Tag Archives: wildflower center

Central Texas Gardener Tackles Invasive Species

Linda Lehmusvirta, Commander Ben, and Tom Spencer on the Central Texas Gardener TV set

Linda Lehmusvirta, Commander Ben, and Tom Spencer on the Central Texas Gardener TV set

Last month, I had the great honor of being invited to appear on the Central Texas Gardner show that is aired on PBS. When I arrived, I was met by Linda Lehmusvirta, the producer of the show. She took me up to the studio where the show is filmed and introduced me to Tom Spencer, the host of the show. It was so great to meet both of them and they made me feel right at home.

Before the show started filming, Mr. Spencer and I took our places on the set and talked about different things while the make-up artist prepared us for our close-ups! 😉

When the show was about to begin Ms. Lehmusvirta took my mom to the control room. (My mom said it was really cool!) Once everything was “quiet on the set”, the cameras began to roll and Mr. Spenser asked me all sorts of questions about invasive species, my blog, my videos, and my work with the University of Texas and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The 10 minute interview went by so fast! It felt more like a minute.

The whole adventure was so much fun and I am so happy I had the chance to meet both Mr. Spenser and Ms. Lehmusvirta. They’re the best! Many thanks to both of them! 🙂

The KLRU schedule for the Central Texas Gardener show with my interview is listed below:

  • Saturday, September 14 – Noon and 4 pm
  • Sunday, September 15 – 9 am

Updated: Interview air dates.

Started high school

It’s been very busy with lots of homework, but I’ve been enjoying my first few weeks as a freshman in high school at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy (SMCA). I’ve been using my Learning Ally iPad app for the audio of all my textbooks, including biology and my English books!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Central Texas Gardener, High School, Invasive Species, iPad, KLRU, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Learning Ally, Learning Ally app, Linda Lehmusvirta, PBS, St. Michael's Catholic Academy, Tom Spencer, Wildflower Center

Young Recruits Join the Fight Against Invasive Species at the Wildflower Center

Commander Ben fist bumps a new graduate from the Invasive Hunter Academy at the Wildflower Center

Commander Ben fist bumps a new graduate from the Invasive Hunter Academy at the Wildflower Center

This summer, I brought the Invasive Hunter Academy back to Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It was such a blast. I met lots of kids who had gone through the Academy last year, so they helped me bring a whole new battalion of Invasive Hunters through the Academy this year.

Invasive Hunter Academy at Nature Nights in 2013

Here are some pictures from this year’s Academy at the Wildflower Center.

Invasive Hunter Academy setup before the Nature Nights event

Invasive Hunter Academy setup before the Nature Nights event

With my Academy materials, I also show videos from my Battles with Invasive Species series. The Amazing Invasive Hunter Man was a favorite with this year’s young invasive hunters.

A growing battalion of invasive hunters are learning the secrets of the Invasive Hunter Academy

A growing battalion of invasive hunters are learning the secrets of the Invasive Hunter Academy

A crowd of young invasive hunters are learning about invasive plants. That’s Tea Time with English Ivy showing on the monitor.

Young invasive species hunters practice their action moves with Commander Ben

Young invasive species hunters practice their action moves with Commander Ben

Part of becoming an invasive hunter is learning the action moves to take down invasive species. Here I’m kiaping with a young invasive hunter with one of our taekwondo moves.

A kiap is an energy yell to get you psychologically ready for battle. It helps motivate you and frighten your enemies. (We felt the invasives quaking in their rhizomes when we kiaped!)

Julie Graham, Commander Ben, and Alice Jansen at the "Roots to Shoots" Nature Nights event

Julie Graham, Commander Ben, and Alice Jansen at the “From Roots to Shoots” Nature Nights event

My thanks to Julie Graham, Education coordinator, and Alice Jansen, Education manager, with the Wildflower Center for inviting me to be part of the fun Nature Nights event!

Young invasive hunters having fun creating their battles with invasive species action diorama at the Wildflower Center

Young invasive hunters having fun creating their battles with invasive species action diorama at the Wildflower Center

This makes it all worthwhile. Seeing the kids have fun and learn about invasive species and how to protect our native ecosystem.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Alice Jansen, Amazing Invasive Hunter Man, Battles with Invasive Species, From Roots to Shoots, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Ms. Julie Graham, Nature Nights, Taekwondo, Uncategorized, Wildflower Center

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

Secrets of the Invasive Hunter Academy

I wanted to film a video to thank Action for Nature for honoring me with their International Young Eco-hero Award for my work on educating kids about invasive species and for creating the Invasive Hunter Academy.

As part of the video, I share a bit about my background with invasive species and the secrets as to why the Academy is so popular with kids. I also talk about my experiences training young invasive hunters and bringing my Academy to the United States Botanic Gardens in Washington, D.C., and to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

Thank you Action for Nature for your International Young Eco-Hero Award!  I will put it to great use to help educate kids of all ages learn about invasive species.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Action for Nature, Eco-Hero, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, U.S. Botanic Garden, Wildflower Center

How Do You Support the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center?

My family proudly supports the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I first visited the Wildflower Center when I was four years old, and I’ve loved our Texas wildflowers and native ecosystems ever since.

Thanks, Wildflower Center, for featuring my exploits as Commander Ben, The Invasive Hunter, on your Passion for Nature video page.

I’m recovering from surgery from an old sparring injury, but I’ll be back in action again soon, so watch out invasive species!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Invasive Hunter, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Texas Wildflowers, Wildflower Center

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