Tag 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

Invasive Hunters and Surprises at the Texas Invasive Species Conference

Commander Ben thanks the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council for his Outstanding Citizen Scientist award

Commander Ben thanks the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council for his Outstanding Citizen Scientist award

I had such a great time at the 2014 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council (TIPPC) conference that was held last month at the UT Austin Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas. I gave my invasive species presentation in the institute’s auditorium, talked with lots of scientists, and received such a great surprise!

Adventures with invasive species presentation

Commander Ben prepares for his invasive species presentation for scientists at the Texas conference

Commander Ben prepares for his invasive species presentation for scientists at the Texas conference

My presentation at this year’s conference was entitled, “Adventures with Invasive Species and the Invasive Hunter Academy”. I talked about how I use social media and my many science videos to educate kids about invasive species. With each of my Battles with Invasive Species videos, I created a character and focused on a specific invasive species that kids could learn from and remember.

For example, you’ve heard of grumpy cat. Here’s my grumpy scientist character who starred in two of my invasive species videos:

Adventures with Invasive Species presentation slide showing my grumpy scientist character's wide range of emotions

Adventures with Invasive Species presentation slide showing my grumpy scientist character’s wide range of emotions

Looking for a fun activity for in-person events led me to create the Invasive Hunter Academy, which I described in my presentation. Since I’m dyslexic, I talked about how I wanted to create a multi-sensory approach to helping kids learn through visual matching, physical activities, and creative crafts. I shared my many successes taking the academy to the US Botanic Gardens in Washington D.C. and to many nature events across Texas.

Graduates from the academy have fun, create an action diorama they can bring home, and become official Invasive Hunters!

I fielded many great questions from the audience, including how my videos can be used in school science classrooms. (Please feel free to use them to help kids learn more about invasive species!) I also received a warm invitation from Dr. Linda Brown, Natural Resource Program Manager with the Texas Military Department, to bring my academy to Camp Mabry!

Scientists gathered from across Texas and the nation

There were many great talks from scientists who are helping to research and control invasive species in Texas. Here are just a few of the presentations from some of the scientists that I had a chance to talk with at the 2014 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference and at the 2011 conference.

Adding species to Texas’s Noxious and Invasive Plant List

Dr. Damon Waitt and Commander Ben catch a moment together at the Invasive Plant and Pest Conference

Dr. Damon Waitt and Commander Ben catch a moment together at the Invasive Plant and Pest Conference

At this year’s conference, Dr. Damon Waitt led the Leadership and Coordination sessions and he gave a presentation on The Texas Invasive Plant Inventory and Efforts to Add Plant Species to TDA’s Noxious and Invasive Plant List.

Dr. Waitt is the Senior Director and Botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, and he talked about the successes and challenges for listing invasive species for inclusion on the State of Texas’ Noxious and Invasive Plants list.

Dr. Waitt talked about two invasive plant species that were added to the state’s list:

Dr. Waitt has been a great mentor to me as I’ve learned about invasive species. Here are a few of my blog posts with Dr. Waitt:

Update on invasive species in Texas

Commander Ben and Dr. Earl W Chilton II at the Texas Invasive Species Conference

Commander Ben and Dr. Earl W Chilton II at the Texas Invasive Species Conference

As with the 2011 conference, Dr. Earl W. Chilton gave a wonderful status update on invasive species in Texas with a special focus on aquatic invasives, including the Zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). Dr. Chilton is the Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Program Director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Around Central Texas, Dr. Chilton talked about Austin’s successful efforts to bring Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) under control in Lake Austin. He also talked about how scientists found Salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima) near Lake Travis. Unfortunately, fire ants are attacking the larva of the leaf beetles that have been helping to control the spread of Salt cedar across Texas.

At the last conference when I was just a budding invasive hunter, Dr. Chilton talked with me about Reeling in the Top Aquatic Invasive Species in Texas.

