Category Archives: Giant Reed

Mud and Paintball: That’s a Summer Adventure

I still cant believe I was in so much mud.

I still can’t believe I was in so much mud.

I hope everyone is having a great summer. I’ve been having a lot of fun this summer and wanted to check in with everyone to say hi and to fill you in on what I’ve been up to.

So far this summer, I have been to a great week long camp that was incredible. I went with two of my friends, which made it doubly fun. We did all sorts of amazing activities, including an obstacle course where we had to slog through waist deep mud. We also played paintball. At the end of the game, everyone was calling me “Mr. Polk-a-Dots” because I was covered in paint ball hits that I received as I charged the opposing team when I was the only one left on my side!

Next, about a week after I got home from camp, I volunteered to serve as a counselor at my church’s camp for kids ages Pre-K to 5th grade. This was my first year to be a camp counselor and it was SO MUCH fun. The camp had a theme called “Wacky Animals” and I got to play a character called “Dr. Paws” who was an animal specialist. He was very funny and the kids really liked him. It was great fun for me, and I look forward to volunteering as a camp counselor again next year.

That Arundo donax is messing with the wrong Segway rider.

That Arundo donax is messing with the wrong Segway rider.

I also went rafting, horseback riding, hiking, canoeing, and lots of fun outdoor stuff too, including taking a a fun Segway tour around Austin. Highly recommended!

I hope you’ve been having fun this summer too. I’ll be catching up on my blog posts on invasive species, science, and dyslexia before starting school this fall. I’ll be a high school sophomore! Wow! Where did the summer go?

Your friend,
Ben

1 Comment

Filed under Arundo donax, Summer camp

Citizen scientists train to hunt the top 24 invasive plants in Austin

My sketchbook of the top 24 invasive plant species in Austin, Texas

My sketchbook of the top 24 invasive plant species in Austin, Texas

As the Invasive Hunter, I always have to keep my skills sharp, so on a Saturday in May, I attended an invasive species workshop at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This workshop was designed especially for citizen scientists who are working with the city of Austin as part of the Austin Invasive Plants Management Plan.

The city of Austin and the Invaders of Texas Program teamed up to train local volunteers how to identify and monitor invasive plants. Citizen scientists who volunteer with this program get to work side by side with city staff to develop a map of where invasive plant species are located, and the city of Austin will use this map to determine how to best treat or remove the invaders.

Learning up close how to identify invasive plants

Learning up close how to identify invasive plants

Ms. Jessica Wilson, Wildland Conservation education manager with the city of Austin, welcomed us to the workshop, and Ms. Jessica Strickland, Invasive Species Program Manager with the Wildflower Center, gave a great talk about invasive species in Texas and those around Austin, the Invaders of Texas Program, and how to report sightings of invasive species online and through the TX Invaders mobile app.

Top 24 invasive plant species in the city of Austin

Top 24 invasive plant species in the city of Austin

We learned about the top 24 invasive plant species in Austin from samples in the Wildflower Center’s library, and got to know them better by being able to see them, feel their leaves and other identifying features, and sketch samples of them to help us remember them when we’re out in the field.

A sample of kudzu, a nasty invasive species

A sample of kudzu, a nasty invasive species

The top 24 invasive plants in Austin cover herbaceous, woody, vines, and aquatic species and include my nemesis, the Giant Reed (Arundo donax)!

We practiced identifying sample invasive plants in a field outside of the Wildflower Center

We practiced identifying sample invasive plants in a field outside of the Wildflower Center

Besides polishing up my knowledge about invasive plants, I also got to spend some time with other citizen scientists (excuse me, future invasive hunters!) and staff from the city of Austin who were a lot of fun.

Commander Ben and Austin invasive species volunteers getting ready for action

Commander Ben and Austin invasive species volunteers getting ready for action

The workshop I attended was part of a series of volunteer workshops that the city of Austin and the Wildflower Center have been holding during the spring of this year.

Here is a great video all about the day created by the City of Austin:

Their goal is to train 180 citizen scientists who are willing to volunteer time during the summer monitoring season.  The next Invasive Species Identification and Monitoring workshop is coming up this weekend, June 8 and 9.  Don’t miss out because this is the last workshop for the season!

