Tag Archives: Austin

Learning about Texas Invasive Species during Muster Days at Camp Mabry

You didn't have to walk far to find Commander Ben and the Invasive Hunter Academy during Muster Days at Camp Mabry

You didn’t have to walk far to find Commander Ben and the Invasive Hunter Academy
during Muster Days at Camp Mabry

This spring I was honored to be invited to bring my Invasive Hunter Academy to 2014 American Heroes Days at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

This special weekend included the Muster Days event, and the academy was part of the Texas environmental section with activities and booths for kids and attendees. In addition to the Texas ecosystem activities, there were lots of military displays and reenactments, including a WWII battle.

Here are some pictures from the event:

 Austin kids creating their invasive species action dioramas as part of the Invasive Hunter Academy at Camp Mabry


Austin kids creating their invasive species action dioramas as part of the Invasive Hunter Academy at Camp Mabry

I always enjoy teaching kids about Texas invasive species through the Invasive Hunter Academy’s fun activities. This was the third academy event that I held this spring, including taking the academy on the road to Austin school kids for Earth Day at St. Edwards University.

 Justin Bush, Commander Ben, and Mike Murphrey in front of the Texas A&M Forest Service table. I'm holding my "May the forest be with you" bookmark.


Justin Bush, Commander Ben, and Mike Murphrey in front of the Texas A&M Forest Service table. I’m holding my “May the forest be with you” bookmark.

Justin Bush talking about the Wildflower Center and Mike Murphrey talking about Texas trees at Camp Mabry

Justin Bush talking about the Wildflower Center and Mike Murphrey talking about Texas trees at Camp Mabry

Mr. Justin Bush, Invasive Species Coordinator for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and Mr. Mike Murphrey, Forester with the Texas A&M Forest Service, teamed up to talk about native Texas plants and trees.

Mr. Bush is a wonderful friend and great speaker. He has traveled across the state giving talks and workshops to train citizen scientists how to spot invasive species. He gave me a bunch of Wildflower Center and invasive species brochures to hand out at my academy events. (Thanks, Justin!) Be sure to sign up for the iWire newsletter to stay in touch with the latest Texas invasive species news.

Mr. Murphrey loves Texas trees, and it shows every time he talked with attendees at the event. He explained how trees are renewable resources and how important they are to our ecosystem and economy. He brought a large cross section of a Texas tree to show everyone the rings, the differences between heartwood and sapwood, and how xylem and phloem moved water and nutrients throughout the tree. (I learned a lot about plants in my high school freshman biology class.)

Commander Ben visiting with the Austin Zoo at Camp Mabry

Commander Ben visiting with the Austin Zoo at Camp Mabry

 Safari Greg and Commander Ben want you to hop over to the Austin Zoo


Safari Greg and Commander Ben want you to hop over to the Austin Zoo

Safari Greg with the Austin Zoo brought a lot of animals, including an adorable tortoise and this cute baby kangaroo, to show kids on Sunday. The Austin Zoo helps many animals in need, rescuing and rehabilitating them. I had fun visiting their southwest Austin location when I was younger.

Lots of goodies from Texas Military Forces to commemorate Army Earth Day

Lots of goodies from Texas Military Forces to commemorate Army Earth Day

Notice those large colored rocks to help hold down the papers in the Army Earth Day booth in case of wind. That’s a great idea! I used large binder clips to help keep my academy materials from blowing away during the 2014 Milam County Nature festival.

Petroglyphs wall activity at the beginning of the Muster Days event before kids started adding their cave drawings

Petroglyphs wall activity at the beginning of the Muster Days event before kids started adding their cave drawings

 Local Plant Source also had a booth at Camp Mabry's event


Local Plant Source also had a booth at Camp Mabry’s event

Many examples of native plants at Camp Mabry to help people avoid planting invasives

Many examples of native plants at Camp Mabry to help people avoid planting invasives

 Did you know you can fish at Camp Mabry? I didn't, but it's true!


Did you know you can fish at Camp Mabry? I didn’t, but it’s true!

The secret nature boxes activity is always a lot of fun for kids

The secret nature boxes activity is always a lot of fun for kids

Texas Military Forces: The Power of Partnerships. What an honor to be listed with a lot of great nature organizations!

Texas Military Forces: The Power of Partnerships.
What an honor to be listed with a lot of great nature organizations!

 Humvee parked outside the Texas Military Forces Museum


Humvee parked outside the Texas Military Forces Museum

You never know who might helicopter in during Muster Days

You never know who might helicopter in during Muster Days

Where did that Sherman Tank go? It was here just a minute ago.

