bit on, um, having retired from The Nature Conservancy and looking back at Dunn Ranch, that area...what, um, what do you look back and say I'm, I feel most proud of related to that project?

Doug Ladd: Well I guess it's not what I feel most proud of. I guess I humbly feel that it was an honor to be a part of a project like that in a landscape where virtually all of the tallgrass prairie had been decimated and the Department of Cnservation, State of Iowa, The Nature Conservancy working in both Iowa and Missouri has really spearheaded this innovative, broad-scale collaborative landscape approach to restore these gems of remnant prairie that are left and seek to have them embedded in a landscape of appropriately managed, economically productive, private lands that also maintain water quality benefit. Wildlife provides all sorts of ancillary benefits that are a part of our natural heritage. So it's just been amazing to be a small part of that. And we've had a great team that was able to do it. Um, a lot of talented people across multiple disciplines and organizations that made it happen.

Adam McLane: That's cool. Well, we won't have to leave Dunn Ranch in order to talk about the, or the prairie landscapes to talk about the next, um, the next featured guests, Topeka shiners. So tell me about this minnow.

Doug Ladd: Well, yeah. Okay. So now we've moved to a little fish that looks like something you put on a pizza. It's fate, we should call it the prairie anchovy. It's a, it's a three inch long, two to three inch long fish at maturity, kind of a silvery minnow, um, with kind of a reddish orange coloration, particularly the males in the breeding season on their fins. It's frankly, it's not terribly stunning to see, but when you realize that this is the iconic fish of the prairie landscape, that's what really brings it home. And we, we tend to think of prairies as terrestrial landscapes, but like all systems, water, earth, vegetation, all combine uniquely at every spot on the earth surface to create the heritage that sustains human life and our quality of life. And these prairie headwater streams where these Topeka shiners live, have been damaged more than even the prairie itself, because they're the most vulnerable parts of the Prairie. They're subject to downstream degradation, which drains and erodes them. They're subject to land use conversion, they're subject to siltation and erosion. And when, when you get a lot of silt in our prairie headwater streams, and it destroys the nesting and, um, uh, habitats of the Topeka shiner. But you have this, this three inch long little fish that's emblematic of our prairie systems. It requires a pretty clear bottom streams, gravel or sand or small course rocks. And even in our dryer prairie streams and a healthy prairie, because the prairie is like a big sponge infiltrated store rainwater. Even if the streams appear dry, a healthy prairie stream is going to have pools every once in a while. And there's going to be subsurface flow through the stream bed. Even if it's not visible supplying water to the, recharging those pools. We've been able to work with our partners to restore the streams in the Dunn Ranch landscape, Little Creek, particularly to again, be suitable, to support, Topeka shiners, and then starting in, I think it was 2013, 2014 to stocking. We, we actually, we reintroduced them into a pond at the headwaters of the watershed, and then they have a, they have a source population that then washes out and stocks, the stream, and that so far census have shown it's been a pretty good success story. And again, it's, it's collaborative, it's the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It's the Missouri Department of Conservation, both of which raised Topeka shiners in their hatcheries, and, um, contributed a lot of their fisheries expertise combined with The Nature Conservancy's habitat management expertise to rebuild and re-install another part of our prairie heritage in the landscape.

Adam McLane: Yeah, Who, who came up with that idea of the pond overflow thing? I'm picturing like three of you sitting on a tailgate, looking out there going, Oh, I know what we should do. Let's fill up this pond with it and then it'll overflow it. Huh? That sounds pretty good. I think that might work.

Doug Ladd: I don't remember how it came about, but Jerry Wiechman, who's a fisheries biologist for the Department of Conservation was really the visionary who figured out what needed to be done to get to Topekia shiners there. I was the irritating thorn in the side of all the agencies saying, we want Topeka Shiners at DunnRanch. What are we going to do? What are we going to do? And they came up with a stream restoration plan. The Nature Conservancy was able to pull together some funding from federal and other sources to make it happen. We spent several years restoring Little Creek itself to have the right pool and, and ripple topography, or stream morphology to be able to support the fish. And then the fish got introduced, um, through, there's a big collaborative effort and they're reproducing and they're spreading downstream somewhat.

