Kelby Ouchley

Kelby was a biologist and manager of National Wildlife Refuges for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 30 years. He has worked with alligators in gulf coast marshes and Canada geese on Hudson Bay tundra. His most recent project was working with his brother Keith of the Louisiana Nature Conservancy on the largest floodplain restoration project in the Mississippi River Basin at the Mollicy Unit of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, reconnecting twenty-five square miles of former floodplain forest back to the Ouachita River.

Kelby was instrumental in the the establishment of Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge and its development as a premier environmental education site. Kelby has an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Texas A&M University.

In 2011 he collected his essays that have aired on KEDM into the book Bayou-Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country. He is also the author of Flora and Fauna of the Civil War: an Environmental Reference Guide, Iron Branch: A Civil War Tale of a Woman In BetweenAmerican Alligator – Ancient Predator in the Modern World as well as many scientific and popular articles. Among other honors Kelby recently received the National Wildlife Federation Governor's Conservationist of the Year Award.

He and his wife Amy live in the woods near Rocky Branch, Louisiana, in a cypress house surrounded by white oaks and black hickories. Kelby's website is bayou-diversity.com.

Ways to Connect

A few days ago while driving through the D'Arbonne Swamp north of West Monroe, I was treated with a stunning sight.  I caught a glimpse of a large animal ahead on the road shoulder, and my first impression was that it must be a hog.  As I got closer it became obvious that it was a bear - shiny black and beautiful in the early morning light.  He wheeled and ran down the road bank, across a shallow ditch, and into the D'Arbonne National Wildlife Refuge.  Until recent years this encounter would have been nigh on impossible.

  

Whirligig Beetles

Jun 13, 2016

A boyhood on the edge of a Louisiana swamp is fraught with danger, some real but most imagined.  An example of the latter occurred when as adolescents my neighborhood gang would gather at the White's Ferry Bridge to swim on hot, summer days.  The event began as we jumped from the high bridge into Bayou D'Arbonne below.  The older boys always warned us of an instant death that would befall us should we be so unfortunate as to do a belly-buster from that height.

Thyroid et al.

Jun 6, 2016

A recurring theme in this Bayou-Diversity program involves our connections and links to the natural world.  For today's show consider this hypothetical scenario.  A young couple decides to celebrate their anniversary by dining out at a popular seafood restaurant on  a warm spring evening.  The special of the day is stuffed flounder, which they both choose to try along with a side order of fried frog legs as appetizers.  When their dinner is served it is sprinkled with salt to embellish the rich natural flavors, and the meal is indeed memorable.

Pallid Sturgeon

May 30, 2016

For a very long time, 70 million years or so, a strange sort of fish has been swimming along the sandy bottoms of North America's largest rivers.  They have neither bones nor scales.  Instead they have a cartilaginous skeleton and rows of bony scutes for protection.  An elongated snout, asymmetrical, scimitar-shaped tail, and whisker-like barbels add to their bizarre appearance and reputation as living fossils.

  

Bayou Boats

May 23, 2016

For as long as humans have dwelled on our bayou-laced landscape, boats have drifted among the placid waters.  Local Native Americans built watercraft for 400 generations before European immigrants arrived to mimic their designs.  For efficient travel and trade in a wilderness world of wetlands, there were no other options.  The earliest boats were dugout canoes or pirogues.  Hewn from logs of virgin cypress or water tupelo, some were large enough to carry a dozen passengers or a thousand pounds of freight.

  

Tanner's Cottonwood

May 16, 2016

A saddled horse standing beside a giant eastern cottonwood is the subject of a nitrate-based cellulose negative given to me by the man who took the shot in 1938 while prowling about for ivory-billed woodpeckers in Louisiana's vast Tensas Swamp.  The tree appears to be nearly as wide as James Tanner's sorrel gelding is long.  Even in what then was the closest thing remaining to a large, old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in America, the tree in its size was an anomaly.  

Six years ago I was swept into the wild currents of an event that has proven to be the largest environmental calamity of its type in the history of man - the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Not long retired, I was recruited to help assess the impacts of the ongoing disaster on Delta and Breton National Wildlife Refuges near the mouth of the Mississippi River.  Working out of a government facility at Venice, we lived in an atmosphere electric with frenzied activity, excitement, and danger.

  

Study after study continues to document the phenomena of accelerated global warming.  This research also brings to light new understanding of just how complex the earth's climate systems are and how unpredictable the consequences can be.  What is known for sure is that global warming will not, contrary to intuition, lead to warmer weather everywhere all the time, just as it will not necessarily result in wetter or drier conditions everywhere.  

780 different kinds of trees have reportedly been identified on a single 25-acre plot of Malaysian rainforest.  While not quite in this league, a similar size tract on Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Monroe can boast 125 species of trees and shrubs.  Not long ago the site was a hundred year old cotton field.

  

Until the middle of the 20th century, few people in the South escaped an occasional medicinal dosing of a chemical derived by intentionally injuring native pine trees.  The chemical was turpentine and its uses were legion.  Turpentine was derived from the resinous gums of pines, most often longleaf pine, also known as pitch pine, wherever it occurred.  This resin contains the volatile hydrocarbon terpene. 

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