Where did that Sherman Tank go? It was here just a minute ago.

The Sherman Tank that I took a picture with at the Texas Military Forces Museum was gone! But it wasn’t MIA. Instead, it was leading the charge during the WWII battle reenactment during Muster Days at Camp Mabry. The Axis powers were no match!

I really love dogs, so it was great to find a booth for the canine corps and the police force dogs. These dogs are great because they can enter buildings to quickly find threats or hostages. They really help to protect our soldiers, and I got a neat t-shirt from them.

Dr. Linda Brown and Commander Ben in front of the Invasive Hunter Academy at Camp Mabry

Dr. Linda Brown and Commander Ben in front of the Invasive Hunter Academy at Camp Mabry

My thanks to Dr. Linda Brown, Natural Resource Program Manager with the Texas Military Department, for inviting me to the event. I met Dr. Brown during the 2014 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest conference in Port Aransas earlier this year.

Dr. Brown made me feel at home, and we talked about our wonderful Texas ecosystem and how I’ve enjoyed visiting Camp Mabry and attending previous Muster Days since I was a young naturalist. (I guess I still am, but a little older than before!)

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under American Heroes Day, Camp Mabry, iWire Texas Invasives Newsletter, Justin Bush, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Linda Brown, Mike Murphrey, Muster Days, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Military Forces Museum

Commander Ben calls for reinforcements to battle invasive species during American Heroes Days

I'm calling in the big guns for the battle against invasive species

I’m calling in the big guns for the battle against invasive species

Calling all Austin Invasive Hunters! Your native ecosystem needs you!

Join me this weekend (April 26-27) in Austin, Texas, during Camp Mabry’s 2014 American Heroes Days, which includes the Muster Days event and the Texas Military Forces Museum open house. This event traces its roots back to the days when Texas was still a republic and troops were “mustered” or called to report.

During American Heroes Days you’ll meet reenactors from all periods of Texas history and get to know their historical uniforms and equipment.

On both Saturday and Sunday at 2pm, you won’t want to miss the WWII battle reenactment, where you’ll find out about the troops and tactics that were used. I’ve been to these reenactments when I was younger and they are amazing!

Focus on Texas native species and cultural heritage

My thanks to Dr. Linda Brown, Natural Resource Program Manager, for inviting me to bring my Invasive Hunter Academy to be part of event’s environmental section, focusing on Texas’ native species and cultural heritage. In addition to learning about our American heroes at Camp Mabry, young naturalists can also learn about invasive species and become official Invasive Hunters!

Parents and adults won’t want to miss talking with Mr. Justin Bush, Invasive Species Coordinator for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. He’ll also have a table to talk about the ways that you can treasure our native Texas plants and protect our native ecosystem.

This weekend’s going to be action packed!

Whirlwind of activity

I’ve brought the Invasive Hunter Academy to so many great events these last few weeks, that I haven’t had a chance to talk about them with you.

Look for my posts in the coming weeks where I share some of my experiences working with young naturalists and the Invasive Hunter Academy.

Hope to see you this weekend! 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under American Heroes Day, Camp Mabry, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Justin Bush, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Linda Brown, Muster Days

Invasive Species Are No Match for Austin Citizen Scientists

Johnson grass is no match to the invasive hunter moves of Austin citizen scientists

Johnson Grass is no match for the invasive hunter moves of Austin citizen scientists

This summer, I trained as a citizen scientist with the City of Austin and the Wildflower Center to learn how to hunt the top 24 invasive plants in Austin, and I also joined other volunteers to map the locations of invasive species around Slaughter Creek.

Here are some pictures from our volunteer expedition:

Some ducks waddled up to join our Austin citizen scientist team

Some ducks waddled up to join our Austin citizen scientist team

We used ropes to divide the area into quadrants to report the invasive species that we found and the City of Austin team leaders recorded the locations on their iPad

We used ropes to divide the area into quadrants to report the invasive species that we found and the City of Austin team leaders recorded the locations on their iPad

A Chinaberry, an invasive plant, apprehensively eyes our mapping of Austin invasive species

A Chinaberry, an invasive plant, apprehensively eyes our mapping of Austin invasive species

We gave a thumbs down to the invasive species, Johnson Grass

We gave a thumbs down to the invasive species, Johnson Grass

We had a great time as Austin citizen scientist volunteers to help identify invasive species

We had a great time as Austin citizen scientist volunteers to help identify invasive species

Help identify and map Austin Invasive Species

If you haven’t had a chance to join with other Austin citizen scientists, August 15, 2013, is the last day to help the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department collect data about the invasive species in the parks and lands around Austin.

