“We were blown away by the response from this year’s event,” Mary Pearl Meuth, assistant state coordinator for the Texas Master Naturalist Program, said. “We knew that hosting the annual meeting virtually was going to be a big shift for our regular attendees. Because of the transition, we were only expecting about 200-300 registrants. We hosted a few virtual coffee chats before the event to give potential attendees practice using the online platform and it was an overwhelming success.”
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in District 6, serving the counties of West Texas, will address managing the damage done by wildlife in its next free “On the Line with AgriLife” webinar at 9 a.m. on Oct. 20.
The topic of the webinar is “Integrated Wildlife Damage Management.” John Tomecek, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, Thrall, will be the featured speaker.
Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, AgriLife Extension agricultural law specialist, Amarillo, will be the presenter.
“Texas fence law is an area of much importance and inaccurate information,” Lashmet said. “This webinar will offer an overview of Texas fence law and highlights how the law applies to common issues such as livestock versus auto collisions on the roadway, estray livestock, neighbor fencing disputes and more.”
Online event to cover variety of rangeland topics
Cost to attend is $10 and must be paid by Sept. 25. Checks should be made out to Sutton Ag Program Fund and mailed to the AgriLife Extension office of Sutton County, 1700 N. Crockett St., Sonora, Texas 76950.
AgriLife Extension webinars to cover predators, feral hogs, deer management
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will present a free four-part webinar series that will cover a variety of range and wildlife topics starting Sept. 30. The series will run on Wednesdays from 11 a.m.-noon through Oct. 21.
Registration is now open for the Texas Master Naturalist Program’s annual meeting, to be held virtually this year from Oct. 14-17.
What to expect
The four-day event, packed with contests, special programming and a variety of expert speakers and presenters, is open to anyone looking to learn more about the natural world around them in Texas.
Mary Pearl Meuth, Texas Master Naturalist Program assistant state coordinator, Bryan-College Station, says this annual meeting will have something for just about everyone interested in nature, natural resource management and conservation.
Graduate students monitor thermoregulation habits, climate impact on moose and bison
Big game are usually adaptive mammals, but temperature increases in Alaska and the Great Plains pose a threat to moose and bison.
This comes as no surprise to Jeff Martin, Ph.D., and Dan Thompson, Ph.D., both recent graduates from the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who dedicated their doctoral research to examining the effects of warming temperatures on big game.
One component of Martin’s research measured heat flux in bison, while Thompson aimed to understand body temperature regulation in moose.
Understanding how large game respond to rising temperatures provides key insights into the future sustainability of moose and bison populations on landscapes where increased warming has become a concern.
Perry Barboza, Ph.D., a Texas A&M AgriLife Research professor in the Departments of Ecology and Conservation Biology and Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management, served as Martin and Thompson’s primary mentor for the duration of their program.
“Critical areas of bison habitat and moose habitat are getting hotter and that is affecting the productivity of moose and bison,” Barboza said. “These animals are keystones to their ecology, culturally important and vital to the livelihood of many.”
“We are excited to have Dianne join the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management,” said Cliff Lamb, Ph.D., interim department head. “Her background and previous experiences made her a strong candidate, and we look forward to seeing the teaching area grow under her direction.”
Robinson brings with her a strong background in ecology and wildlife sciences. She earned her bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology and management and biology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2008. Robinson graduated from Texas A&M in 2013 with a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences.
Upon graduating, Robinson went to work for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, DNR, as the Milwaukee County wildlife biologist and Waukesha Area wildlife educator.
Experienced in wildlife education, outreach
During her time there, Robinson created and implemented a wildlife education program for traditional and non-traditional DNR audiences of all ages. She worked with local and regional stakeholders to build educational partnerships throughout Southeast Wisconsin.
She has also worked on various committees and communications teams to promote diversity and inclusion within the DNR, raise awareness for high-profile issues and promote policies relating to wildlife areas, prescribed fire and habitat management, among others.
Robinson said her previous experiences have prepared her well for this new role and she looks forward to the potential of enhancing outreach and engagement with students and the public.
