Tree donated in name of TMN

posted May 29, 2017, 1:00 PM by Mary Waters

On May 23rd, Cub Scout Pack 705 from Parker Elementary planted a Shumard Oak tree donated by Texas Master Naturalists in the Willow Waterhole Greenway. The tree planting was assisted by and Bill Burhans, Conservation Director at Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy and Virginia Livingston, a Gulf Coast Master Naturalist and President of Westbury Community Garden. 

The site for the tree planting was near the Schwartz Gazebo at Westbury Lake and will provide shade for a park bench and be highly visible to all those entering the area.  

Thanks to the scouts, their parents, Bill Burhans and Virginia Livingston for enhancing the green space with a native Texas tree.

Texas Waters Specialist Training

posted Feb 20, 2017, 8:53 AM by Mary Waters

Program Requirements

       Accumulate at least 8 hours of advanced training using the Texas Waters curriculum. These hours must be approved at your chapter level:

       Texas Waters Day (4 Hours)

       Upcoming Texas Waters Webinars (Up to 4 Hours)

       Small Group Interactive Study

       Texas Waters Field Trips

       Additional Renewal Requirements:

       Participate in at least one approved community service project.

       Contribute at least 10 hours of volunteer service in the area of water and watersheds. Those hours can also count toward the requirements for recertification in the Texas Master Naturalist program.

Certification Timeline

       To complete certification for 2017, participants must complete advanced training by the October Texas Waters Day event and can include AT completed at the 2016 Texas Waters Day gathering.

       Volunteer service hours must follow the January-through-December calendar year milestone requirements of the Texas Master Naturalist program.

       AT and volunteer service hours can apply to both TMN recertification and Texas Waters certification.

       Texas Waters certification will be acknowledged with a yet-to-be-determined milestone pin.

Webinar Schedule / Advanced Training Options

       “The Characteristics, Components, and Value of Healthy Watershed Ecosystems,” Megan Bean, TPWD’s Watershed Ecologist in Inland Fisheries, February 27, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.:

       “The Ecological Significance of Natural Flow Regimes,” Kevin Mayes, April Date and Time TBA

       “Instruments of Watershed Change,” Nikki Dictson, June Date and Time TBA

       “Texas Water Law and Planning,” Cindy Loeffler, August Date and Time TBA

       Tour of Exploration Green Native Wetland Nursery and Phase 1 Planting Site, Led by Mary Carol Edwards, April or May Date TBA

TPWD-Approved Community Service Project

       Exploration Green is a 200-acre conservancy site devoted to flood control, hydrology, wetland plant and native tree planting, and habitat restoration. The park is located on the site of the former Clear Lake City Golf Course.

       Regular workdays at two on-site nurseries and planting events at the Phase 1 site (photographed here) will be held on most Thursdays and select Saturdays this spring.

       Tree planting events at Exploration Green will be held on February 11 and 18 and March 11 and 18 from 8:00 a.m. to noon.

       Park on the street near the test pond (1801 Reseda Drive, Houston, TX 77062).

       Native wetland planting events will be held in April and May, Saturday dates TBA.

Websites and Contacts

       Texas Waters: Exploring Water and Watersheds (Texas Parks and Wildlife Website):

       Johnnie E. Smith, M.Ed. / Conservation Education Manager /Texas Parks and Wildlife Department / (512) 389-8060 Work / (512) 517-5527 Cell /

       Jerry Hamby / Gulf Coast Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist Program /

Engaged Volunteers Make a Difference!

posted Sep 12, 2016, 2:39 PM by Mary Waters   [ updated Sep 12, 2016, 2:39 PM ]

A record number of volunteers worked at the Exploration Green Native Wetland and Tree nurseries on Saturday. They included twenty-five students representing the Lee College IMPACT ECHS Spanish Club. Volunteers potted up and repotted plants and wiped out a massive weed infestation. Mary Carol Edwards informed us that the volunteers working in the native wetland nursery set a record today, potting up 446 water shield plants (Brasenia schreberi). We are all grateful to have so many young volunteers working at Exploration Green!


Clear Lake City Golf Course goes Native!

posted Jun 27, 2016, 12:32 PM by Mary Waters


Between June 9th and June 26th, volunteers, including Gulf Coast Master Naturalists, at Exploration Green began establishing the first native wetland plants on the site of the old Clear Lake City golf course, which is now a 200-acre conservation easement signed with Galveston Bay Foundation. Over the course of four planting events, volunteers worked at the Phase I development site, the first of several finger lakes that will run through the park. Volunteers installed more than 3,000 plants, including Spartina spartinae, Iris virginica, Crinum americanium, and Cyperus articulatus. Each planting event drew between ten and forty volunteers, and work was overseen by Mary Carol Edwards, Stormwater Wetland Program Coordinator, Texas Coastal Watershed Program, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service/ Texas Sea Grant.

