Category Archives: Invasive Plants

Austin Invasive Species in the spotlight at St. Edward’s University 2014 Earth Week

Our Place in Space: Sustainability, Stewardship and Community - Earth Week 2014 at St. Edward's University

Our Place in Space: Sustainability, Stewardship and Community – Earth Week 2014 at St. Edward’s University

If you love nature and you’re in Austin tomorrow, April 22, 2014, join in the “Our Place in Space: Sustainability, Stewardship and Community” – Earth Week 2014 festivities at St. Edward’s University.

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!

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.

Hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Earth Day, Earth Week, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, Phoebe Anne Romero, St Edward's University

Fun Activities for Young Texas Naturalists at the Milam County Nature Festival

The 2014 Annual Milam County Nature Festival has fun and free nature activities for kids of all ages

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

Commander Ben and his Invasive Hunter Academy before the start of the 2013 Milam County Nature Festival

Young naturalists, join me and I’ll show you how to become an expert Invasive Hunter with my Invasive Hunter Academy at the 5th Annual Milam County Nature Festival, April 11-12, 2014, at the Rockdale Fair Park in Rockdale, Texas. The event is free with lots of activities for kids of all ages!

Future invasive species hunters train with Commander Ben at the Invasive Hunter Academy during 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!)

Habitat conservation

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

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.

Hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Doug Phillips, El Camino Real Chapter, Habitat conservation, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, John Pruett, Milam County Master Naturalists, Milam County Nature Festival, Milano Elementary School, Rockdale Fair Park, Rockdale Intermediate School, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Water conservation

Central Texas Gardener – Invasive Plants With Commander Ben

My invasive plant species interview with Central Texas Gardener aired today! Yea!

If you didn’t get a chance to see today’s episode on KLRU, our local Austin PBS station, you can watch my segment with show host Mr. Tom Spencer in the YouTube video above.

Central Texas Gardener - Invasive Plants with Commander Ben episode

Central Texas Gardener – Invasive Plants with Commander Ben episode

In my interview, I talk about how I got started with my work helping to educate kids of all ages about invasive species.

Commander Ben and a native Texas Live Oak have a watch party for today's episode of Central Texas Gardener.

Commander Ben and a native Texas Live Oak have a watch party for today’s episode of Central Texas Gardener.

You can also learn more about my Invasive Hunter Academy.

Thank you so much Mr. Spencer and producer Ms. Linda Lehmusvirta. I had a great time and you made me feel at home. 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Central Texas Gardener, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, KLRU, Linda Lehmusvirta, Texas Live Oak, Tom Spencer

Watch Out Invasive Species! Invasive Hunter Academy Returns to Nature Nights at Wildflower Center

Young naturalists train to be invasive hunters during last year's Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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!

Get to know the Invasive Hunter Academy

Commander Ben having fun with young Invasive Species Hunters last year at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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

Summer 2013 Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Summer 2013 Nature Nights schedule

  • June 13 – From Roots to Shoots
  • June 20 – Amphibians
  • June 27 – Insects
  • July 11 – Birds of Prey
  • July 18 – Wildlife
  • July 25 – Snakes

Learn more about Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

I look forward to seeing you there! 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under From Roots to Shoots, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Nature Nights, Power of Plants, Wildflower Center

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

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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 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