“In my time with the DNR, outreach has become important to me,” Robinson said. “And this position with Texas A&M places an emphasis on education and interaction with future natural resource professionals.”
Will support research at the Range Area
In addition to education and outreach, Robinson will also be maintaining facilities and research equipment at the Range Area. She will be coordinating projects and overseeing the use and management of the property which remains a prominent resource for faculty and scientists looking to conduct research.
Five research projects are currently being conducted at the property. The projects range from rainfall interception to bird banding, wood duck nesting and insect inventories.
Hannah Blackburn, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research apiary inspector with the Texas Apiary Inspection Service, is sampling bee and wasp species in the area. Her work is part of a nationwide project in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. At the Range Area, Blackburn collects samples every two weeks from three on-site traps and mails them to Pennsylvania for processing. The Range Area has been a trapping location for the project since 2019.
“The project was recently extended to June of 2021, and we greatly appreciate the use of the Range Area,” Blackburn said.
A bird conservation project utilizes the facility annually. Simon Burton works with the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship Program, MAPS, coordinated by the Institute for Bird Populations.
“The MAPS program is a continent-wide collaboration between public agencies, non-governmental groups and individuals to assist the conservation of birds through demographic monitoring,” Burton said. “The MAPS bird banding study at the Range Area began in 2019 and runs from May through early August each year.”
Burton said that almost 250 scientific studies have used MAPS data as of 2020.
Among other AgriLife researchers working in the Range Area are Brad Wilcox, Ph.D., AgriLife Research ecohydrologist, and his doctoral student Shishir Basant, both at the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology. Wilcox and Basant are collecting data for a hydrology-related study.
Goal to expand public visibility, access to Range Area
While the Range Area has long served as a hub for faculty, students and scientists, Robinson said there is plenty of room for growth.
A primary goal for Robinson is to welcome more visitors to the Range Area and make it a well-known resource at Texas A&M.
“I think it’s important to expand use of the property,” Robinson said. “I would like to see the Range Area used more widely by the university and the general public.”
One way she hopes to do this is by making the property more visible and accessible, both physically and virtually.
Robinson mentioned updating signage and increasing the Range Area’s online presence as potential ways to bring awareness to the utility of the property.
She knows the Range Area holds potential and looks forward to coordinating with university faculty and researchers to maximize use of the property in the near future.
“It’s unique for a university to have a multi-purpose, outdoor teaching area on campus that students and professors from multiple disciplines can take advantage of,” Robinson said. “I’m looking forward to using my background and experiences to make the property as useful as possible.”
For more information on the Range Area or to inquire about opportunities for teaching and research on the property, contact Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published on Texas A&M AgriLife Today on August 17, 2020.
Texas A&M University wrapped up the largest beef cattle educational event in the country last week—this year with attendees participating completely online.
Faculty from Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management presented at the three-day online event on August 3-5.
While this was the first year that the event has ever been held online, Robert Lyons, Ph.D. professor in Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management and Extension Range Specialist, said organizers did all they could to ensure that participants received a great experience.
Lyons said the transition to the online format was smooth, considering how many have had to adapt already.
“The technical components of the event were well-planned and managed,” Lyons said. “We had all done distance presentations previously, especially since COVID-19.”
Emerging technology and brush control techniques
Lyons presented on Tuesday, August 4 in the session, Range Management II: Emerging Precision Management Tools on GPS tools for cattle, along with Jay Angerer, Ph.D. an associate professor, located at the Blackland Research and Extension Center in Temple, Texas. Angerer presented on ranch mapping and drought tools, in an earlier session.
Also presenting from Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management were Extension Specialists Barron Rector, Ph.D., Megan Clayton, Ph.D., and James Jackson, along with Charles Hart, Ph.D. Hart sits on the External Advisory Board for the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management and is currently employed as a range and pasture development specialist with Corteva Agriscience. Hart spent the first 17 years of his career as an Extension Range Specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension.
During their presentations, representatives from Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management provided participants with tips on identifying toxic plants, using drones to manage ranches, and techniques for controlling and managing specific brush species. Continuing Education Credits were offered during the faculty’s Brush Busters Demonstration, which took place on Wednesday, Aug 6 from 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
“I hope participants walked away with an understanding of precision management tools that are already available for range management, and those coming in the near future,” Lyons said.