This phase of development is something the citizens of Clear Lake have been waiting a long time to experience, and it represents a major milestone in making Exploration Green become a reality. Additional finger lakes in the Phase I site will be completed by the end of this year, so there will be additional native wetland and tree planting events in the future.

Mary Carol hosts regular work events most Thursday mornings at the native wetland nursery and other sites; check with her ( for more information about locations and times. The tree nursery sponsors workdays the second Saturday and last Sunday of every month. In the summer those events go from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. Contact Jerry Hamby ( or for more information.

Texas Horned Lizard Habitat Survey

posted Jun 27, 2016, 12:26 PM by Mary Waters   [ updated Jun 27, 2016, 12:34 PM ]

 The Katy Prairie Conservancy Horned Lizard re-introduction project has begun!  On Friday, June 17 and Sunday, June 19, Dr. Cassidy Johnson, president of the Coastal Prairie Partnership, led a group of volunteers, including some Gulf Coast Texas Master Naturalists, across several promising re-introduction sites to assess conditions and survey existent plants, animals and insects.  Although no resident Horned Lizards were spotted, over 50 different species of flora and fauna were identified and cataloged.  Some promising sites were tagged and other, less promising sites, crossed off the list.  If you would like to take part in this project, send Cassidy an email at and ask to be put on her Horned Lizard Project volunteer list for future opportunities.

                                                    Gray Hairstreak                                                     Couch's Kingbird                                           Damselfly

Beach-nesting Bird Stewardship at Matagorda Beach

posted May 31, 2016, 11:56 AM by Mary Waters   [ updated May 31, 2016, 2:32 PM ]

On Memorial Day weekend, like many weekends during the summer, beach-nesting birds have to share the beach with holiday-makers, their pets and their vehicles.  The birds' shallow, bare nest cups and small, beige, speckled eggs and chicks that blend into the sand made perfect sense when all the birds had to worry about were animal predators.  Now human disturbance is the biggest threat to the safety of these endangered birds.  Their nests, eggs and chicks are very hard to see on the beach, and foot, car and pet traffic breaks eggs and kills chicks throughout the spring and summer nesting and chick-rearing season. 

Can you find the nest in the first photo?  The second photo is a close-up.

Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, a Gulf Coast Master Naturalist associate organization, has teamed up with American Bird Conservancy, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program and Houston Audubon to increase protection and public awareness of beach-nesting bird populations. This project focuses on Black Skimmers and Wilson’s Plovers, but many other colonially-nesting waterbirds benefit from the conservation measures being taken. Outreach actions, funded in part by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, include posting educational signage at nesting sites, nesting surveys and bird banding. GCBO’s research actions include monitoring the Black Skimmer colony at the Dow Chemical Company in Freeport, one of the largest skimmer colonies on the Texas coast and monitoring breeding Wilson’s Plovers in Brazoria and Matagorda Counties. 


This weekend Chapter member Mary Waters joined researcher Amanda Anderson at Matagorda Beach, where they installed additional signage, trapped and banded Wilson’s Plovers, surveyed and identified nests and educated beach-goers about the dangers of causing disturbances around the birds’ fragile nesting sites.  If you are going to the beach this summer, be vigilant and respect signs and roped-off areas that may denote nesting sites.


Please contact the GCBO if you’d like to help with their work in beach nesting bird stewardship along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Gulf Coast Master Naturalists go on a Field Trip!

posted May 21, 2016, 7:38 AM by Mary Waters


On Saturday, May 14th we had a chapter field trip to Armand Bayou Nature Center's private rookery.  It was an amazing experience!  We received advanced training hours as Stewardship Coordinator Mark Kramer educated us on the behaviors of colonially-nesting birds of the Gulf Coast and then we car-pooled over to the rookery to enjoy the cacophony of hundreds of nesting egrets, herons and anhinga - all jostling for space, food and nesting material.  Some of us followed up our morning at Armand Bayou with a tour and lunch under the trees at the Exploration Green tree nursery - project of Chapter member Jerry Hamby.

Plant Propagation Project gets new digs!

posted May 17, 2016, 7:06 AM by Mary Waters

Our monthly plant propagation project has moved into the new Houston Parks & Rec greenhouse!  This month volunteers bumped up 750 native grasses and forbs and seeded 1,440 four inch pots! These plants will be transplanted into prairie restoration sites this fall.   Great work everyone!  The PPP workdays fall on the 2nd Thursday of the month from 9:00 a.m. - noon.  No experience necessary - come out on June 9th and see what it's all about!


