About

Commander Ben

Commander Ben…always the adventurer!

I’m Commander Ben, the Invasive Hunter. I lead the fight against invasives on my blog and in my videos to help educate kids of all ages about the dangers of invasive species and their impact on our ecosystem.

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Commander Ben Receives  2014 Outstanding Citizen Scientist of the Year Award!

Commander Ben prepares for his invasive species presentation for scientists at the Texas conference

Commander Ben prepares for his invasive species presentation for scientists at the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council conference at the UT Austin Marine Science Institute where he was also presented with the 2014 Citizen Scientist of the Year Award!

Commander Ben thanks the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council for his Outstanding Citizen Scientist award

At the awards dinner, Commander Ben thanks the Council for his Outstanding Citizen Scientist Award.

Commander Ben receives the 2014 Outstanding Citizen Scientist of the Year award

Commander Ben receives the 2014 Outstanding Citizen Scientist of the Year award

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Commander Ben Receives 2013 Outstanding Invasive Species Volunteer of the Year Award from the U.S. Department of Interior

Commander Ben displays his 2013 Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer of the Year Award in front of admiring Giant Reed invasive plants.

Commander Ben displays his 2013 Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer of the Year Award in front of admiring Giant Reed invasive plants.

In March of 2013, I received the 2013 Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer of the Year Award from the National Invasive Species Council (NISC).  The NISC was created in 1999 and is co-chaired by the U.S. Secretaries of Interiors, Agriculture, and Commerce.  NISC provides coordination of federal invasive species actions and works with other federal and non-federal groups to address invasive species issues at the national level.  I was so honored to receive this level of national recognition for my work to educate “kids of all ages” about the threat invasive species pose to our native ecosystem.

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Benjamin Shrader, AKA “Commander Ben”, Receives 2013 International Young Eco-Hero Award for His Work to Help Protect the Environment

Eco-Hero Commander Ben talks about his work with invasive species at the Action for Nature awards ceremony

Eco-Hero Commander Ben talks about his work with invasive species at the Action for Nature awards ceremony.

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Commander Ben interviewed on Central Texas Gardener

In August of 2013, I was interviewed on the PBS television show, Central Texas Gardner, to talk about my work fighting invasive species.

Linda Lehmusvirta, Commander Ben, and Tom Spencer on the Central Texas Gardener TV set

Linda Lehmusvirta, Commander Ben, and Tom Spencer on the Central Texas Gardener TV set

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Commander Ben selected as a presenter for Kid’s Day at the 2012 National Invasive Species Awareness Week in Washington, DC

I was selected as a presenter for Kid’s Day at the 2012 National Invasive Species Awareness Week held at the U.S Botanic Garden in Washington, DC.  My presentation included training young novice naturalists on how to become elite defenders of native species by going through the rigors of my Invasive Hunter Academy!  In addition, I visited with my US Congressman at his office on Capitol Hill to talk about invasive species!

Learn more about the Invasive Hunter Academy with the United States Department of Agriculture blog post: “Meet USDA’s Youngest Ally in the Fight against Invasive Species: Ben Shrader, Invasive Hunter”

Commander Ben and his Invasive Hunter Academy at the US Botanic Garden during Kid’s Day at the 2012 National Invasive Species Awareness Week

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USDA Celebrates Commander Ben and His Invasive Hunter Academy

In April of 2012, I was featured on the United States Department of Agriculture’s blog in a fantastic post, by Ms. Kelsey Branch, APHIS Biologist, titled “Meet USDA’s Youngest Ally in the Fight against Invasive Species: Ben Shrader, Invasive Hunter”

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Commander Ben featured in November 2012 issue (Vol.29, No.4) of Science Weekly

Commander Ben battles invasive species on the cover of Science Weekly
Image credit: Science Weekly

Science Weekly is a great publication for K-6 students to learn more about math and science in a fun way with pictures, informative text, labs, puzzles, and games. Each grade level has a customized issue of Science Weekly with the younger grades getting more pictures and the older grades more text with in-depth information.

In this issue on invasive species, which is used in schools throughout the U.S, they included a special section all about Commander Ben and the work I do to fight invasive species.

Commander Ben battling different invasive species in Science Weekly
Image credit: Science Weekly

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Commander Ben featured in Texas Co-op Power Online Magazine and also featured in Wildflower – the magazine of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

In March 2013, I was featured in the Texas Power Co-Op online magazine in an article titled, Commander Ben: An Invasive’s Worst Nightmare,  written by Texas Master Naturalist Mrs. Sheryl Smith-Rogers.