Lyons said he hoped that those who attended Brush Busters walked away more confident in their ability to properly target and manage specific brush species.
Texas Parks and Wildlife manages the Texas State Park Ambassadors, a program meant to connect and empower young explorers and state park enthusiasts to advocate for state parks through recreation, training and volunteer opportunities.
Master’s student, Addison Regennitter was chosen as the 2020 Texas State Park Ambassador for Lake Somerville State Park’s Birch Creek Unit.
Regennitter graduated from Texas A&M in 2019 with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences. She is currently enrolled in the Master of Natural Resource Development (MRND) program through Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and will graduate in 2021.
Getting in touch with nature
As part of the ambassador program, Regennitter is required to complete 40 hours of hands-on service, community outreach and social media projects.
Regennitter says that through her time at Texas A&M and during her service as an ambassador, her awareness surrounding the importance of state parks has only grown.
Photo courtesy of Addison Regennitter
“All throughout college, I spent many days camping and backpacking at Texas State Parks during school breaks to rest and unwind from the stressors of college life. Now that I’m almost finished with school, I can truly recognize their value in my past and their value for conservation in the future.”
Regennitter says that visiting a Texas state park is a great way to relax and get in touch with nature.
“State parks are not only a safe haven for native species, but they’re a safe haven for people to escape their everyday lives and get a dose of nature.”
If you’re looking to visit Lake Somerville State Park, Regennitter offered up some suggestions to help connect you with the great outdoors.
Five things to do at Lake Somerville
- Hike the Lake Somerville Trailway. This connects both units of Lake Somerville State Park (LSSP) and is 26 miles round-trip. You can travel on foot, by mountain bike, and even on horse. There are 9+ other shorter trails in the park for those who aren’t up for 26 miles in one visit!
- Birding. LSSP – Birch Creek Unit has some great birding areas around the park where you’ll be able to see many species year-round. Besides the lake, there is the Flag Pond, a 350-acre wetland habitat meant to host wintering waterfowl. It was built in 1926 by a private hunting club, but is now maintained by the park and even has an outdoor classroom.
- Camping. Both the Birch Creek Unit and the Nails Creek Unit have many campsites, ranging from primitive and tent only to camper/RV sites and even equestrian group sites. There’s something for everyone.
- Water Sports (including fishing). Both units have fishing piers and fishing equipment on loan at the park store to use at the parks—remember that you don’t need a fishing license if you fish from the shores of a State Park! Both units also have boat ramps to get you out on the water, and you can rent canoes and kayaks from the park store.
- Picnic. Coming to the park for the day to have a family picnic is very popular at the park because there are plenty of day-use sites, including several large pavilions.
Photo courtesy of Lake Somerville State Park
In the spring and summer, park visitors are met with explosions of color from native wildflowers that grace the trails.
Chances are, visitors will also probably see some wildlife while they’re there. If they look hard enough, or get lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of river otters. Regennitter also said visitors should be on the lookout for resident bald eagles, who have made nests viewable from around the park.
“Other bald eagles only stay in Texas through winter, but Lake Somerville State Park is a great place to catch a glimpse of the national bird,” Regennitter said.
Safe, socially-distanced recreation
While COVID-19 postponed or canceled many summer activities, Texas State Parks have taken a variety of precautions to keep patrons safe and socially distanced. Texas Parks and Wildlife, along with many the dedicated park staff and volunteers, have worked hard to ensure visitors can continue enjoying Texas State Parks.
Regennitter said it’s this dedicated group of people that has made her experience as an ambassador so worthwhile.
“My favorite thing about being an ambassador is how many incredible and passionate people I’ve met so far who are all working towards the same goal – being stewards for our State Parks so that all people can have access to nature, both today and in the future.”
As of June 29, Texas State Parks are open for day users and limited camping. To check availability or make an online reservation to visit Lake Somerville State Park, go to https://texasstateparks.reserveamerica.com.