Space Chickens!

posted Apr 18, 2016, 4:28 AM by Mary Waters

Each year, around this time in spring, a rare sound can be heard on the grounds of the Johnson Space Center.  It's the sound of Space Chickens! Well, not really, but it is the sound of the endangered Attwater Prairie Chicken booming and dancing as they court their ladyloves. The Attwater Prairie Chicken is one of the most endangered birds in the U.S., and is now only found in Texas.  It is estimated that there are only about 125 left in the wild.  The Houston Zoo and NASA are working together to help bring back the endangered Attwater Prairie Chicken, also known as the "APC".   NASA has provided an 'embassy' on the grounds of the Johnson Space Center to provide a quiet preserve habitat for the Houston Zoo to run a captive breeding project to help raise and breed the rare chickens.   As part of the 2016 Prairie Power Series, visitors had a chance to tour the facility and the NASA prairie and observe these rare behaviors.   

Two groups of 25 Texas Master Naturalists and avid birders were treated to the tour, which began at Rocket Park with a van ride across the JSC campus to the prairie and APC habitat. The JSC campus covers about 1600 acres, 400 of which are prairie with about one acre set aside as APC habitat.  We were greeted by the NASA wildlife biologist and zookeepers from the Houston Zoo, and split into two groups - one that heard about the prairie project and one that went for their first look at the chickens - our group headed to prairie first.  NASA and the JSC are in the process of trying to restore 400 acres of the property to natural prairie.  As is the case with so much of our area, the land was overgrazed in the past, and is taking time to recover, but is making progress.    So, on to the Prairie Chickens!  The APC habitat is right on the edge of the JSC prairie, which is key.  The APC's dramatic decline is mostly due to the disappearance of their native prairie habitat.  Zookeepers from the Houston Zoo are onsite daily to care for the chickens.  The pens are carpeted with natural prairie grasses and some even have the 'recycled' Christmas trees for extra cover and nesting area.  The female chickens hang out and watch while the males perform the famous 'booming dance'.  The males stamp their feet and make a booming sound from their necklaces and then they strut around and start again.  It's unique among birds and amazing to watch.  Some of the traditional dances of the North American Plains Indians are thought to be based on this bird's energetic dance!   The females at the NASA breeding facility generally have clutched once during season in the past and the zookeepers are hoping to encourage multiple clutches by removing the eggs from the clutches and replacing them with dummy eggs in hopes the females will clutch a second time.  The eggs are incubated and chicks raised to adulthood at the Houston Zoo before being returned to their wild habitat.  

It was an amazing opportunity to see how the combined, collaborative efforts of the Houston Zoo, NASA, the Prairie organizations and the public are working to bring back one of Texas' most iconic birds.  

The Race is On! Fulshear Prairie Plant Rescue

posted Apr 12, 2016, 5:59 AM by Mary Waters   [ updated Apr 12, 2016, 9:20 AM ]

Come help with a partial prairie site relocation, including digging up soil plugs / plants from an imperiled prairie remnant in Fulshear that will shortly be covered in concrete due to imminent road expansion.

The prairie plants that we rescue will be replanted in the University of Houston's new pocket prairie site the 23rd of April, where they will contribute prairie soil microbes and a jump start in plant diversity.

Friday 15th April, 2016
Where:   Meet at 9:30 a.m. on the service road adjacent to FM1093, in front of the Dollar Store at 29619 Fm 1093 Rd, Fulshear, TX 77441. 
Please car pool to the site if possible.  From this location we will likely car pool / shuttle to roadside locations along FM1093 with less optimal parking situations.

Google map of the site.

What to bring: 

  • Please wear appropriate clothing for the weather conditions – long pants, hat, stout footwear, gloves, etc.
  • Bring sun screen and bug spray.
  • Water to drink and a snack.

 Please RSVP to Julie d’Ablaing,, so we'll know who to expect.


  • Shovels
  • First aid kit
  • Buckets / plastic bags
  • water for plants / jugs
  • gloves

After helping rescue this prairie, come see your efforts pay off!

On April 23, the University of Houston will establish an on-campus pocket prairie, to be named Shasta’s Prairie, to provide a living laboratory to drive student research, restore Houston’s rich history and create a sustainable habitat for pollinators.

Help beautify and build up biodiversity on campus by volunteering! Tasks include digging, planting and seeding. Register to volunteer for the event by completing this form by April 18.
A fun celebration will follow, and all volunteers will receive lunch. We can only accommodate 60 volunteers total and 20 volunteers per each one-hour shift. Volunteers must arrive at least 15 minutes early before the start of their one-hour shift.

Anyone is welcome to attend this event. For more information, visit our Facebook event:

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