Commander Ben:  An Invasive's Worst Nightmare. (Photo Credit:  Will van Derbeek)

Commander Ben: An Invasive’s Worst Nightmare. (Photo Credit: Will van Overbeek)

And then, in June 2013 I was featured in Wildflower – the magazine of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in an article titled “Teen vs. Invasives” by Ms. Saralee Tiede.

And then…

Benjamin Shrader Featured on Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Video (along with his mom, Mary, an attorney, and his Dad, Ted, a software engineer)

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Commander Ben Talks to 350 Students About Invasive Species & Dyslexia at Rockdale Intermediate School

I had one of the greatest experiences in my life when I was invited to speak about invasive species and dyslexia to 350 third through fifth graders at the
Rockdale Intermediate School.

Commander Ben talks to 350 enthusiastic students about invasive species and dyslexia at Rockdale Intermediate School

Commander Ben talks to 350 enthusiastic students about invasive species and dyslexia at Rockdale Intermediate School

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Commander Ben Talks to the Students at The Rawson Saunders School (for students with dyslexia) About Invasive Species, Movie Making…and Dyslexia

Commander Ben talking about invasive species and dyslexia to science classes at the Rawson Saunders School

Commander Ben talking about invasive species and dyslexia to science classes at the Rawson Saunders School

In addition to speaking at The Rawson Saunders School, I was also interviewed on KUT.   During National Dyslexia Awareness Month, KUT, our Austin NPR station, broadcast a series of interviews about dyslexia, and I was invited to be part of the series after they saw my Sound of Reading film about Learning Ally (formerly known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic).

Austin Teen, Benjamin Shrader, Creates Film for National Dyslexia Awareness Month

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Commander Ben Talks About Invasive Species with Highland Lakes Master Naturalists

In November 2012, I was invited to speak to the the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists.  I gave a presentation to a crowd of about 100 about my fight against invasives and how I use my blog and my You Tube Channel to educate people about the threat of invasive species to our ecosystem.

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Commander Ben Selected as a Speaker at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas

I was selected as a speaker at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. My talk was entitled, “Origin of an invasive hunter: Educating kids of all ages about invasives”, and I created over twenty videos about the conference, publishing many interviews with scientists and researchers on my blog and YouTube channel.

Commander Ben presenting at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center during the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference

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Commander Ben’s “An Invasive Carol” video featured in the iWire Invasive Species Newsletter

The December 2011 issue of iWire, the monthly e-newsletter published by the Texas Invasive Pest and Plant Council, about invasive plants and pests in Texas, featured my Battles with Invasive Species video, “An Invasive Carol”, as part of their newsletter.

Plus, earlier in the year  – July 2011 – my blog was featured for the first time in iWire!

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Commander Ben invited to be a Speaker at Earth Week 2012 at St. Edwards University

At Earth Week 2012, I talked about how I got started learning about invasives and teaching others. I also took questions from the audience and talked about my Invasive Hunter Academy as part of Kid’s Day during National Invasive Species Awareness Week at the US Botanic Garden.

Commander Ben and Mr. Mitch Robinson, Earth Week 2012 Coordinator, and Education and Land Management Coordinator for Wild Basin Preserve

And in 2013, Commander Ben was invited back to St. Ed’s for Earth Day!

Commander Ben joins St Edward's Earth Week celebrations

Commander Ben joins St Edward’s Earth Week celebrations

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Commander Ben Featured on the University of Texas at Austin Environmental Science Institute Website

I was featured on the University of Texas at Austin – Environmental Science Institute website.

Commander Ben’s blog featured on the University of Texas’ Environmental Science Institute’s Website

And it has been an honor getting to know Dr. Jay Banner, professor at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences and Director of the UT Environment Sciences Institute.

Back When It All Started…
A Young Commander Ben and Dr. Jay Banner

Dr. LeeAnn Kahlor, an associate professor with the department of advertising and public relations at UT, recognized me from my invasive species videos and  introduced me to a number of professors at UT.

A Young Commander Ben and Dr. LeeAnn Kahlor

I met and spoke with Dr. Jay Banner, who has a passion to get kids excited about science. He thought it would be great if I started interviewing the scientist who speak at the Hot Science – Cool Talks lectures and then put the interviews on my blog. I have so enjoyed doing this over the years and have had the honor of meeting so many amazing scientists!

Mr. Geoffrey Hensgen, Dr. Jay Banner, Commander Ben, and Dr. Andrew Ellington at Hot Science - Cool Talks

Mr. Geoffrey Hensgen, Dr. Jay Banner, Commander Ben, and Dr. Andrew Ellington at Hot Science – Cool Talks

And I continue to create interview videos with the presenting scientists for ESI’s awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks speaker series. Dr. Andrew Howell is one of the scientists I have interviewed.  Not only is he so smart, he’s lots of fun too!