Adam McLane: Yeah. And we just, um, I can fill in a little bit here too. That, that partnership continues in the form of, um, Missouri Department of Conservation, Fish and Wildlife Service, uh, others working on fish passage through those culverts. So we have to, I think coming this fall, we're going to be doing, step up pools to get back up to those box culverts so that passage can actually happen more regularly there. Right now. There's about a six foot drop off on that perched culvert that I don't think any three inch minnows jumping its way back up where it needs to go or wants to go. So, um, it, it is exciting and, um, yeah, our best work takes place in partnerships. So thanks for all the ones that you've set up over time that continue to move forward and live on. Um, anything we, as you think about, um, listeners, either one, anything that they can do to help with either prairie chicken or Topeka shiners in their daily lives, or, um, if that's not the question that you feel like there's a lot to contribute towards you know, I always get the question or I hear the question, why do we need to save a little minnow? Why, you know, if these birds aren't evolving in a way that makes them survive longterm, then isn't that how evolution works. We should just let them go. What do you say, I mean,

Doug Ladd: Yeah, good question. It's true. That extinction is natural, but human activities in the last 150 years have ratcheted up the rate of extinction to be thousand or more times greater than the natural rate of extinction. So there's no way nature can adapt and evolve new species in that type of timeframe. So we're impoverishing the world on which we depend. So it's not so much that the Topeka Shiner itself is essential to human life. You, you, you wouldn't have, we wouldn't be able to make the case for that perhaps, but it's a part of a system that's essential for human life. And I think it, it provides a window into our natural world. And I think one of the things that Conservancy has excelled at is it's been able to be the bridge between the applied science and the reality of the everyday world, where we're, we're making the case, um, that we, as people on this planet have an obligation, I believe to pass on these amazing natural resources, these functional systems that sustain us and enrich us in many ways, um, to future generations. And I think it's both a privilege and I would say a sacred responsibility to humanity that we develop a culture of stewardship, so we interact and understand these natural resources. And so all of these endangered species are just windows into that system. If you have a healthy upland stream system supporting Topeka shiners, that's recharging the larger rivers downstream that support healthy bass and other recreational fishing opportunities, water quality for municipal and agricultural water supplies, so it's all tied together. And the Conservancy is, is doing the job of trying to make these bridges conceptually, but we have to be a lot better and get it out to a larger segment of society because every child growing up in Missouri should understand our prairie heritage and take pride in it.

Adam McLane: Yep, we should do a podcast or something. Try and reach other audiences.

Doug Ladd: That'd be interesting.

Adam McLane: Hmm.

Doug Ladd: Children's podcasts.

Adam McLane: I like it. Okay. Well, this is, this is fascinating and awesome. And I, the next one will, um, will not leave us, um, short on details and charismatic features as either a, the American burying beetle. Um, when you said Topeka shiners might not be all that catchy, um, or visually stunning to look at actually burying beetles are, but the word beatles does not instantly capture lots of attention, but tell us about the American burying beetle, Doug.

Doug Ladd: Well, you named it as the undertaker of the prairie, so you should get the credit for that. Um, it's an amazing insect because it, as you say, people to, um, dismiss insects, even though they're one of the most critical aspects of the animal world for shaping our life and our culture, um, as anyone who likes honey knows, we depend on insects for a lot of things, pollination, products, pest control, all kinds of things. But here's an insect, which A. it's pretty, it's a shiny black beetle about an inch and a half long, and it's got these bright orange spots and markings on it. So if you, if you can get over the initial aversion to insects, it's, it's a very attractive critter kind of Halloweeny looking. And, um, it's got these unusual habits that it basically, a male beetle is equipped to be a corpse detector. And from miles away, it can detect through sensitive chemical signals, um, a dead animal. And dead animals in a certain size range, kind of the, uh, maybe the prairie chicken range, um, chipmunk, small rodent range. If it finds a corpse of them, it, it, um, immediately lands and starts to bury the corpse by digging under it, excavating the ground and an amazing rapidity. And it attracts a female at the same time. And the two work cooperatively, bury the corpse - now we're going to get both dirty and a little bit icky - but, um, they then remove all the fur and/or feathers from the, the, uh, the carcass. And then they cover it with a secretions they manufacture. Um, and that just, it's a preservative that basically mummifying the corpse and prevents all the other things that want that high energy food source of the dead animal, other insects, bacteria, fungi, and so forth. It prevents them from getting it, then they lay eggs and settle nearby. But the amazing thing that we don't think of for insects, then the male and female and the mama and the papa care for their young, um, as they're growing up. So for the very short time that the eggs have hatched and they're feeding on the corpse, a week or so of the feeding on the carcass, um, the parents are defending them and providing parental care. And so it it's unusual that they have this, this history of caring for the young, um, they're almost gone. They were once in more than 35 states and some Canadian provinces as well. For reasons we don't fully understand there's very few natural populations left in just a handful of states.

