Category Archives: Battles with Invasive Species

Invasive Species Are on the Run at the 2014 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference

Commander Ben searches his Sherlock mind palace for ways to defeat invasive species

Commander Ben searches his Sherlock Mind Palace for ways to defeat invasive species

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be presenting at the 2014 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference this month!

I’ll be talking about “Adventures with Invasive Species and the Invasive Hunter Academy” in the auditorium at the University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas, on February 27, 2014.

If you’re a scientist, citizen scientist, Texas naturalist, or Taekwondo-wearing invasive hunter, this is a conference that you won’t want to miss! The conference is a great opportunity to learn about invasive plants, insects, and other pests across Texas.

2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest conference

Commander Ben rallies scientists at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference

I was privileged to attend and present at the last Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference that was held at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center from November 8-10, 2011. I had started creating my Battles with Invasive Species video series earlier that year and receiving great feedback from kids and scientists across the country.

My presentation was entitled, “Origin of an invasive hunter: Educating kids of all ages about invasives”. Apple’s Siri had just come out, and I used the then new iPhone 4s to invite my invasive species loving nemesis, Baron Neb, to lunch with me at the conference. (He was too scared to attend.)

I had a great time at the conference. Many scientists were very friendly and generous with their time to create videos with me and talk about their work with invasive species.

Here are some previous posts about the 2011 conference:

2014 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest conference

Since my 2011 talk, I’ve learned more about invasive species and created the Invasive Hunter Academy. (Also started high school in the fall of 2013!) With the Academy, I’ve been able to bring fun activities to help educate kids about invasive species at in-person events in Texas and across the country.

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 Reeds

Because of my successful outreach to help budding naturalists appreciate their native ecosystems and learn about the problems of invasive species, I was honored in 2013 to be awarded the “Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer” from the National Invasive Species Council. (Terrestrial sounds cool. It means on the land, where I’ve battled many invasive species. Although I must confess straying into riparian habitats from time to time in my pursuit of the Giant Reed too.)

Unfortunately, the government had shut down just before the start of National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW), and I wasn’t able to go to Washington D.C. to attend the festivities and meet other scientists. I also missed not going back to the U.S. Botanic Gardens or the International Spy Museum. Drat! 😦

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

In 2013, I also was honored to receive an International Young Eco Hero award from Action for Nature. I had a great time meeting other scientists and young naturalists and talking at their annual conference at the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco, California.

For my 2014 conference presentation, I’ll talk about my experiences creating the Invasive Hunter Academy, filming Battle with Invasive Species videos, and educating kids about invasive species. As part of the Academy, kids can create an action diorama showing themselves battling an invasive plant. Which plant do they pick most often? You’ll have to come to my presentation to find out. 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

P.S. Do you have a favorite (I mean worse) invasive species in Texas? If so, let me know in the comments below!

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, 2013 Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer of the Year Award, 2014 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Action for Nature, Battles with Invasive Species, Eco-Hero, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species Award, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Marine Science Institute, National Invasive Species Council, University of Texas

Young Recruits Join the Fight Against Invasive Species at the Wildflower Center

Commander Ben fist bumps a new graduate from the Invasive Hunter Academy at the Wildflower Center

Commander Ben fist bumps a new graduate from the Invasive Hunter Academy at the Wildflower Center

This summer, I brought the Invasive Hunter Academy back to Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It was such a blast. I met lots of kids who had gone through the Academy last year, so they helped me bring a whole new battalion of Invasive Hunters through the Academy this year.

Invasive Hunter Academy at Nature Nights in 2013

Here are some pictures from this year’s Academy at the Wildflower Center.

Invasive Hunter Academy setup before the Nature Nights event

Invasive Hunter Academy setup before the Nature Nights event

With my Academy materials, I also show videos from my Battles with Invasive Species series. The Amazing Invasive Hunter Man was a favorite with this year’s young invasive hunters.

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

A crowd of young invasive hunters are learning about invasive plants. That’s Tea Time with English Ivy showing on the monitor.

Young invasive species hunters practice their action moves with Commander Ben

Young invasive species hunters practice their action moves with Commander Ben

Part of becoming an invasive hunter is learning the action moves to take down invasive species. Here I’m kiaping with a young invasive hunter with one of our taekwondo moves.