Commander Ben and his friend, Dr. Andrew Howell, horsing around after Dr. Howell’s presentation at UT’s ESI Hot Science Cool Talks speaker series 

Dr. Jay Dr. Famiglietti, was lots of fun too when we wrapped up one of the Hot Science-Cool Talks series of interviews!

Commander Ben and Dr. Jay Famiglietti at Hot Science - Cool Talks

Commander Ben and Dr. Jay Famiglietti wrap up Hot Science – Cool Talks on a humorous note

Read more about Hot Science – Cool Talks

My blog is also highlighted on the “Kid’s Page” at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension website and on the Bugwood Blog of the The University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.

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In October 2012, Commander Ben Brought His “Invasive Hunter Academy” to UT Austin’s Hot Science – Cool Talks Pre-Lecture Activities

As I mentioned above, The UT Austin Environmental Science Institute (ESI) has a great Hot Science – Cool Talks series that brings scientists from UT Austin and across the country to talk about their neat science research. Kids of all ages are invited to attend.

Mr. Geoff Hensgen, ESI Outreach Coordinator, invited me to bring my Invasive Hunter Academy to their most recent event with Dr. Jay Famiglietti, “Last Call at the Oasis: Will There be Enough Water for the 21st Century?

Commander Ben motions to how high (and higher!) the Giant Reed invasive plant can grow
Photo credit: UT Austin Environmental Science Institute

Commander Ben teaches high school students about the problems the Giant Reed creates for our Texas ecosystem.

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Commander Ben featured on the September Issue of Austin Family Magazine

I was featured on the September 2012 cover of Austin Family Magazine which you can read more about here and here.

Commander Ben zip-lining to his next adventure!

Commander Ben featured on the September 2012 cover of Austin Family Magazine

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Commander Ben’s video, Native Plant Avengers, Selected to be Part of the 4th Annual 2012 “Lights. Camera. Help.” Focus on Good Film Festival

My video, Native Plant Avengers, was selected to be part of the 4th annual “Lights. Camera. Help.” Focus on Good Film FestivalIt was screened to a live audience on Wednesday, September 12, 2012, at 7:00pm in the Spirit of Texas Theater at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Commander Ben’s video, Native Plant Avengers, selected for 4th Annual “Lights. Camera. Help.” Focus on Good Film Festival

Commander Ben on stage at the Spirit of Texas Theater during the Q&A after the premiere of his video Native Plant Avengers at the “Lights. Camera. Help.” Focus on Good Film Festival.

Commander Ben and Rich Vazquez, Co-founder and Chairman of the Board at “Lights. Camera. Help.”

Commander Ben and David J. Neff, Creator, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer at “Lights. Camera. Help.”

Commander Ben and Aaron Bramley, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Offices at “Lights. Camera. Help.”

And…Commander Ben was mentioned by Aaron Bramley in an interview with KVUE News! 

Listen Here.

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Commander Ben Interviewed by Robert Sims on KOOP, 97.1 FM Radio Show “Lights, Camera, Austin”

In September 2012, I had the huge privilege of being interviewed by Robert Sims on his radio show, Lights, Camera, Austin,which airs on KOOP 97.1 FM, about my video, Native Plant Avengers, which was selected to be part of the “Lights. Camera. Help” Focus on Good Film Festival.  A recording of the interview is posted here.

Commander Ben takes the mike at KOOP, 97.1 FM on the radio show Lights, Camera, Austin

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In July 2012, Commander Ben Brings His “Invasive Hunter Academy” to the Power of Plants event during Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

On July 5, 2012, I was invited to bring the Invasive Hunter Academy to the Power of Plants event during Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Commander Ben with future Invasive Hunters during Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

And then “The Commander” is back at Nature Nights in 2013 by popular demand!

A growing battalion of invasive hunters are learning the secrets of the Invasive Hunter Academy

A growing battalion of invasive hunters are learning the secrets of the Invasive Hunter Academy

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Commander Ben’s first video, “Who Will Fell This Titan?” Wins First Prize at Science Under the Stars hosted by the University of Texas Brackenridge Field Laboratory

In May 2011, Commander Ben’s very first video, “Who Will Fell This Titan?”  won first prize at the Science Under the Stars event, hosted by the University of Texas Brackenridge Field Laboratory.


