Category Archives: Training

Bull Creek Preserve Permit Hike

On Saturday, February 20 from 10:00 to 1:00, Jim O’Donnell guided a group on a Bull Creek Preserve permit hike. He told us about the history of the preserve and ongoing efforts to maintain and enhance this important habitat for the endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler and Black Capped Vireo, explaining the process of capturing and banding birds to monitor their success and dispersal. He talked about bird, mammal, and invertebrate species that have been observed in the preserve and pointed out many native plant species, telling stories of their historical uses. He also identified invasive non-native species, describing the Sisyphean efforts to keep them under control. He showed us the upturned soil where feral hogs had been rooting. Noting the damage that has been done when people create adventitious trails that exacerbate the erosion problem, Jim observed that “although it looks rugged, this land is really quite fragile.”

To learn more about Bull Creek Preserve and the entry permit, visit the Bull Creek Eco Web.

A day of weather, climate and water birds at Hornsby Bend

The 2016 Trainees completed their second class recently. It was held at Hornsby Bend’s Center for Environmental Research, a department of Austin Water Utility. Dr. Kevin Anderson (director of the CER) lectured on the history of ecology in the U.S. and Texas. Jon W. Zeitler (Science and Operations Officer, National Weather Service, Austin-San Antonio) spoke on the complex topic of what defines weather and climate, while Dr. Ruth Buskirk (University of Texas at Austin) introduced the trainees to taxonomy.

After lunch, Dr. Anderson gave the group a tour of the biosolids composting facilities, and led a hike through a small part of the 1,200 acres of riparian forest habitat at Hornsby. The walk highlights the bird blind built to facilitate watching the spectacular diversity of migrating waterfowl. At another stop, he discusses the progression some of the land made from being accidentally-bulldozed for a parking lot to becoming the mid successional forest that is present today.

Class of 2016 Orientation



With yesterday’s orientation at Discovery Hill, the CAMN Class of 2016 is officially underway. Meeting the new folks is always amazing, and a source of great inspiration to more experienced CAMN members. Learning what drives them to seek more involvement in natural resource conservation and outreach, what experiences they’ve had, and learning about connections they have to each other – not to mention just experiencing their enthusiasm – is a highlight of the year. Already this group seems to be gelling quite well, and one could see the seeds of some longterm friendships taking root.

Discovery Hill seemed a fitting place to kick off the new class. It is a partnership between the Austin Independent School District and the National Wildlife Federation to create and maintain an outdoor education center and field trip destination for students and teachers alike. In just three years, volunteers (some of them CAMN members) created lush native plant gardens with bountiful habitat for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. With help from the Native Plant Society of Texas and Westcave Preserve (as well as other funders), gardens were created to showcase native plant communities, with each area within the garden representing the different eco-regions of Texas. Bringing interest (as well as wildlife, and, doubtlessly fascinated children) to the center of the gardens, a stocktank pool features water plants and small fish.  The grounds of the gardens, adjacent to Pleasant Hill Elementary School, are open to the public for a casual stroll. Interpretive signs and an outdoor solar classroom complete the learning environment.



One of the presentations we subject new members to features different ways CAMN members have gotten involved in their community. You can watch a version of it here.

Can we borrow your old curriculum?

CAMN Members…

Email 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.

2016 Class Acceptance has been decided…

Emails have gone out to those who were accepted to the 2016 Training Class, as well as to those who were not accepted. Please check your inbox (or possibly spam folder) if you were anxiously awaiting an answer about your application.

Thank you to all who applied. For those who were accepted, we look forward to meeting you at the orientation! We hope you’ll find CAMN to be one of the richest learning experiences you’ve encountered, and that you make many new friends in the process.

For those who weren’t… please try again next year. Many veteran CAMN members had to apply more than a couple times before they were finally given one of the ~30 training slots. And with 70 applicants this year that meant a lot of denial emails went out. We’re sorry. We hope you’ll continue to follow us and check back Aug. 1, 2016 for the next application.

And that’s a wrap!

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With our 70th entry coming just 42 minutes before the witching hour, our 2016 class application has come to a close. We may have set a new record for the most applications for any class, and we did it all in one month. (Some years we’ve taken applications through September and early October.)

Thank you to all the amazing people who have applied. Having glanced at all of the applications as they’ve come in, I know there is a huge amount of talent, interest and enthusiasm reflected in those entries. It will be a pretty serious challenge to pick the 30 (and backups) who will be invited to the November orientation.

We’ll be notifying everyone (accepted or not) in the next few weeks when we’ve made our selections. We’ll let you know what comes next, and what to expect.

If you didn’t get to apply this particular year, please check back in August, 2016 for the 2017 class.

A CAMN Reading List

Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife
Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife

One of our long-time members, Jeri P., has compiled a fabulous list of the books she loves as a Master Naturalist. Some of the books here are seminal works for the Texas Master Naturalist, as close to required reading as it gets. Like Roy Bedichek’s Adventures With A Texas Naturalist or Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac. Some are written by CAMN members, like Nature Watch Austin by Jim and Lynne Weber, or Kelly Simon’s Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife.

Nature Watch Austin
Nature Watch Austin

Whatever your interest in the natural world, there’s probably a book (or three) on Jeri’s list that’ll scratch the itch. Her list is broken into four sections.

Got your own favorites? We’d love to hear what they are!