Adam McLane: Um, were they always in prairies?

Doug Ladd: Well, they appear to be habitat generalists, not too finicky about that, but, and again, the historical data that are often hard to tease out, but from what we can figure out, they seem to have a predilection, or they tend to favor grasslands or very open grassy woodlands that appears to be their preferred habitat.

Adam McLane: Hmm.

Doug Ladd: So again, in a, in a collaborative partnership, um, with the St. Louis Zoo who really perfected and built on some work that others had done and how to raise American burying beetles in captivity, um, Bob Merz and his team at the St. Louis Zoo were able to develop an American burying beetle factory, which produced large numbers of beetles, which we then worked with the Department of Conservation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy collaborated at a large prairie landscape in Southwest, Missouri. Um, mostly on The Nature Conservancy's Wah'kon-Tah Prairie preserve, where we actually, um, provided the corpse and provided the beatles and semi-buried the corpse to start and get them started. And we now have documented reproductions. So the jury is still out, whether we're going to be able to sustain and, and rebuild an American burying beetle population in Missouri, because we don't know a lot about, um, how much food is available and how much increased competition there is for those dead animals. Some people have speculated that passenger pigeons, which were once abundant, but now extinct were a major food source for them. So there are a lot of unknowns, but the initial data from the early reintroduction and recovery process has been very positive.

Adam McLane: Hmm, very neat. Well, should we phone a friend?

Doug Ladd: Yeah.

Adam McLane: To talk about hellbenders.

Doug Ladd: Let's talk about the neatest animal of all today.

Adam McLane: Okay. We are going to, um, we're going to patch in a guest and I'll let Doug introduce him.

Doug Ladd: I'd like to introduce, um, from the Missouri Department of Conservation, Dr. Jeff Briggler, who's a world hellbender authority and anything to do with hellbenders in North America,Jeff's been leading the charge in terms of research applied conservation restoration efforts. I would also add that, uh, I have Jeff come and speak to my class at, uh, Washington University every year and he's the hit of the, the class session, because these are just amazing animals. Um, and he'll even tell you about his hellbender scars, if you're nice to him. So I'll introduce it and turn it over to Jeff and Adam.

Adam McLane: Yeah. Well welcome, Jeff, thanks for joining via zoom. Um, we really appreciate it and your, your insight is going to be helpful. So tell us about, tell us what a hellbender is.

Jeff Briggler: Well, that is probably the number one question. I get a lot. What, what is a hellbender? And most people really don't know what this animal is, and it, it is actually a large aquatic salamander. I mean, meaning large. It can get up to like a foot and a half, almost two foot in size. They live in our spring-fed rivers and streams throughout the Missouri Ozarks. And they're, they're very interesting in a way, cause they're, they're streamlined bodies allow them to walk on the bottom. They have a very flat head, tiny eyes, so they can just, as you're thinking about a river bottom with large rocks spread out, this animal was walking behind these rocks, trying to poke that flat head underneath the rock for where it can go and hide from predators and even looking for other animals. And then more intriguing something else about this animal that, uh, when you see them for the first time, as you'll see, they have all these wrinkly skin up and down the sides of their bodies. And that's actually how they breathe under the water. They do have lungs like we do, they can surface and gulp air, but they don't have to because they're in this very cold water in the Ozarks. So that water exchange running across that folds of skin line with blood vessels, they can absorb all the oxygen they need just through that skin alone.

Adam McLane: Wow. And I heard, to paint the full picture here to people that are listening, um, and not able to see a picture in front of them. Um, Snot Otter is a, uh, as a nickname. And then I heard it once described as hellbenders look like mud come to life. Does that sound about right?

Jeff Briggler: Now, those are other nicknames. Some of the other ones are Allegheny alligators because they were first described in Allegheny rivers in the Northeast, uh, definitely snot otter's an other common name. If you ever capture one and touch it, I mean, they're very slimy. And when you touch them, uh, hellbenders, we believe originated from the Appalachians when they first saw them. And they looked at this animal and the first thought is, man, this animal is extremely ugly and it belongs in the internal regions of hell - Is what people are stuck for. Hellbender

Adam McLane: That's terrific. Well, what's the, um, how's the population doing? Is it threatened? Obviously it is. What, what are the threats to it and where, how has it gained that status as a result?

