The South Central Chapter (SCC) of the Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) hosted a Northwest Arkansas Wetland Ecology Tour at the Woolsey Wet Prairie Sanctuary, Fayetteville, Arkansas, on May 4th, 2019. Fifty-three attendees enjoyed the half-day event which consisted of 90 minutes of ecology lectures (birds, botany, herps, and wetland soils) and a choice of 3 expert-led hikes: herps, birding, or botany. The wetland soils portion of the lectures was given by Faye Smith, PhD student at the University of Arkansas. The other lecturers led the hiking portion of the event: Dr. J.D. Willson, University of Arkansas herpetology professor; Joan Reynolds, local Audubon member; and Karen Williard, PhD student at the University of Arkansas. The overcast day was perfect for the observing the sanctuary’s wetland from the upland berms within the sanctuary. The tour was capped with a drawing for wetland-related door prizes that the attendees entered by completing correctly a “drawing quiz” regarding the lecture material.
Owned and maintained by the City of Fayetteville, the Woolsey Wet Prairie Sanctuary is a 44-acre mitigation site for the 9.88 acres of wetland impacts from the city’s West Wastewater Treatment Plant construction. One of the Society of Wetland Scientists’ members, Bruce Shackleford of Environmental Consulting Operations, Inc., and engineers from McGoodwin, Williams, and Yates Consulting Engineers, Inc., were involved in the design of the mitigation site. The protected sanctuary is full of prairie mounds, a natural feature of unplowed or moderately plowed former prairies, and was historically a former seasonal wetland associated with Tallgrass Prairie habitat. Only 2,000 acres (nearly one percent) of the original two million acres of tall grass prairie in this region of the country remain unplowed, making this a true jewel of a wetland in northwest Arkansas.
Intended to be family-friendly, one-third of the attendees were children at this second annual tour. The educational fundraising event was planned by Jodie Murray Burns, the SWS SCC President-Elect, along with Eric Fuselier, SWS SCC Executive Board member. Refreshments were donated by Rick’s Bakery of Rogers, Arkansas, and Cattails Environmental, LLC. This year’s sponsors of the wetland ecology tour were the Arkansas Native Plant Society & their Ozark Chapter; Cattails Environmental, LLC; Crafton Tull; Ecological Design Group, Inc.; Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association; FTN Associates, Ltd.; Northwest Arkansas Land Trust; and Whitenton Group Associates.
Over $2,000 were raised for the SWS South Central Chapter. The chapter anticipates continuing to host annual events of this type across their 8-state area to support the mission of the Society of Wetland Scientists - to promote understanding, conservation, protection, restoration, science-based management, and sustainability of wetlands – and to raise scholarship funds for student researchers to attend and present research findings at the annual SWS meeting. If any local SWS members are interested in assisting with this event next year, please contact Jodie Murray Burns (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2019 NW AR Wetland Ecology Tour organizers and lecturers: Jodie Murray Burns, Cattails Environmental, LLC; Dr. J.D. Willson, University of Arkansas professor; Faye Smith, University of Arkansas PhD student; Karen Willard, University of Arkansas PhD student; Joan Willard, Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society; Eric Fuselier, Crafton Tull. Photo by Westfall Photography.