Nine local experts in biology, the environment, wildlife, conservation and like topics will conduct an upcoming fall training program being hosted by the Bluestem Master Naturalists. The classes will run on seven consecutive Saturdays - Aug. 22 and 29, Sept. 12 and 19, and Oct. 3, 24 and 31 - and the cost to take part in the program is $100. Information and applications are available by sending an email to bluestemmasternaturalists@gmail.com.

Nine local experts in biology, the environment, wildlife, conservation and like topics will conduct an upcoming fall training program being hosted by the Bluestem Master Naturalists. The classes will run on seven consecutive Saturdays - Aug. 22 and 29, Sept. 12 and 19, and Oct. 3, 24 and 31 - and the cost to take part in the program is $100. Information and applications are available by sending an email to bluestemmasternaturalists@gmail.com.


Dr. Peter Schulze, professor of biology and environmental science and director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Austin College, kicks off the first class with "Ecological Concepts," the bases for understanding the cycles, rhythms and connectedness of living things and their environment. Schulze holds a Ph.D in biology from Dartmouth and his interests are ecology, ecosystem restoration, and the potential to combine environmental and economic understanding to solve problems. He works with colleagues and students to restore Austin College’s Sneed Prairie.


Kathy Whaley, manager of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, will cover archaeology, the history of Lake Texoma and wetland ecology and management. Whaley holds a master’s degree. from Tennessee Tech University and has worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 15 different national wildlife refuge complexes. All of these jobs also involved helping endangered species such as Florida Scrub Jays, wood storks, green and loggerhead sea turtles. One of the highlights of her career was establishing a permanent 10,000 acre no-motor zone in north Banana River of Florida to serve as a refuge for West Indian Manatees.


Originally from Palmer, Massachusetts, Courtney Anderson is currently working as the visitors service/environmental education intern at Hagermanrefuge. Since completing her marine biology degree at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, Andersons has worked at Tennessee and St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuges prior to coming to Hagerman. In February of this year she finished a Certified Interpretive Guide training and will share this skill during the training program.


Dr. Tim Patton, a herpetologist, will be sharing information on snakes, frogs, alligators and turtles. Patton started in Arkansas, earning a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife management and went on to gain his master’s degree and doctorate in zoology and physiology at the University of Wyoming. He has been a professor of fisheries and wildlife science at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant for the past 16 years. His research has included studying the impacts of introducing channel catfish into waters in New Mexico and Utah and inventorying the populations of the Pecos and Rio Grande Rivers. His current research is in Oklahoma studying the demographics of alligators, patterns of frog sounds and the commercial harvest of freshwater turtle populations.


Dr. Jessica Healy studied mammals during her bachelor’s degree program at Pella, Iowa. After receiving her doctorate from Colorado State University at Fort Collins, Healy worked at the University of Arizona doing biomedical research. In 2012, she joined Austin College in the Biology Department as assistant professor. She studies the physiological ecology of hibernating mammals and conducts small mammal surveys around North Texas. By studying her collection of skulls, furs and assorted bones, trainees will better understand the behavior and role that mammals play in the ecosystem.


Dr. Mike Merchant is a professor and extension urban entomologist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service with bachelor’s master’s and doctor’s degrees from Huxley College of Environmental Studies, Purdue University and Texas A&M respectively. His life’s work has been devoted to controlling pests such as fireants, termites, spiders and scorpions with low-impact pesticides and integrated pest management in order not to damage other helpful species or contaminate soil and water. Merchant also is a Master Naturalist.


Dr. Keith Kisselle is an associate professor of biology and chair of the Environmental Science Academic Program at Austin College. His degrees come from DePauw, Ohio State and the University of Georgia with a doctorate in ecology. Most of Kisselle’s research has been in human-dominated ecosystems, primarily agricultural. He is interested in prairie restoration, soil microbial communities and nutrient cycles. He will guide the trainees through the AC IDEA Center and explain AC use of sustainable practices.


Chuck Jones is the Grayson County Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent for agricultural and natural resources and is an advisor to the Bluestem Master Naturalists. For this year’s training program, Jones will present forestry management and walk participants through the woods at Eisenhower State Park to identify trees. He holds bachelors and masters degrees from Louisiana Tech University in wildlife conservation and wildlife biology. Before coming to Sherman, Jones served as wildlife sanctuary manager for the Heard Museum in McKinney, having primary responsibility for blackland prairie restoration.


Dr. George Diggs is a faculty member in the Biology Department of Austin College and is a reasearch associate at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. His interests include plants of Texas, evolution as it related to human health, and biogeography. In his research, Diggs has traveled to all seven continents. He has taken numerous undergraduates to Africa and South America to study tropical natural history in an effort to increase knowledge of tropical ecosystems and raise awareness of current ecological problems. Diggs has co-authored three major books - Illustrated Flora of North Texas, Illustrated Flora of East Texas, and Ferns and Lycophytes of Texas. During his portion of the program, he will take trainees to Snead Prairie to visit the AC weather monitoring system and present content on changes in global weather.