Jeff Briggler: Well, hellbenders have been studied for many generations in our, in our state of Missouri. Uh, people started researching them in late sixties, early seventies. It continues today. And what we saw in the early, late 1990s, early 2000s is we're seeing a dramatic decline in these animals in our state. Historically we estimated there were probably 27,000 hellbenders in our state, and now we estimate their fear than 2,000 left in our state. So when we start doing all this research with all the historical data, we just see such a dramatic decline in the animal, which is scary alone. But more importantly, what we saw in our capture data is you rarely catch little hellbenders anymore. So the other size classes, once these older ones die off, we don't have any animals to replace them. So with our partners, uh, state and federal agencies and researchers, we, we actually did population modeling at the populations. And it didn't matter what type of model we ran. This animal, every model showed there's a 96% plus chance of extinction for this animal. If we didn't do something about it. And back in the mid two thousands, we made a conscious decision to start attempting to breed this animal, collect eggs from the wild. So we have a big breeding facility at the St. Louis Zoo, uh, typically to buy us time to help figure out why this animal is declining.

Adam McLane: Wow. Um, and am I right? There's two different species and are they both listed?

Jeff Briggler: Well, currently the genetic show, they're actually two different subspecies. The Ozark hellbender, which occurs in Missouri and Arkansas, and then the Eastern hellbender, which occurs in Missouri and 14 other states throughout the Ohio basin, Tennessee basin up through the Appalachians. Uh, now future genetics is going to show more divisions within that, but Missouri currently only has the two subspecies, the Eastern hellbender and the Ozark hellbender. The Ozark hellbender was federally listed in 2011 for Missouri and Arkansas. And then more recently, the Eastern hellbender population segment only in Missouri has been listed, uh, federally endangered.

Adam McLane: Is there anything our listeners could do, um, to help help Hellbenders if they're, if they're captivated by this, if they jump on and they learn more information, what would you encourage them to do either at an individual level or in terms of engagement going forward?

Jeff Briggler: Well, we, because this animal has, has declined significantly in our state and, and most of it has to do with habitat destruction, degrading of the habitat, uh, our beautiful, pristine rivers and what we see more and more as the forest being cleared down and more sediments and fines come into the rivers. And as those sediments and fines come in, they actually change the structure of the river. They suffocate the hellbender habitat for the large rocks. They fill in the gravel space where all the baby hellbenders live, the food base lives. And over time, you're just basically choking off the resources for this animal. So some of the most important things you can do is really try to protect that riparrian zone of these rivers. Uh, the trees are nature's filters, uh, when it's raining real hard and we get to those trees, slow down the floods, they filter it. So the river doesn't take so much damage, but as they're removed, the floods will cause even more harm and faster water going down. And it can cause even more significant problems for this animal over time. So think about those things when you're thinking about what you can do, uh, planting trees along the river, retaining the trees along the rivers. Uh, other things on hellbenders is historically a lot of fishermen have caught hellbenders. They were afraid of them. They didn't know what they were, and in most cases they killed them. So we strongly encourage people if you catch them on a trotline our fishing line to remove the hook, if you can, if you can't cut the line and let it go, eventually that hook will rot out. Uh, if you have a chance, maybe join a local stream team to clean up trash along the river. Uh, and I know people have desires to see this animal, but I'll also say going out, looking for it and disturbing it is just as harmful to it. So sometimes we all want to help even more, but sometimes the help is please leave the animal alone because we don't want to do too much harm and tell you the truth, you can also donate. The St. Louis Zoo has ways that you can donate funds to help hellbenders. I'll say at the St. Louis zoo, hellbenders are one of the largest fundraisers for the zoo. A lot of Missouri citizens do donate for hellbenders, and it is greatly appreciated to help recover this animal.

Adam McLane: That's terrific. Thank you very much for that. And who would have thought of all animals at the zoo? It'll be the hellbender that is a, is a big fundraiser, uh, which is terrific. And, uh, I think, uh, hopefully an indication of the appreciation that Missourians have for, for natural places in their backyard and trying to protect it. Okay. Doug referenced hellbender scars. Can you give me one story, um, Jeff of one of those scars or a funny moment that's happened in the stream?