Nature Readings
Adventures With a Texas Naturalist Bedichek, Roy
Austin Nature Watch Weber, Jim & Lynne
Bird in the Waterfall Dennis & Wolff
Botany of Desire Pollan, Michael
Forgotten Pollinators Pollan, Michael
Future of Life Wilson, E.O.
Green History of the World Ponting, Clive
Messages From the Wild Gehlback, Frederich
Noah's Garden Stein, Sarah
Paddling the Guadalupe McAlister, Wayne
Rembunctious Garden Marris, Emma
Sand County Almanac Leopold, Aldo
The Geography of Childhood Nebhan & Trimble
Walden Thoreau, Henry David
Wilderness World of John Muir Teale, Edward
Field Guides
Amphibians Amphibians & Reptiles of Texas Dixon, James
Amphibians Familiar Reptiles & Amphibians of North America Audubon Society Pocket Guide
Birds Birds of texas Rappole & Blacklock
Birds Field Guide to the Birds of Easter North America Sibley, David
Birds Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America Sibley, David
Butterflies Butterflies of North America Brock & Kaufmann
Butterflies Butterflies through Binoculars (A field guide of the West) Glassberg, Jeffrey
Dragonflies Dragonflies Through Binoculars Dunkel, Sidney
Birds A Field Guide to Birds Peterson
Gardening with Natives Native Texas Plants by Region Wasowski, Sally & Andy
Geology Roadside Geology of Texas Spearing, Darwin
Grasses Common Texas Grasses Gould, Frank
Insects Insects of the Texas Lost Pines Taber & Fleenor
Journaling/identification Bird Tracks and Sign Elbroch, Mark & Boretos, Diane 0-81177-2696-7
Journaling/identification Mammal Tracks & Sign Elbroch, Mark 0-8117-2626-6
Journaling/identification Nature Observation and Tracking Brown, Jr., Tom 0-4250-9966-0
Mammals Mammals of Texas Schmedley, David
Plants Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country Bro. Daniel Lynch
Plants Wildflowers of Texas Ajilvsgi, Geyata
Plants Texas Wildflowers Loughmiller, Campbell & Lynn
Plants A Field Guide to Wildflowers, Trees & Shrubs of Texas Tull & Miller
Plants Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country Enquist, Marshall
Plants Texas Wildscapes:Gardening for Wildlife Damunde & Bender
Plants Field Guide to the Broad-Leaved & Herbaceous Plants of S.Texas Everett, Drawe & Lonard
Reptiles A Field Guide to Texas Reptiles & Amphibians Bartlett, R.D. & Patricia
Reptiles A Field Guide to Texas Snakes Tenant, Alan
Reptiles Amphibians & Reptiles of Texas Dixon, James
Reptiles Familiar Reptiles & Amphibians of North America Audubon Society Pocket Guide
Reptiles Horned Lizard Manaster, Jane
Reptiles Intro. to Horned Lizards of North America Sherbrooke, Wade
Snakes Poisonous Snakes of Texas Price, Andy
Snakes Texas Snakes Werler & Dixon
Just Good Reading
Title Author
Aransas Harrigan, Stephen
Cadillac Desert Reisner, Mark
Caprock Canyonlands Flores
Captured Zesch, Scott
Desert Solitaire Abbey, Edward
Empire of the Summer Moon Gwynne, S.C.
Enchanted Rock Allred, Lance
Goodby to a River Graves, John
Hard Scrabble Graves, John
Illuminations in the Flatwoods Hutto, Joe
Indian Life In Texas Shawn, Charles
John Graves Reader Graves, John
Lone Star Fehrenbach, T.R.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Dillar, Annie
Prodigal Summer Kingsolver, Barbara
Texas State Parks and the CCC Brandimarte & Reed
Touching the Wild Hutto, Joe
Water From Stone Bamberger, David
Woodswoman LaBastille, Anne
General Reading
Title Author ISBN #
Butterfly Gardening for the South Ajilvsgi, Geyata
Texas Bug Book Beck & Garrett
Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife Damunde & Bender
How to Grow Native Plants ofTexas & the Southwest Nokes, Jill
Rare Plants of Texas Poole, Carr, Price, etc.

Application for 2016 Class Still Open

Val Bugh leading field activity
Val Bugh leading field activity for 2015 class on Insects

We put a lot of effort into making sure each year’s trainees have an amazing experience. Whether it’s meetings to work out all the details of all the classes, or discussions on what things to try to make things even better, our Curriculum Committee folks invest a lot of passion and love into this process. This year is no different, and brings new changes and tweaks to our process for 2016. (The online application is just one of those changes!) You can be a part of this amazing process and reap the rewards. We have 35 applications so far, but would love to see more.

Apply here. Applications close at the end of August.

Application for 2016 Class Available August 1

DSC_6395CAMN will post its application for the 2016 class on August 1, 2015. We will be accepting applications through August (or longer if needed) on our application page. After the close of the application period, we will evaluate the applications, focusing particularly on the applicant’s desire and availability to give back to their community through volunteer service in ecological interpretation, stewardship and outreach. Successful applicants will be invited to attend an orientation in early November, and will undergo a 10-day training course, usually held on Saturdays in late Winter and Spring. These courses – a mix of classroom seminars and hands-on fieldwork – are expert-led and
guided by a curriculum developed in part by Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Agrilife Extension Service.

CAMN Class members at Wildflower Cave, photo by Ryan Lassiter (Class 2015)
CAMN Class members at Wildflower Cave, photo by Ryan Lassiter (Class 2015)

The classes take place at a variety of ecologically-significant Central Texas facilities, such as the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, The Center for Environmental Research at Hornsby Bend, the Gault School for Archaeological Research, the City of Austin’s Water Quality Protection Lands, and many others.

20150307_123215Beyond the knowledge gained through intense focus on Central Texas environmental topics, participants often develop life-long friendships with classmates, and valuable networking contacts in the sciences.

More details are available on the application page, and elsewhere throughout this site.

CAMN’s missionTo develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.

Meet the Curriculum Coordinators for 2016

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.

Monica (left) and Caroline (center) participating in mammalogy class exercises.
Monica (left) and Caroline (center) participating in mammalogy class exercises.

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.