Updated: May 10
When I met Phyllis in early 2017, we were learning to propagate mistflower under the tutelage of June Walker at June's greenhouse in Sunset. ANPP was in its infancy, our mission established but the path to accomplish that mission barely laid. The immediate goal was to grow plants for sale to make money to fund our larger goal of promoting native plants in the landscape to the public. Phyllis became president after Janice Eaton stepped down, with a clear vision of the future path of ANPP.
Phyllis was born and raised in Louisiana, earning a BS in Zoology from USL 1983, MS in Medicinal Chemistry from Purdue 1987, PhD in Science Education from LSU in 1999. She traveled the world with husband Pete and sons, teaching biology, and returned to Acadiana in 2015. She retired from the UL Lafayette Biology faculty in 2020. As an educator, it was always important that her students notice and understand the biological world in their own backyards. Devising creative ways to get them involved in activities like installing a monarch butterfly waystation and tagging monarchs, producing videos, maintaining the native plantings on campus.
Phyllis got involved with ANPP in its infancy because its mission overlaps with her appreciation of the value of direct experience. The work of ANPP, whether propagating, educating, demonstrating or collaborating, helps the public and even members of ANPP itself get close up experiences with the natural world in our gardens and land. She was named Visionary Educator of the Year at the Bayou Vermilion Preservation Association's Symposium in April.
Witnessing those transformative experiences over her career led her to propose the Louisiana Certified Habitat Program to the Louisiana Native Plant Society, which was launched in 2020. The LCH Program has provided an avenue by which property owners can strive to diversify the flora on their land and be recognized for it. Over 230 properties have been certified, 85 of those in Acadiana. She is organizing the second Native Garden tour of LCH properties.
Phyllis' passion project, OurBio, produces media that helps connect how the biology of a region has shaped the story of its people. With UL Filmmaker Conni Castille, she produced a documentary film about DeafBlind Cajuns that premiered in 2022. She has received grants to produce another film, this one about the Cajun Prairie with filmmaker Jillian Godshall. Filming of most interviews, plantings and ANPP's Cajun Prairie workshop are complete, with a premiere expected in 2024. Phyllis and her husband Pete live with their rabbit-alarm dog Eva on 7 acres of gold-level Louisiana Certified Habitat in Sunset.
ANPP has built a strong foundation in the past 6 years with the vision, energy, and leadership Phyllis brings to our organization of dedicated volunteers. Thank you Phyllis!-Dona Weifenbach