Jeff Briggler: Well, I'll go back to 2010 on us trying to locate hellbender eggs in the wild. And it's, it's been very difficult to find eggs in the wild and fertilized eggs for most people, and we're getting better at it. But back in the late oh, around 2009 to 2010, we started building artificial nest boxes. They're basically concrete containers that we're trying to get female hellbenders to go in and lay their eggs. They have a lid and we want to collect those eggs out of there and take them to the St. Louis Zoo to raise. And I'll never forget our first batch that we put in on the Eleven Point river in June of 2010, we put seven of these boxes out, not knowing if they're going to be successful or not. We tried to design based on our best knowledge. And when we went back the first week in November and should art be laid, we opened up that lid and when the sunlight came through, you could see all the little baby hellbenders inside their eggs. And we termed them our golden nuggets because they would, they have these large yellow yolk sacks, and they would turn and turn their bodies in that sunlight. And it just looked like reflections of gold coming off of you. So we had success right off and I'll have to say right then we needed to remove the eggs. Here's a male, which is intriguing. They guard the eggs and the babies for several months, which is interesting for this type of animal. And so this male is sitting in there. I'm trying to remove these animals. And I will say he grabbed a hold of my finger, pretty good. And he did not like that. It was difficult to get him off my finger. I'll say I bled quite, uh, quite a lot, but it was definitely worth it in order to get these eggs.

Adam McLane: That started at all.

Jeff Briggler: And that, and that male has actually produced other nests too, even though we removed all his babies, uh, he still does reproduce, but, but I'll never forget this because another fisheies biologist was with me. We're jet boating back to the, to the boat after we removed these eggs, get back. And we both look at each other and we say, we're going to have to look in that bucket again to make sure those eggs are in there because where we dreaming or not, this was a big deal, a very big deal. And I'll never forget on my way to the St. Louis Zoo. I stopped twice and pulled over to make sure I still wasn't dreaming. And, uh, because at this time we were not able to find very many eggs. So, so this was really a big start for our captive propagation efforts, uh, led into more breeding at the St. Louis zoo and, and to date, we've released over 9,000 hellbenders back into the wild in Missouri.

Adam McLane: It was quite a success story. Well, all of these animals are, um, and creatures are just intriguing to think about. And I think sometimes, uh, we don't think about them very much unless we're right in the space of working on them day in, day out and caring for them. Um, but our listeners now get a little chance to learn some more nuggets and hopefully they get their own golden nuggets, Jeff. Um, and it, it starts its own, um, spread throughout our population of awareness of these and how they can help. But I'll let you both, as we kind of come to wrap up, you know, the overall big question or topic that we've had is, is about, um, caring for animals that there aren't many have left. Um, the habitat that's required for them, whole variety of things, but I'll let you both just final thoughts, words, advice, uh, pleadings to the audience, um, for how they can participate in, in protecting these places and creatures going forward.

Doug Ladd: Well, I would say, just recognize building on what Jeff was talking about. And I was talking about earlier that we are a part of this incredibly amazing natural world. And as we move forward, the more we understand it and the more we appreciate it, the better it will be for people in nature.

Adam McLane: Thank you. Jeff?

Jeff Briggler: And, and I would say as the state herpetologist, the same thing, I mean, we have 43 species of amphibians in this state when I took my job 20 years ago. And after you, it that all 43 should still be here when I retire and hellbenders and it's any animals, they're all interesting. They all have something unique about them. And for like hellbenders, it's a unique and interesting salamander. It's been in our Ozarks for over 161 million years. And I'd like for this animal to still be there, I know other people do too. We want to see it in our Missouri Ozarks. We want our future generations to be able to see it and learn about it and be inspired by this amazing animal.

Adam McLane: Thank you, Jeff. Thank you, Doug. Thank you both for coming and sharing all this, um, incredible stories and a lot of great information for us to follow up on. Um, thank you also to listeners for tuning in for more information about The Nature Conservancy and what we do visit nature.org/missouri, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast, so you can catch future episodes. I'll also say, um, we listed a lot of partners today, um, and you, you had good encouragement to reach out to stream teams and the whole suite of things. So please do so. The Nature Conservancy brings forward this kind of information, trying to showcase the big broad efforts. Um, and so please reach out to those partners as well and support them in the future. Thanks. See you next time.

Collapse Transcript

Episode 2: The hellbender, American burying beetle, greater prairie-chicken and Topeka shiner—these species are on the brink of extinction in Missouri. But, what's being done to save them? 

In this episode, you'll hear from Doug Ladd, The Nature Conservancy's former director of conservation in Missouri who provides insight on these species, how they got where they are, and the collaborations from dedicated partners who are working to restore their populations. We also phone a friend—Jeff Briggler with the Missouri Department of Conservation who provides his insight and expertise on the hellbender.

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