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Wildlife Diversity Conference: March 11

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, March 11. That's the date of this year's Ohio Wildlife Diversity Conference, hosted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. This is the BIG one - about 1,000 nature enthusiasts of all stripes come together for what must be one of the largest one-day natural history conferences anywhere. The conference location couldn't be more convenient - it's in Columbus and right off the freeway at the cavernous Aladdin Shriners' Complex at 3850 Stelzer Road. CLICK HERE to register.

There are exhibitors, artists, vendors, authors, and legions of like-minded people all rooting for nature and conservation. And of course, the talks, which cover a range of subjects. The Division usually unveils some sort of surprise for participants, and this year I do believe there will be two! I can say no more at this point, but let's say that these gifts should serve any natural history buff quite well.

A group of naturalists explores an Adams County prairie, looking for rare mustards and whatever else there is to see. The keynote is Stephen Kellert of the Yale School of Forestry, and his talk is entitled People & Nature in the Modern World. It'll be an interesting and informative perspective of how we - Homo sapiens - interact with Mother Nature. On a somewhat related topic, Jeremy Bruskotter of the Ohio State University will speak about Hunters and Birdwatchers: And the Survey Says... He'll give the latest findings in trends among various groups of outdoors people, and the results might surprise you.

What's not to love about a Hellbender, our largest salamander, which is sometimes affectionately referred to as the "Snot-otter". Herpetologist Kent Bekker of the Toledo Zoo will delve into the mysteries of these endangered animals, and share what is being done to save them.

You may think that I drew the short stick in regards to topics, but I don't think so. I'm giving a talk called Lichens: Crusty Treasure Troves of Biodiversity, with the overarching mission of casting these fungus-algae organisms in the favorable light that they richly deserve. Lichens are fascinating in their own right, but become outright amazing when their innumerable relationships with animals is taken into consideration. The beast above is a Green Lacewing larva, and it adorns its body with lichen bits. So camouflaged, it is adept at sneaking up on prey and slicing and dicing with those ferocious mandibles. And that weird creature is just the tip of the lichen-animal iceberg.

Mute Swans seem to be taking over the world, and pretty though they may be, these invasive birds can do considerable damage in wetland communities. Division of Wildlife biologist Laura Kearns will talk all about large white waterfowl in her presentation, Swan Song: Trumpeters vs. Mutes.

Like tiny Coleopteran dragons, these introduced Multicolored Asian Ladybeetle larvae are ferocious predators. In this photo, two of them bookend a fellow larva, cannibalizing it. Although this introduced species has become quite common, there are numerous other native ladybeetles, and all of them are interesting. Mary Griffith of the Ohio State University Extension Service will elaborate about these fascinating bugs in Lady in Red: Ladybugs and Ladybeetles.

Biologist Geoff Westerfield will give a program entitled Urban Wildlife Resolution: How Can I Help You, and Joe Boggs of the OSU Extension will bring us up to date on a potentially devastating invasive insect in his talk, Asian Longhorned Beetle: The Threat in Black and White.

I hope that you can attend, and if you do I'll wager you'll have a great time. Again, CLICK HERE for registration info.

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