A kiap is an energy yell to get you psychologically ready for battle. It helps motivate you and frighten your enemies. (We felt the invasives quaking in their rhizomes when we kiaped!)

Julie Graham, Commander Ben, and Alice Jansen at the "Roots to Shoots" Nature Nights event

Julie Graham, Commander Ben, and Alice Jansen at the “From Roots to Shoots” Nature Nights event

My thanks to Julie Graham, Education coordinator, and Alice Jansen, Education manager, with the Wildflower Center for inviting me to be part of the fun Nature Nights event!

Young invasive hunters having fun creating their battles with invasive species action diorama at the Wildflower Center

Young invasive hunters having fun creating their battles with invasive species action diorama at the Wildflower Center

This makes it all worthwhile. Seeing the kids have fun and learn about invasive species and how to protect our native ecosystem.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Alice Jansen, Amazing Invasive Hunter Man, Battles with Invasive Species, From Roots to Shoots, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Ms. Julie Graham, Nature Nights, Taekwondo, Uncategorized, Wildflower Center

Commander Ben Talks 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

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

Last month, I had one of the greatest experiences in my life when I went to talk about invasive species and dyslexia to 350 third through fifth graders at the Rockdale Intermediate School.  Dr. John Pruett, of the Milam County Master Naturalists, coordinated the event as part of the Milam County Nature Festival, which took place the next day on Saturday, April 13.

When I arrived at the school, Dr. Pruett met me at the entrance and then I checked in and got to meet Principal Kathy Pelzel and Ms. Susan Boyd, ACE Coordinator for the school. Before the start of my talk, I joined the other Milam County Master Naturalists, including Ms. Joyce Dalley, in a conference room where we chatted about invasive species, nature, and other fun stuff.

At 2:00 PM, Dr. Pruett introduced me to a cafeteria room full of excited students. They gave me an enthusiastic and thunderous round of applause as I took the mic.  I was humbled…and nervous!  But once I started to speak, I relaxed and had a wonderful time. They were a great audience!

Commander Ben talks about his "Ecesis Far Far Away" video and the invasive species Elephant Ear.

Commander Ben talks about his “Ecesis Far Far Away” Video and the invasive species Elephant Ear.

I talked to the kids all about invasive species, the Invasive Hunter Academy, my blog, my videos (and showed a few of them!), and my experiences with dyslexia.  With each video, I talked about the characters that I played and the invasive species that I featured. It was a lot of fun.  It was especially rewarding when the kids laughed and laughed while watching my The Amazing Invasive Hunter Man video, part of my Battle with Invasive Species video series.

After my talk, the kids had some great questions for me…including…Was I nervous? (Yes) How old am I? (14) What’s my favorite animal? (Dog – especially my dog Obi-Wan) What’s my favorite color! (blue, but green for plants too) And what are some of the toughest invasive species in Texas? (Giant Reed and Hydrilla)

Ms. Susan Boyd, Dr. John Pruett, Ms. Joyce Dalley, and Commander Ben show off their invasive hunter skills.

Ms. Susan Boyd, Dr. John Pruett, Ms. Joyce Dalley, and Commander Ben show off their invasive hunter skills.

Thanks Dr. Pruett, Principal Pelzel, and Ms. Boyd for inviting me to talk to the great students at Rockdale Intermediate School. I hope the kids had as much fun as I did. I know they’re going to be great future invasive hunters!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Amazing Invasive Hunter Man, Battles with Invasive Species, Dyslexia, In an Ecesis Far Far Away, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, John Pruett, Joyce Dalley, Kathy Pelzel, Milam County Master Naturalists, Milam County Nature Festival, Rockdale Intermediate School, Susan Boyd

Invasive Species vs Texas Invaders iPhone App

For too long, invasive species have crowded out native plants and chased away citizen scientists seeking to report them with pen and paper. Now, the Texas Invaders mobile app brings new technologies to help invasive hunters protect their ecosystems in the Lone Star state and beyond.

