There will be lots of environmentally friendly organizations, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Car2Go, Sierra Club, ecoRise, LCRA, Wheatsville Food Coop, and Austin Youth River Watch. They’ll have lots of information and fun events.
Invasive Hunter Academy
Join the Invasive Hunter Academy and be one of the few. The proud. The fighting naturalists!
I’ll be helping to teach kids from nearby elementary schools about invasive species with my Invasive Hunter Academy. Get ready, Austin invasive plants! There are going to be a lot more Invasive Hunters ready to help to protect our native ecosystem after tomorrow.
Thanks to Ms. Phoebe Anne Romero with St. Edward’s University for inviting me to join in their Earth Week fun! And thanks too to HEB, our local grocery store. They are a generous sponsor of this event and many great environmental events around Austin, including Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I enjoyed collecting many stickers from HEBuddy to win great prizes when I was a young naturalist.
The 2014 Annual Milam County Nature Festival has fun and free nature activities for kids of all ages
It’s spring…yea!…bringing life to nature, including our native plants and…ugh!…invasive species too. Invasive species have both economic and environmental costs. They crowd out our native plants, including our beautiful Texas wildflowers, and compete with our crops. We’ve got to protect our native ecosystem!
Commander Ben and his Invasive Hunter Academy before the start of the 2013 Milam County Nature Festival
Future invasive species hunters train with Commander Ben at the Invasive Hunter Academy during the 2013 Milam County Nature Festival
I had a great time training young invasive hunters at last year’s festival. There were a lot of fun events in 2013, including a booth on crayfish. They’re fascinating invertebrates that I’ve always enjoyed and learned more about in my freshman high school biology class this year. (The Texas Crawdads exhibit will be back in 2014 too!)
The 2014 Milam County Nature Festival focuses on habitat conservation. In keeping with the festival theme, you’ll enjoy nature songs from “Mr. Habitat” Bill Oliver, the “Environmental Troubadour”, and you’ll find Mr. Doug Phillips with the US Fish and Wildlife service talking about wildlife habitat improvement, including a discussion of prescribed fires and vegetation management. Ms. Linda Ruiz-McCall, with UT Austin, will also be there to talk about water conservation with a ground water simulator that I’m sure will be fun to interact with.
In addition to the speakers, there will be tons of kids activities, including:
Angler education – Have fun learning how to cast for fish
Archaeology digs – I always enjoyed digging for treasures when I was younger
Knapping demonstrations – Making arrowheads is another fun activity
Mammal pelts and paws – Learn about Texas animals, see and touch their skulls and pelts, and create animal tracks with molds
And lots more!
Talking with kids about invasive species and dyslexia
Commander Ben talks about invasive species to kids at the Rockdale Intermediate School in 2013
Last year, I had a fantastic time talking with the kids at the Rockdale Intermediate School about my adventures as Commander Ben, “The Invasive Hunter”, and my experiences with dyslexia. This year, I’m really looking forward to talking with the students at the Milano Elementary School on Friday.
Thanks, Dr. John Pruett, for inviting me back to this year’s festival! I love working with all the master naturalists in the El Camino Real Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, and I especially enjoy having fun with all the kids.
Young naturalists train to be invasive hunters during last year’s Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Nature Nights starts this Thursday, June 13, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center from 6 to 9 p.m. The event is free and has great activities for the entire family. Get to know the difference between a root and shoot at this Thursday’s event, focusing on the power of plants.
And I have great news to share! I’m bringing back my Invasive Hunter Academy to this Thursday’s Nature Nights, so be sure to stop by and say “Hi!”, get to know some common invasive species in Central Texas, and train to become an Invasive Hunter. It’s lots of fun for kids of all ages!
Commander Ben having fun with young Invasive Species Hunters last year at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Get a free ticket for the special auditorium presentation
If you enjoyed Nature Nights during previous summers, there’s also something new happening at this year’s Nature Nights. The first 250 people who attend Nature Nights will receive a free ticket at the admissions table for the special auditorium presentation.
So in addition to enjoying all the display tables and activities (and the Invasive Hunter Academy!), be sure to get your ticket so you can get admitted into the auditorium for the special presentation that’s part of each Nature Nights event.
Summer 2013 Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
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
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
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
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
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
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!