BY CAL YONCE, COLUMBIA FWCO
Since the 19th century the festivities of homecoming have been a part of alumni football games held at colleges and universities across the United States. Missouri University (aka Mizzou) has the distinct honor of being one of the first universities to practice this tradition. On homecoming day the festivities began with the largest annual parade in Columbia, Missouri.
For the past ten years the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) has joined forces with Mizzou's School of Natural Resources alumni and students to bring a little bit of nature to the streets of downtown Columbia and the Mizzou campus. The Columbia FWCO's largest fisheries research vessel the "Phoenix", a 26' boat, is loaned each year to the School of Natural Resources. Alumni then transform it into one of the most unique floats in the parade.
This year employees from the Columbia FWCO arrived with vessel in tow homecoming morning at the agricultural center on Mizzou's campus. Before sunrise, employees and alumni loaded props, float decorations and candy onto the boat. Alumni mounted wildlife and fish decoys in various places on the hull of the boat. Once everyone had arrived we started off the event by heading to our position in the parade line. Maneuvering such a float through the parade streets would have been a daunting task but Jeff Finely, a Supervisory Fisheries Biologist was at the helm. Jeff, also a Missouri University alumni himself, has been participating in the parade since the Columbia FWCO began volunteering its staff and equipment to help out the School of Natural Resources. As we traversed the streets of the campus and downtown area, Mizzou alumni handed out candy to spectators. Cane fishing poles were used to dangle candy within arm’s reach of excited children as the float went by. Some of the alumni accentuated the outdoor experience by using wildlife calls to simulate the sounds of the animal decoys.
BY JEREMIAH DAVIS, CARTERVILLE FWCO
This summer staff from the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) provided outreach to children who attended the Crab Orchard NWR kids fishing derby by setting up a fish observation tank. Specimens of different fish species were collected from Crab Orchard Lake and held in a large pool so that children could observe the variety of fish found in the lake and notice the different characteristics of each species. Examples of largemouth bass, white crappie, flathead catfish, and bluegill were popular with the young anglers. Some adventurous youngsters even took an opportunity to “pet” some of the friendly fish. Children learned how fish species differ from one another. At the conclusion of the event the children assisted staff biologists with returning the fish to the lake unharmed. Although the children were sad to see the fish go, they were excited to know that they could return to Crab Orchard Lake with their new found fishing and fish identification skills and try to “catch up” with their fish friends.
The Carterville FWCO does conduct some work with the sport fish the children enjoyed during the kids fishing derby; however, our mainstay is endangered species recovery and Asian carp control efforts. During the John A. Logan Southern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days expo, staff from Carterville teamed up with the Missouri Department of Conservation to perform public outreach work that is more closely aligned with our objectives at the office. We fried up a mess of tasty Asian carp for visitors to experience. The Southern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days expo is the largest of its kind in the country, attracting over 46,000 visitors. We made it our mission to introduce as many of them as possible to eating the invasive Asian carp. They are delicious and they are good for you. Showing people how good the invasive fish is to eat is actually a step toward conservation. If people try it once they will certainly aim to harvest more from local waterways.