The following class of 2015 members completed all their requirements for becoming certified Texas Master Naturalists. Please congratulate them for their hard work!
Monica Ramirez **
Allan Seils **
Caroline Taylor **
** indicates a double certification – awarded to those who completed 80 hours or more of volunteering and 16 hours or more of advanced training
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.
Our 2015 CAMN trainees are down to their last class – and graduation ceremony – in a couple short weeks. They are an enthusiastic group, a well-rounded bunch with a lot of volunteer hours under their belts already. We hope they will continue to make a difference in Central Texas environmental stewardship, interpretation and educational outreach.
This past weekend they spent time learning about insects and amphibians/reptiles (“herps”) in the classroom, and then poked about The Nature Conservancy‘s Barton Creek Preserve looking for specimens with the help of trained experts.
This past Saturday saw the CAMN trainees for the class of 2015 visiting the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center for an overview of geology and soils in Central Texas. Jon Brandt, soils scientist with the Railroad Commission of Texas and a longtime CAMN member, coordinated the class. This was Jon’s 15th and last year as coordinator, as he has expressed a desire to pass the baton.
Nico Hauwert, geologist and senior hydrologist with City of Austin Watershed Protection Department, presented an introduction to basic geology and our regional geology, with an emphasis on groundwater-aquifer interaction. Jacob Eikstead, soil scientist, Surface Mining and Reclamation Division, Railroad Commission of Texas, taught the soils segment, covering soil composition and its relation to plant propagation. Students spent time at three hands-on stations that demonstrated soil composition, rock types, and soils identification. Following lunch, students got a unique chance to visit geology from the inside by touring the LBJWC Wildflower Cave.
Prior to starting the curriculum materials, Dr. Karen Clary, LBJWC’s senior program director, presented some of the missions of the center, as well as made a request for involvement in the Emerald Ash Borer identification project.
Thank you to Ranleigh Hirsh and Paul Clements for class logistics help, and for accepting the baton to be passed by Jon for the 2016 class.
(Photos by Marc Opperman)
Visiting the cave at LBJWC (photos by Ryan Lassiter):
The 2015 trainees had a great second class with Dr. Pamela Owen, Associate Director of the Texas Memorial Museum, teaching the overview of Texas mammals. CAMN has been fortunate to have Dr. Owen teach this class for a number of years. As part of the talk, she brings examples of pelts and skulls for students to examine and compare. In addition, she helps the students interpret the findings at scent stations set up to attract animals and record their tracks.
This class has been held at McKinney Falls State Park for the past few years, and we were happy to have the help of Jenn Menge, the park’s interpretation and outreach coordinator, as well.
Thank you to class coordinators John Barr and Dorothy Young for their work in setting up the class.
2015 trainees examining mammal skulls
Dr. Owen assists while 2015 trainees examine mammal skulls
2015 trainees examining mammal skulls
Dr. Owen demonstrates features of a mammalian skull