Category Archives: Member News

CAMN Represents at the 2019 TMN Annual Meeting!


(L to R): Angela England, Kat Ross, Becky Patterson, Ann Clift, Justin Bosler and Gary Sertich)

This year’s Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting was held in Rockwall from October 17th-20th and it was my third year to attend.  For those that have never attended a meeting, it is a blast!  This year’s meeting had over twenty field trips and training workshops, fantastic seminars, educational displays, a book store and a silent auction!  

“This year’s Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting was just as motivating and informative as the others I’ve attended.  From Friday afternoon through Sunday morning I attended nine presentations, and my two favorites could not have been more different. “Conservation Laws and Ethics” presented a historical background of American wildlife laws, and challenged us to ponder and discuss real-life scenarios that demonstrated the murky moral areas where these laws and related ethics sometimes lead us.  And despite its cutesy name, “My Little Chickadee: The Coolest Little Bird Ya Ever Did See” took a deep dive into the amazingly sophisticated language of chickadee calls, making me want to dive into learning it myself!” –Mikael Behrens

Attending an Annual Meeting is a great way to meet, network and share experiences with fellow Master Naturalists from the other forty-two chapters across the state.  And most importantly, it provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate our hard-working volunteers that give so much to this great State and their communities.   We are thrilled that thirteen CAMN members represented at this year’s conference.  Among them, Gary Sertich (Class of 2019), was recognized for achieving the 250 service hours milestone.  Wow!! Congratulations Gary and thank you for all your hard work! 

Next year’s meeting will be held in Houston!  Hope to see y’all there!

By Kat Ross, CAMN Secretary, Class of 2017

Learning to Tag Austin’s Urban Wildlife

More than a dozen CAMN members met along with members of the Goodwater and Bastrop Master Naturalist Chapters on October 12, 2019 to learn how to identify urban wildlife captured on the cameras stationed throughout Austin by the Urban Wildlife Information Network

The cameras are set up in parks, nature preserves and along creeks that wildlife use as travel corridors. The purpose of the project is to better understand how wildlife is distributed in Austin and how these animals are using our green spaces, said Amy Belaire, an urban ecologist with the Nature Conservancy.  The data also helps with future management decisions for city parks and green spaces, Belaire said.  Organizations participating in the project include the Nature Conservancy, the City of Austin, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, St. Edwards University Wild Basin and BCCP Vireo Preserve.

To entice wildlife to the cameras, a fatty-acid disk lure is placed near the cameras.  This approach is  currently under evaluation as researchers are evaluating a different bait that is less smelly and easier to handle. The cameras are activated four times a year in fall, winter, spring and summer.

Austin is one of twenty-four cities in the Urban Wildlife Information Network; cameras went live in Austin in 2017, starting with fourteen sites.  Other cities in the network include Los Angeles, Fort Collins, Denver, Madison and Chicago.  Austin now has about thirty sites, including ten cameras sat up along Waller Creek. See the camera location map here.

The cameras are activated by movement and take photos every thirty seconds. Some unusual wildlife captured by Austin cameras include ringtail cats and jackrabbits along with the usual suspects,  deer, coyotes, armadillos and even an occasional domestic dog, cat or Homo sapien.

So where do CAMN volunteers fit in? Each camera requires two sets of eyes to tag wildlife captured by photos. These photo tags are then verified by Caitlin Higgins, an Environmental Scientist/Field Technician. 

If you are looking to log some volunteer hours at your computer, especially during Austin’s never-ending summer, this volunteer gig may be just right for you. Belaire and Higgins said if they receive enough interest from other CAMN members, they may schedule another volunteer workshop in the future. If interested, please contact Caitlin Higgins.

By Ramona Nye, Class of 2019

The CAMN Chapter Apparel Shop is Open Again!

The CAMN Chapter Apparel shop is open again!

There are a variety of styles, sizes, and colors available for purchase, including embroidered shirts, vests, caps, hats, patches, and even a soft-side cooler with the CAMN logo! Orders may be placed until 11:59 pm on March 30th, and 15% of net sales are contributed to CAMN to support CAMN programs.

You can place your order here

The CAMN Chapter Apparel shop is open for orders!

The CAMN Chapter Apparel shop is open for orders!

There are a variety of styles, sizes, and colors available for purchase, including embroidered shirts, vests, caps, hats, patches, and even a soft-side cooler with the CAMN logo! Orders may be placed until 11:59 pm on November 30th, and a portion of the sales proceeds will be used to support CAMN programs.

You can place your order here

Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting Trip Report

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(Trip report submitted by Mikael Behrens)


I was fortunate to be able to attend the Texas Master Naturalist 17th Annual Meeting (October 21-23, 2016), and boy did it give me a lot to think about! The meeting was held at a resort on Lake Conroe, just north of Houston. Ironically, I and so many other naturalist attendants spent most of the weekend indoors watching Powerpoint presentations, but it was very worthwhile. Here are highlights from some of the sessions I attended that left an impression on me.