Institute for the Study of Invasive Species

Dr. Jerry Cook and Commander Ben near invasive species posters

Dr. Jerry Cook and Commander Ben near invasive species posters

Dr. Jerry Cook is the Associate Vice President for Research at Sam Houston State University. He served as the program chair for this year’s conference, and he talked about the university’s Institute for the Study of Invasive Species (ISIS). He was also part of two presentations at the conference:

I was happy to catch up with Dr. Cook at this year’s conference. I had a chance to create a video interview with him at the 2011 conference to talk about his New Institute for the Study of Invasive Species: Early Detection, Rapid Response.

Coordinating invasive species across Texas

Commander Ben and Mr. Justin Bush show off their Invasive Hunter moves

Commander Ben and Mr. Justin Bush show off their Invasive Hunter moves

During the conference and at the evening dinner, I had a great time talking with Mr. Justin Bush, Invasive Species Coordinator for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. He has a background working on controlling aquatic and terrestrial invasive species and on habitat restoration projects.

With the Wildflower Center, he works on invasive species projects in Texas and on many parts of the Texas Invasives website, including reviewing pictures and sightings of invasive species uploaded by citizen scientists in their Invasives database.

Mr. Bush helped organize the many workshops for this year’s conference. He was very kind and encouraging, and I’m excited to work with Mr. Bush and the Wildflower Center in the future.

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More invasive species presentations

Commander Ben and Dr. Ronald Billings during a break at the invasive species conference

Commander Ben and Dr. Ronald Billings during a break at the invasive species conference

Since I could only attend one day of the conference (since I didn’t want to miss my high school biology class!), I didn’t get a chance to talk with all of the scientists. Here are just a few of the presenters and session chairs with links to videos where I had a chance to interview them during the last 2011 conference.

There were so many great presentations and sessions at the conference that I can’t list them all. Thanks to everyone for the wonderful conference, including everyone I’ve already mentioned, plus Jim Houser, Alex Mathes, Scott Walker, Trey Wyatt, Mike Murphrey, Autumn Smith-Herron, and Sara Pelleteri.

Outstanding Citizen Scientist of the Year

Commander Ben receives the 2014 Outstanding Citizen Scientist of the Year award

Commander Ben receives the 2014 Outstanding Citizen Scientist of the Year award

I received such a wonderful surprise at Thursday night’s conference dinner! In addition to receiving a presentation award, the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council presented me with the 2014 Outstanding Citizen Scientist of the Year award!

Wow! I was so honored to receive this award and for all the kind words. It was so heartwarming to hear from a scientist that I was “one of the team!”

Thanks, TIPPC, for the award! I’m so happy that my work to help educate kids about invasive species has had an impact, and I’ll continue to train more invasive hunters to help protect and treasure our native ecosystems.

Invasive Hunter Academy: Spring events

Speaking of the Invasive Hunter Academy, I’m excited to announce that there will be lots of chances for you be part of the academy this spring:

These events are a great chance for kids of all ages to learn about invasive species, have fun with nature, and learn about Texas history. Hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, 2014 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Camp Mabry, Chinaberry, Citizen Scientist, Damon Waitt, Dr. Stephen Clarke, Earl Chilton, Hydrilla, Institute for the Study of Invasive Species (ISIS), Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Invasive Species Award, iWire Texas Invasives Newsletter, Japanese Climbing Fern, Jerry Cook, Justin Bush, Karen Clary, Luci Cook-Hildreth, Marine Science Institute, Milam County Nature Festival, Ronald Billings, Saltcedar, Sam Houston State University, Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council, Texas Invasives, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, University of Texas, Zebra Mussel

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

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

Commander Ben’s “An Invasive Carol” Video Featured in the iWire Invasive Species Newsletter

Wow! What a nice surprise on New Year’s Eve to receive the December 2011 issue of iWire, the monthly e-newsletter about invasive plants and pests in Texas, and to see that they featured my latest Battles with Invasive Species video, “An Invasive Carol”, as part of their newsletter.

The newsletter picture shows my Ghost of Christmas Present costume and my Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council (TIPPC) water bottle cozy that I got at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference.

Watch my “An Invasive Carol” video and let me know which Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, or Future costume you like the best.

Thanks TexasInvasives.org! 🙂

Commander Ben signing off…

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, A Christmas Carol, Battles with Invasive Species, Christmas, Giant Reed, iWire Texas Invasives Newsletter, Redtip Photinia, Texas Live Oak