Saturday, we welcomed our newest members to the Capital Area Chapter for class orientation. Such great smiles seen on the patio of the Laura Bush Community Library. We look forward to meeting you out in the field, and learning of all the great work you do!
(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.
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:
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:
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!
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.
Today 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.
(Adapted from our internal newsletter for members.)
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.
Trying to locate the correct opportunity from the 98 items in VMS’s dropdown list can be very challenging. Download the 2016-04-12-CAMN_OpportunityListings to help you locate the opportunity you are looking to use in VMS. The document is ordered by partner organization. You can also use “My Placements” on the VMS dashboard to see the full list.
Categories have changed slightly for experienced CAMN members. View the State program’s category definitions to understand the two letter categories found on CAMN opportunities.
As CAMN evolves as an organization so will our opportunities list. We will be evaluating how often our opportunities are used and where new opportunities could ease logging for the members. If you know of a missing opportunity that several members would use provide the details by using “New Opportunity-Capital Area Master Naturalist” from the dropdown menu where you log your hours.
Any suggestions, questions or concerns should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
We had a banner year for CAMN service awards and recertification! There are 82 members receiving the 2015 Bluebonnet Recertification pin!
But most importantly, are the service level award winners who should be congratulated for their continued contribution to CAMN! Please give all a hearty thank you for their hard work!
1000 hour gold dragonfly pin awarded to: Jim Weber and Lynne Weber
500 hour sliver dragonfly pin awarded to: Jacque Austin, Elaine Davenport, Jeff Genung, Elizabeth Hinson, Marc Opperman, Shelly Palmer-Fettig, Terry Southwell
250 hour bronze dragonfly pin awarded to: Jane Adams, Stephaine Boyd, Ranleigh Hirsh, Joesph Hunt, Betty McCreary, Charles (Skip) Mencio, Jr., Harry Miller III, Marcia Sims, Randy Thompson
2015 Recertification Bluebonnet pin awarded to:
Charles (Skip) Mencio, Jr
Harry Miller III
Janet (Jan) Roset
John “Terry” Southwell
On Saturday, Terry was recognized as Austin Water‘s Wildland Conservation Division Volunteer of the Year for his regular contributions to habitat restoration, stewardship and outreach on the Balcones Canyonlands Preserves (BCP) and Water Quality Protection Land (WQPL) preserves.
We are proud of Terry and his contributions both to the city and to the Texas Master Naturalist Program.
Email email@example.com if you are willing to lend your old CAMN curriculum to a member of the 2016 CAMN class for a few months. We are awaiting arrival of updated Texas Master Naturalist™ curriculum, which will not be ready in time for the first few CAMN classes this year. As such, we are asking that 30 current CAMN members lend their old CAMN curriculum to the new class members for a few months. If you would like your curriculum returned to you, Virginia will keep track of the binders and will make sure that it gets back to you after the updated curriculum arrives.
We will need you to write your name and phone number on your binder if you would like it returned to you, and will need you to drop it off at the CAMN Orientation on Nov. 14 at the Discovery Hill Outdoor Learning Center between 12:30 pm and 4:30 pm. Please email Virginia, so that she knows how many binders to expect.
I asked the new dynamic duo of Caroline and Monica to provide a little background about themselves. They are taking on the role of Curriculum Co-chairs for 2016.
Here are their stories in all their unvarnished glory.
Caroline (Class of 2015)
Caroline has a passion for nature, and a talent for sharing it. She first discovered the naturalist community while studying land management issues abroad in Costa Rica during college. After graduating, she began pursuing her passion as a summer camp counselor at the Austin Nature and Science Center. There for two years, she facilitated school programs, designed after-school programs, and led summer camp sessions on a wide variety of natural sciences.
Near the end of her first summer at ANSC, after wrangling 12-year-olds all over the Hill Country for three months, her gaggle of pre-teens visited Westcave Preserve. That day, she fell in love with the famous Westcave Grotto, the so-called “hidden gem of the Hill Country.” She has been avidly volunteering and/or on staff ever since. Caroline received her bachelors degree in Psychology and her minor in Biology from the University of Texas in 2012; at her day job, she is currently infusing her enthusiasm and training skills into the Software Development community at UT. She is pleased as plum to have joined the ranks of Capital Area Master Naturalists, and is excited to become an active member of the community.
Monica (Class of 2015)
I was immeasurably inspired during a study abroad trip to Costa Rica by the incredible diversity of life that can abound in the small square footage of a cloud rain forest. This is where Caroline and I met many years ago and connected admiring the intrinsic beauty of a place teeming with life. I studied biology at UT with a concentration in ecology, evolution and behavior. While there, I worked in a lab that studied basic evolutionary theory with wimpy viruses in the Freshman Research Initiative as a mentor and later became involved in a microbial ecology lab studying endophytic fungi for a short-term research project. I’ve been working for the TCEQ for a couple years now since leaving school working with air quality regulation rules and upholding air pollution reporting standards. Through this experience, I’ve developed an interest in conservation policy and am interested in pursuing a masters degree once I get a better idea of where I want to take things. Outside of work though, I’ve greatly enjoyed learning about bird and plant identification! I’ve been assisting Angela England the past few months with an invasive species removal study, monitoring girdled ligustrum trees/shrubs/demons in the East Boggy Creek greenbelt trail which gets extra boggy in the summer.