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The Mercer County Park Commission will host lichenologist Dennis Waters on Saturday, July 11, as he unveils the mysterious lichens commonly found throughout our natural world. Mr. Waters will lead two hours of exploration starting at the Tulpehaking Nature Center and winding through the trails of Roebling Park, shedding light on the strange lifestyles and ecological importance of lichens.

Lichens can be found in nearly all of Earth’s environments, hanging hauntingly from the branches of trees, adorning the stony cheeks of the presidents of Mount Rushmore with five o’clock shadows, or even providing bursts of color in barren and toxic copper mines. Their incredible ability to grow almost anywhere — including inside solid rock! — has enabled lichens to cover 5 percent of Earth’s land surface. Commonly seen as grayish-green patches on tree trunks, most people never think twice about these unassuming, undervalued life forms, but Dennis Waters will be bringing lichens into the spotlight.

Dennis Waters is a lichenologist, member of the British Lichen Society and the American Bryological & Lichenological Society, and the Lawrence Township Historian. He recently played an active role in major lichenological field surveys, traveling from the South Atlantic Coastal Plains of Georgia to the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec. Mr. Waters has been studying and cataloging the variety of lichens found in our local Mercer County parks.

During this walk, Mr. Waters will teach you how to identify some of the common lichens that he knows so well, as well as teach about the ecological importance, behaviors and lifestyles of lichens. This fun and informative walk will take place on Saturday, July 11, from 10 a.m. to noon; the group will meet at the Tulpehaking Nature Center. This walk is geared toward adults and teens and is $5 per person or $20 per family.

The Tulpehaking Nature Center is located at 157 Westcott Ave. in Hamilton. During the summer and through Sept. 13, 2015, the nature center is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., and Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The nature center provides programs and exhibits that encourage visitors to explore and discover the many cultural, historic and natural resources of the Abbott Marshlands. It is owned by the County of Mercer and operated by the Mercer County Park Commission. For more information about the nature center, programs and schedule of events, go to www.mercercountyparks.org.

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Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Binghamton and a Juris Doctorate from Seton Hall Law School. In her free time, Mary fills her life with excessive self-reflection, creative endeavors, and photographing mushrooms. Mary also works as the PR Coordinator at the Hopewell Valley Arts Council, serves on the volunteer Board of Trustees of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT), holds a seat on the Hopewell Borough Board of Health, and is a member of the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance.

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