Commander Ben with Master of Ceremonies and Research scientist, Dr. Heineman, Ph.D

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My videos span many categories, including:

Me, at age 12, when I started my blog :-)

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What people are saying about Commander Ben:

“Commander Ben,  On behalf of all your friends and fans at ESI (University of Texas at Austin – Environmental Science Institute), thank you for all your support!!! We love having you at our Cool Talks and pre-lecture science fairs and look very much forward to seeing you on February 24.” Dr. Tafuro and the staff at ESI

“Thanks so much for attending the Film Festival. We here at Lights. Camera. Help. can’t wait to see what you come up with next year!”  David J Neff, Co-founder Lights. Camera. Help. Focus on Good Film Festival

“It was great seeing you at ECO. Good luck on the SXSW submission! Looking forward to seeing more of your films in the future.”  Stephen Vogelpohl, Social Good TV

“As I was asking folks which booth was their favorite, the overwhelming majority said Commander Ben with a smile.”, Chris Harper, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

“If any one person could be called the face of the future for the battle against invasive plants and for the preservation and conservation of native plants, “Commander Ben” is that person.”, Native Plant Society of Texas

“My 9-year-old son and I first saw you at the Wildflower Center and have enjoyed your videos. Congratulations on your magazine cover. You are a fantastic role model for my son!”

“Great to meet you, Ben! Can’t wait to follow along your adventures through your blog.”  Addie Broyles, Austin American Statesman

“Awesome work Chief!”

“Way to go Ben!! We appreciate all of your work!”

“I know you, you’re famous!” Ms. Griffin Gardner, University of Texas – Austin Media Coordinator  (A note from Commander Ben…”Not sure I’m really famous, but Ms. Gardner made my day!)

 “…Commander Ben has developed into a great champion for invasive species. His videos, interviews, and articles on his website – http://commanderben.com/, are wonderful and very entertaining. He’s been getting some much deserved attention for his efforts. Keep it up Ben!”,  Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month News Blog

“Young, energetic, with a positive outlook on life and a sincere gratitude for the support and mentoring he has received, Benjamin expresses himself through videos on YouTube and through his blog. Nearing the end of his first year in high school we can certainly hope that he is successful in his efforts to eradicate Arundo donax from native plant habitat areas of Texas.”, Native Plant Society of Texas

“Ben – this is fabulous! I am sharing it with all my grandchildren! I taught a schoolyard garden club once – wish you had been in it. Keep up the great work.”

“Commander Ben, I love your website! I wish more people cared about invasive species, and I’m glad you’re on the job. I look forward to future videos!”

“Ben, you are an impressive young man. I love seeing youth inspired to not only enjoy nature, but strive to understand it as well. Your posts are enlightening and encourage me to learn more. Thank you for posting links. Hot Science-Cool Talks is now in my calendar as well.” :)

“So clever and funny. Thanks for your efforts to inform kids of all ages.”

“I love the videos, Commander Ben! Thanks for taking on these Titans.”

“Thank you so much for your blog. It is very helpful to me as a teacher.”

And what people are saying about Commander Ben’s Dyslexia posts…

“Learning Ally’s staff and volunteers are very proud to be part of your journey, and we appreciate your persuasive and insightful way of sharing something that is so important for the public to hear.”, Doug Sprei, Director of Public Relations, Communications & Social Media for Learning Ally

“I love your site!  Parents and teachers are always asking me how to help their child/student who has dyslexia and dysgraphia become engaged in reading and writing. Commander Ben does a great job sharing how he works with his dyslexia and dysgraphia rather than fight with them all the time. Please read this blog to get some great ideas.”, Dr. Patricia McGuire, MD

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of you, Ben! Good for you for sharing your story…you WILL help others! You are an amazing young man, and I’m so glad to know you.”, Sheryl Smith-Rogers, Texas Master Naturalist

“I have an 8 year old boy who is going to appreciate this blog when he gets home from school today. Blogs like these will inspire and build confidence for other kids (and parents). Thank you for sharing your blog and you are such an inspiring boy!”

“Thank you so much for your story. My 9 year old daughter is dyslexic and the information you shared will be very helpful in her life.”

Ben— YOU ROCK!!!

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In addition to fighting invasives…

Working with Dogs

Ben, as a K-9 Kid, creating a public service announcement encouraging the adoption of homeless dogs

As a “K-9 Kid“,  I participated in the making of a short Public Service Announcement, during the summer of 2011, to help a great organization – Austin Dog Alliance – find forever homes for homeless dogs.  You’ll see me introduce “Rita” at about the 23 second mark:

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Ben working with the Bow Wow Reading Dogs program

Max and Me working together for the “Bow Wow Reading Dogs” program at Austin Dog Alliance

I also volunteer at Austin Dog Alliance assisting with the training of pet therapy dogs who participate in the “Bow Wow Reading Dogs” program.  Be sure to click on the logo below to learn more about Austin Dog Alliance and support the great work they do for the Austin community through their “Special Dogs for Special Needs” program training special dogs to become companions to children with special needs.

austindogalliancelogo

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And I’ve also volunteered at my local animal hospital, Lake Travis Animal Hospital, and look forward to more volunteer opportunities in the future where I can work with dogs.  As most of you know, I love dogs and my favorite is my dog…Obi-Wan…the best dog in the whole wide world!

