Do you feel most at home in the great outdoors? Does a frog’s call on a warm spring night sound like music to your ears? Do you just want to learn more about the natural environment and the resources that make Texas beautiful?
Each fall, the Bluestem Chapter of Texas Master Naturalist holds training sessions to certify new volunteers who will help to educate others, provide outreach, and promote beauty and resource stewardship in Grayson County. Training is facilitated by experts and professionals who share a vigor for environmental advocacy and community empowerment.
This year’s classes will begin on Aug. 15 with an orientation session from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Grayson County Courthouse in Sherman. The full schedule of courses, which take place on Saturdays during the day and Tuesday evenings, can be found on the Bluestem Master Naturalist webpage (txmn.org/bluestem). The cost to join is $100 and includes a training manual and background check.
Classes cover a wide variety of topics from forest and wetland ecology to insects and aquatic systems. The group will also take a number of field trips, earning hands-on experience in prairie restoration techniques, wildlife conservation and more.
On Aug. 19, beginning at 9 a.m., Master Naturalists and trainees will discover how they can do their part as citizen scientists from certified Texas Master Naturalist and CoCoRaHs County Coordinator Sue Abernathy. The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHs, is a voluntary precipitation measurement service that provides useful data to the National Weather Service and other professionals from a variety of fields. That day, participants will also hear from Diane Brownlee, a geologist and geophysicist who serves as adjunct curator of earth science at the Heard Museum and director of Ellison Miles Geotechnology Institute at Brookhaven College, and take a field trip to hunt for fossils.
Over the next few months, Master Naturalists in training will get acquainted with officials from Eisenhower State Park, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, local universities and other agencies that will increase their understanding of the intricacies of natural systems. Kate Saling, interpretive ranger at Eisenhower, will teach volunteers about communicating with their audiences. Cathy Whaley, refuge manager at Hagerman, Deputy Manager Paul Balkenbush and Hagerman general biologist Courtney Anderson will help new naturalists understand wetland management, aquatic wildlife and trail building and maintenance — principles fundamental to the success of our parks and wildlife preserves.
Certified Texas Master Naturalists like Jack Chiles, Carol Clark, Bert Garcia and David Parsons will lead training sessions in their areas of expertise. Chiles, a lifelong birder who guides morning bird walks and official bird counts at Hagerman, will discuss shore species found at the refuge. Clark, a member of the Native Plant Society of Texas, conservation specialist with Monarch Watch and operator of Clark Haven Farm wildlife preserve, will cover the importance of preserving Texas native plants and prairies. Former U.S. Attorney and federal prosecutor Bert Garcia, a longtime volunteer with the Friends of Hagerman organization, will lead a special session on nighttime photography. Parsons, who coordinates the Bluestem Chapter’s Eisenhower State Park restoration project, will teach participants about our eight-legged allies in a class about spiders.
Faculty from Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Grayson College and Austin College will also lend their expertise to Texas Master Naturalist training sessions. Tim Patton, professor of fisheries and wildlife science at SOSU, is scheduled to teach trainees about herpetology this September, while Patrice Parsons, professor of biology at GC, will discuss taxonomy. Wayne Meyer, Jessica Healy, Peter Schulze, Loriann Garcia and George Diggs, members of Austin College’s biology and environmental studies departments, will explore studies in ornithology (birds), mammalogy, ecology, entomology (insects) and climate sciences.
In turn, certified Texas Master Naturalists share the knowledge they gain in training with the public through volunteer opportunities, such as assisting with youth programs and guiding tours at Hagerman NWR and Eisenhower State Park. The work that Texas Master Naturalist does keep on giving — each hour spent learning and providing community service earns money for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
To register, visit the chapter’s website (http://txmn.org/bluestem) and download the 2017 application. Registration will end July 24.