I look forward to seeing you in the hunt for invasive species! 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

Leave a comment

Filed under Austin Invasive Plants Management Plan, Austin Invasive Species Corps, Citizen Scientist, City of Austin, City of Austin Invaders, City of Austin Wildland Conservation Division, Giant Reed, Invaders of Texas, Invaders of Texas Citizen Science Program, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, Invasive Species Workshop, Jessica Strickland, Jessica Wilson, Kudzu, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Mobile app, Texas Invaders, Texas Invasives, TX Invaders, Wildland Conservation Division

Commander Ben Celebrates Earth Day at St. Edward’s University

Commander Ben joins St Edward's Earth Week celebrations

Commander Ben joins St Edward’s Earth Week celebrations

I’ve had an exciting last few weeks that I look forward to talking with you about, but I first want to catch up on some of the great events that I had a chance to be part of in April.

Last year, I was invited to St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, to give a talk about Commander Ben and the Invasive Hunter Academy as part of St. Edward’s 2012 Earth Day events. I had a great time and was honored to be invited to bring the Invasive Hunter Academy back on Monday, April 22, to St. Edward’s 2013 Earth Day celebrations.

Commander Ben and the Invasive Hunter Academy at St. Edward's University

Commander Ben and the Invasive Hunter Academy at St. Edward’s University

It was a beautiful sunny day and turnout for the event was great. Along with my Invasive Hunter Academy display and poster board about my invasive species nemesis, the Giant Reed (Arundo donax), there were lots of great people there with all sorts of Earth Day activities and information. I enjoyed visiting all the tables and meeting some very interesting folks.

Some of the groups I had a chance to speak with on Earth Day included:

Agana Rainwater at St. Edward's Earth Week celebrations

Agana Rainwater at St. Edward’s Earth Week celebrations

Car2Go at St. Edward's Earth Week celebrations

Car2Go at St. Edward’s Earth Week celebrations

Johnson's Backyard Garden at St. Edward's Earth Week celebrations

Johnson’s Backyard Garden at St. Edward’s Earth Week celebrations

Sustainable Food Center at St. Edward's Earth Week celebrations

Sustainable Food Center at St. Edward’s Earth Week celebrations

I want to thank all the people at St. Edward’s for another great Earth Day celebration, and a special thank you to Mr. Mitch Robinson, Education and Land Management Coordinator for Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, and Ms. Cristina Bordin, Special Assistant to the President and Sustainability Coordinator for St. Edward’s University, who invited me to be a part of this great event.

Commander Ben and Mitch Robinson at St. Edward's Earth Week celebrations

Commander Ben and Mitch Robinson at St. Edward’s Earth Week celebrations

I’ll have more posts coming up about my other April adventures. Talk with you again soon! 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

1 Comment

Filed under Agana rainwater, Arundo donax, Car2Go, Christina Bordin, Earth Day, Giant Reed, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Johnson's Backyard Garden, Mitch Robinson, St Edward's University, Sustainable Food Center, Uncategorized, Wild Basin Preserve, Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

An Invasive Species’ Worst Nightmare: Texas Co-Op Power Magazine and Commander Ben Team Up

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

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

I have great news to share with you today!  There is a story about me in the March issue of the Texas Power Co-Op magazine and it’s titled, Commander Ben: An Invasive’s Worst Nightmare, and it was written by Texas Master Naturalist Mrs. Sheryl Smith-Rogers.

Awhile back I met Mrs. Sheryl on the telephone when she interviewed me for her article. She wanted to write about me and my fight against invasive species.   Then, when I was presenting my Invasive Hunter Academy at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Nature Nights event, she was very kind to drive up from Blanco to meet me in person!  She is so nice and a great writer.  She even invited me to speak to her Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists.

Once the story was sent off to her editor, the magazine contacted me to meet with the photographer, Mr. Will van Overbeek.  We hunted down an invasion of invasive Giant Reed (Arundo donax—my arch enemy!) plants, and as I battled them, Mr. van Overbeek took my picture. (Thanks for the great picture Mr. van Overbeek!) It was a lot of fun, especially when other people walked by and stared, wondering what was going on! 🙂

Hope you enjoy the article!

Your friend,
Ben

P.S. Thanks Mrs. Sheryl! You’re a fantastic writer, and you have a great Window on a Texas Wildscape nature blog!

2 Comments

Filed under Arundo donax, Giant Reed, Highland Lakes Chapter, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Ms. Sheryl Smith-Rodgers, Nature Nights, Sheryl Smith-Rodgers, Texas Co-Op Power, Texas Master Naturalists, Wildflower Center, Will van Derbeek

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

Leave a comment

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