Obi-Wan selected as “Dog of the Day” at Taurus Training.

“Obi-Wan and her delightful family have been lighting up our facility since its very beginning, and we just wouldn’t be the same without them.”  Taurus Training, February 2012

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And let’s not forget Dyslexia!

Listening to my 8th grade science textbook using my Victor Reader Stream playing a recording of the book from Learning Ally.

And finally…as I have shared with all of you in the past, I have dyslexia.  So if you would like to learn more about my experiences and how I learn, be sure to check out my Dyslexia page here on my blog. 

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And you can also read about me at the Learning Ally blog (formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic) where I was featured in an article in January 2013:

Student Adventurer and Blogger “Commander Ben” Becomes Dyslexia Advocate

“Learning Ally member Ben Shrader was diagnosed with severe dyslexia in kindergarten, but did not publicly reveal his learning difference on his very popular science blog until eighth grade. Along with his other passions of filmmaking and fighting invasive plant species, Ben now writes about dyslexia with an emphasis on the positive aspects, including how he uses technology to overcome spelling, reading and writing challenges.”  Read More

Commander Ben and Ms. Jenny Falke after talking with him about dyslexia for Learning Ally

Commander Ben and Ms. Jenny Falke, Senior Communications Associate for Learning Ally, after talking with him about dyslexia for an article for the Learning Ally blog

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In addition to educating kids about invasive species, I also enjoy talking about dyslexia. It’s important for kids to know – especially those who have dyslexia – that nothing is impossible. We can achieve whatever we put our minds too!

In April of 2013, I was honored to speak to the 7th and 8th grade science classes at The Rawson Saunders School for kids who have dyslexia.

Ben speaking to a science class at Rawson Saunders School for students with dyslexia

Commander Ben talking about invasive species and dyslexia to science classes at the Rawson Saunders School

Commander Ben talking about invasive species and dyslexia to science classes at the Rawson Saunders School

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Austin Teen Creates Film for National Dyslexia Awareness Month

And, as I also mentioned above, I created a documentary film, The Sound of Reading, for National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch it to help you understand the challenges people with dyslexia face. And if you have dyslexia, I’m confident you will find the film uplifting, and most important, encouraging. No matter who you are, or what struggles you my face, we can all be successful in life. With hard work, determination and a positive attitude, anything is possible! :-)

Hope you enjoy my website and thanks for visiting!

Your friend,
Ben

Ben :-)

14 responses to “About

  1. Jennifer P.

    Commander Ben, I love your website! I wish more people cared about invasive species, and I’m glad you’re on the job. I look forward to future videos!

  2. Kate M.

    Ben – this is fabulous! I am sharing it with all my grandchildren! I taught a schoolyard garden club once – wish you had been in it. Keep up the great work

    • Hi Kate,

      Thank you so much for the kind words. Your schoolyard garden club sounds like it must have been a lot of fun for the kids. So glad you want to share my blog with your grandkids. Hope they enjoy it.

      Your friend,
      Ben

  3. Jennifer R.

    So Impressive! You are a wonderful role model for our young kids! Thanks for being so inspiring and helping kids be mindful and appreciative of nature! God bless!

  4. Hi Ben! I know you’re probably unavailable, but wondered if you might be up for leading an informative invasive species walk in nature with a class of 4-7 year olds? My class, called outdoor explorers, takes place on thursday mornings at 10 am, and the day is April 11.

    Your work is really inspiring! So glad you are out there spreading knowledge. All the best, Kami (www.austintinkeringschool.com

    • Hi Kami,

      Thank you so much for your note and the kind words! Your outdoor explorers sounds great but I have class on Thursday mornings. But please keep me in mind if you plan a weekend outing.

      Thanks for visiting my site!

      Your friend,
      Ben

  5. Commander Ben,

    I read about you and your website in the latest edition of “Wildflower” and was so impressed that I wanted to do my little part to help you with your mission. I put a link to your site in my recent blog post about invasive plants, http://eclecticdesignchoices.blogspot.com/2013/06/menacing-invasive-plants.html . Keep up the great work!

  6. Joseph Nemec

    This is really cool, Ben! It’s been so long since we’ve talked! Congratulations on all of this! Let’s get together again soon!

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