Download the Texas Invaders app featured in the video, attend an Invaders of Texas Workshop, and get started reporting invasive species:

Other invasive species app blog posts:

Become a citizen scientist at an Invaders of Texas Workshop

If you’re in Central Texas, learn more about the City of Austin’s volunteer training for invasive species monitoring and the City of Austin Invaders satellite group, and sign up for an upcoming Invaders of Texas Workshop at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:

  • March 23, 2013
  • May 11, 2013
  • May 18, 2013

Hope to see you at one of the workshops soon! 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Android, Apple, Austin Invasive Species Corps, Battles with Invasive Species, Citizen Scientist, City of Austin, City of Austin Invaders, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, iPhone, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Mobile app, Texas Invaders, Wildflower Center

How to Succeed in Hunting Invasive Species Without Really Trying

The video concerns a young, ambitious native plant defender who, with the help of the smartphone app, “How to succeed in hunting invasive species without really trying”, rises from a budding environmentalist to a fighting naturalist.

Commander Ben goes to high school

I have great news to share with you! I’ve been accepted into St. Michael’s Catholic Academy for high school in the fall. I’m very excited, since I’ve been studying hard and took the ISEE exam to get in.

Last year, the drama team at St. Michael’s put on a play, “How to succeed in business without really trying“. It was a musical comedy with lots of great student actors, and this got me thinking about making a fun video with invasive species that’s similar to the opening of the play.

I hope you enjoy this latest addition to my Battles with Invasive Species video series!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Android, Apple, Battles with Invasive Species, High School, How to succeed in business without even trying, How to succeed in hunting invasive species without really trying, iPad, iPhone, ISEE, St. Michael's Academy, St. Michael's Catholic Academy

Ghosts of Invasive Species Past, Present, and Future in A Christmas Carol

This Christmas Carol tale begins on Christmas Eve with Ebenezer Scrooge, a man with a stingy heart, a disdain of native plants, and a phobia of dirty feet. His former business partner, Jacob Marley warns Scrooge of visits by three spirits.

Overnight, the ghosts lead Scrooge through his innocent past, misguided present, and possible dire future overrun by invasive species. They help to transform him into a man of joy and compassion, both with the family of his impoverished clerk, Bob Cratchit, and his diverse ecosystem.

I hope you enjoy my video from last year based on Charles Dickens’ classic tale of redemption!

Merry Christmas and happy new year everyone! I look forward to more adventures with you as we learn more about invasive species, science, and dyslexia in 2013!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under A Christmas Carol, An Invasive Species Carol, Battles with Invasive Species, Bob Cratchit, Charles Dickens, Christmas, Ebenezer Scrooge, Giant Reed, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, Jacob Marley, Redtip Photinia, Texas Live Oak

Invasive Species Hunter Teams Up: Commander Ben and Science Weekly

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

I was so excited to get the latest issue of Science Weekly in the mail today!

This issue is extra special to me because it’s about invasive species, and it talks about my adventures as Commander Ben, the Invasive Hunter, to help kids learn more about invasive species.

Science Weekly included a special section about me, and I especially like the cartoon action figure they made of me battling different invasives, including the Zebra Mussel and Bamboo. That’s really cool!

Fun learning about science and math

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.

This issue is fantastic. You’ll get to read about invasives, practice your vocabulary, polish your math skills, conduct a fun lab, and complete a puzzle—all while learning about invasive species.

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

If you’re looking for my invasive species videos that Science Weekly talks about, check out my Battles with Invasive Species playlist on YouTube, including my Invasive Species Carol—Special Christmas edition!

If you’re a teacher, you won’t want to miss getting Science Weekly for your classroom, and if you’re a parent, and you’re interested in getting issues for your own budding scientist, you can order issues online.

Thanks Science Weekly for featuring me and for helping to teach kids about invasive species. I can’t wait to see more Invasive Hunter Academy graduates!

Your friend,
Ben

P.S. If you have a fun adventure with invasive species, let me know. I would love to hear from you!

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Filed under A Christmas Carol, An Invasive Species Carol, Battles with Invasive Species, Golden Bamboo, Heavenly Bamboo, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, K-6 math, K-6 science, Parents, Science Weekly, students, Teachers, Zebra Mussel