Your friend,
Ben

P.S. Ms. Jessica Strickland recently moved to California. She was the Invasive Species Program Manager with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. You did a great job helping to educate citizen scientists across Texas about invasive species, and I’ll miss you! Best wishes with your next adventures! 🙂

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Filed under Chinaberry, Citizen Scientist, City of Austin, Jessica Strickland, Johnson Grass, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Slaughter Creek, Uncategorized, Wildflower Center

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

Rick Riordan Talks About Mark of Athena and His New Norse Demigod Series

Rick Riordan brought his new book, Mark of Athena, to BookPeople in Austin, Texas, on October 8, 2012. Join me at this special event and watch clips of his presentation where he talks about Percy Jackson, the Heroes of Olympus series, and the new Norse demigod series that he’s working on.

I can’t wait to listen to the audio version! Check out my other posts about Percy Jackson and dyslexia:

Update: The first volume of Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase’s Norse adventures, The Sword of Summer is coming in October 2015.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under BookPeople, Heroes of Olympus, Norse, Norse demigods, Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan, Son of Neptune, The Lost Hero, The Mark of Athena

Invasive Species Can’t Hide During SXSW Eco

Commander Ben and Ms. Jessica Strickland ready to hunt invasive species during SXSW Eco

I had a great adventure on Thursday when I joined Ms. Jessica Strickland, Invasive Species Program Manager at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, to help map the location of invasive plants along Waller Creek.

The special SXSW Eco “Green Army” event began at the Congress Avenue Kayaks building located at the end of Trinity Street in downtown Austin. The building is on Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake) and Waller Creek. All the participants for the event gathered here before we headed out on our adventures. Mr. Justin Murrill, Global Sustainability Manager for AMD and coordinator of the event, welcomed us all and explained the importance of volunteer efforts like this to help keep Austin beautiful.

Commander Ben and Mr. Justin Murrill, Global Sustainability Manager for AMD at SXSW Eco Green Army Event

Some people were going to clean up the trash in the creek, others were going to make seed balls (which were going to be donated to Bastrop State Park to help replant their area after last years wildfires), and others—including me—were going to identify invasive species for future removal or containment projects.

Ms. Strickland and I found many invasive plants along Waller Creek including:

Pictures from the SXSW Eco Invasive Species Mapping

Photographing invasive plants against a white background makes them easier to identify later.

A photographer from the Austin American-Statesman snaps a picture of our tactical reports.

Invasive English Ivy begins to suffocate a tree along Waller Creek.

King Ranch Bluestem (KR Bluestem) at our feet. Unfortunately, you can find them all over Texas, especially on roadsides.

A close up of KR Bluestem. Alas. Their seeds spread easily.

Can you spot the Elephant Ear on Waller Creek?

You can run Elephant Ear, but you can’t hide!

Super villian team up: Elephant Ear next to Heavenly Bamboo

Here I am mapping Johnson Grass. Humm. For amount, where can I circle “beaucoup”?

I sense a disturbance in the ecosystem. Is the Giant Reed trying to sneak up on me again?

We had a nice audience of turtles during our great day of mapping!

All in all it was a great day!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under AMD, Austin, Austin American Statesman, Bastrop State Park, Chinese Privet, Elephant Ear, English Ivy, Giant Reed, Green Army, Heavenly Bamboo, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, Jessica Strickland, Johnson Grass, Justin Murrill, King Ranch Bluestem, KR Bluestem, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Lady Bird Lake, Ligustrum, SXSW, SXSW Eco, Texas Invasives, Tree of Heaven, Waller Creek, Wildflower Center

Austin Invasive Species Corps Aid Golden-Cheeked Warbler

Mr. Darrell Hutchinson describes his work helping to track and protect the habitat for the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, an endangered species that breeds only in central Texas. He demonstrates how the weed wrench helps to remove invasive species that crowd out the native plants and trees in the warbler’s ecosystem.

Mr. Hutchinson is a biologist in Austin, Texas, and a member of Austin’s Invasive Species Corps. I interviewed “Corporal” Hutchinson during our invasive species volunteer day in August 2012. Learn more about my adventures with Austin’s Invasive Species Corps.

This video is part of my “Invasive Species: Secrets Revealed” series of interviews with scientists that I first started at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Austin Invasive Species Corps, Citizen Scientist, Endangered Species, Golden Cheeked Warbler, Invasive Species, Invasive Species: Secrets Revealed, Mr. Darrell Hutchinson, Volunteer, Weed wrench