The only field trip I attended was on Friday afternoon to the nearby WG Jones State Forest. This has become an island of pine forest habitat in a sea of suburban development, with people’s backyards coming right up to some of the fence lines! Challenges this State Forest face include increased flooding and increased use by entitled neighbors who don’t understand what’s best for the forest and its endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.

tpwd1

Saturday morning I finally got to attend the Texas Stream Team’s Standard LaMotte Kit water quality training. This is something I’ve wanted to do since our 2016 CAMN class water training at The Meadows Center in San Marcos. I plan on monitoring creek on Lake Creek Trail in my northwest Austin neighborhood. During the training we assumed my monitoring partner association was going to be the LCRA, but it turns out Lake Creek ultimately feeds the the San Gabriel River. I discovered the Good-Water Master Naturalists are monitoring the same watershed, so I’ve contacted them to see where I go from here.

In the Texas Ecosystems and Virtual Mapping presentation, Laura Clark with TPWD demonstrated an amazing online app that maps Texas by 398 different plant types at a 10 meter spatial resolution. See their TEAM application here:

http://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/programs/landscape-ecology/team/

And Laura or someone on her team will train you in its use if you ask!

The Texas Nature Tracker presentation by Marsha May with TPWD interested me because I wanted to learn specifically what kinds of citizen science field research was most desired by them. It turns out, they are most interested in anything involving the Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) list for our state. Browse this list and get inspired here:

http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/texas_nature_trackers/target_species/

Also, Marsha specifically mentioned how successful Austin’s Amphibian Watch project has been. We need to publicize it more!

In a presentation called “A New Era for Wildlife Management,” Richard Heilbrun with TPWD gave a brief history of conservation legislation and information about a new bill which could ultimately provide Texas with $50-64 million annually to fund our state conservation plan, laser-focused on our SGCN list. It’s HR 5650 introduced by Alaskan congressman Don Young. Richard is spreading the word about this intriguing proposed legislation!

The last presentation I attended was truly inspiring. Long-time Texas birder and conservationist (and old friend) Stennie Meadours had been monitoring American Oystercatcher breeding success on the coast near Galveston, when one of the birds they had banded as a chick died from ingesting a wad of monofilament fishing line. She was inspired to start her master naturalist chapter’s Plastic Pollution Prevention project. It monitors sensitive sites for plastic litter, organizes cleanups, and spreads the word about how damaging plastic (and in particular monofilament line) is to wildlife. An idea she had at the meeting was that maybe something similar to hunting ethics could be taught about fishing. The Texas Stream Team is also starting efforts to clean up and collect data about monofilament litter.

In the evenings it was great to do a little socializing with fellow CAMN members who also attended this year’s meeting. I feel more connected with them and more willing to reach out when questions or new ideas come to mind!

Enhancing Rainwater for Native Plants on an Austin Preserve

Rainwater collection structure above Terry Town on BCP Vireo Preserve
Rainwater collection structure above Terry Town on BCP Vireo Preserve

Some people think I, as president, do nothing in CAMN but send emails and run some meetings. Today I offer a spot of proof to prove otherwise. I was photographed in the wild at a work session on Austin Water/Wildland Conservation Division’s Vireo Preserve at the completion of one of the last steps of finishing our rainwater collection system. This remote-canyon roof structure will help free volunteers from having to haul water a quarter-mile each week over narrow trails to a staging area known as “Terry Town” (after longtime Wildland volunteer, Terry Southwell—also from the CAMN class of 2013.) The water is used, mostly by Terry, to help get newly-planted native forbs, grasses and shrubs established. While the property does feature a spring that runs most of the year, volunteers take great pains to avoid disturbing its natural flow and the plants and wildlife that have become established around them.

img_6998Today we completed the pads for the pair of 150-gallon tanks, and attached gutters to the roof. The last remaining step in the all-volunteer construction project will involve running PVC pipes from the downspout to the first tank, adding overflows, and attaching spigots. Then, the process can be turned over to the whims of Central Texas weather. The roof, at 128 square feet, will collect enough water to fill the two tanks after 4 inches of rain.

For those interested in less-remote rainwater use systems, a good resource for Central Texas is at http://rainwaterharvesting.tamu.edu

And, if you’re interested in some of the fun projects Wildland Conservation and Austin Water dream up to help protect critical habitat for endangered species, and the water quality of our local segment of the Edwards Aquifer, please see http://austintexas.gov/department/wildland-conservation-division Members of the public can sign up for guided hikes on protected preserves, or volunteer to help in a wide array of conservation efforts, from public outreach to land stewardship.

On finding our volunteer motivations…

(Adapted from our internal newsletter for members.)

herbertia lahue... included apropos to nothing.
herbertia lahue… included apropos of nothing.

CAMN is an incredibly diverse group, with not only a lot of moving organizational parts, but dedicated people who take on many tasks to help run our business. Some of them serve on the board. But many without recognized titles quietly help with organizational tasks like reviewing applications, coordinating classes, and setting up or taking down our meetings and events. While much of this is not the field work or natural interpretation work we love – because who loves a good meeting more than a hike in the woods?? – the work should nonetheless fulfill a personal sense of mission and pride at whatever level we choose to engage. And because no one—not me, not the board, not another member—commands anyone else to do anything, we each serve doing what we can as best we can. When we have exquisite successes, we sometimes may only get modest outside recognition. When we don’t always follow through with certain tasks, we should never beat ourselves up too much. This is first-and-foremost a labor of love and not something we’re chained to.

Continue reading On finding our volunteer motivations…