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Report from the Class

Freshwater Ecosystems at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center

posted Apr 10, 2016, 6:44 PM by Mary Waters

 

Early on a cool spring morning, the naturalists-in-training arrived at Jesse H. Jones Park eagerly awaiting the day’s activities. Located on the northeast side of Houston, the park was designated a nature preserve by Harris County, with over 300 acres of hiking, biking and canoe trails along Spring Creek. Once the park rangers arrived, the class was split into two groups. The first group began with a pontoon tour of Spring Creek while the second group evaluated the health of a nearby freshwater pond.

Aboard the pontoon boat, the morning sun peaked through large pines and river birch standing tall along the creek. Although recent heavy rains washed down debris and large dead trees, the water level remained normal, according to our guides. Birds of all species were active along the waterway, including several Great Blue Herons, an American Kestrel, and an immature Bald Eagle. The nesting Kingfishers flittered across the water ahead of the boat. The chilly morning air kept us packed together for warmth, while we embraced the heat of the rising sun.

Back at the pond, we learned about using Rapid Bio Assessments to determine the health of a freshwater ecosystem. Park guide Kris Lindberk taught a technique known as dip netting to safely scoop for aquatic species. We broke into pairs and waded along the shallow edges of a pond, fishing for aquatic life. The class collected an array of species from tadpoles, fish and shrimp to worms and aquatic insects. Later, in an outdoor classroom, we viewed our specimens under microscopes and discovered floating globe algae in the pond water. Our diverse collection of aquatic life indicated a healthy water environment with a variety of nutrients, plenty of dissolved oxygen and a balanced pH.

By midday, the sun was shining and the naturalists were enjoying the park, along with many other visitors who were biking, fishing, playing and stopping to smell the wildflowers.

 

 

Story by Jennifer Trandell, pictures by Jennifer Trandell and Linda Cook.

W. Goodrich Jones State Forest

posted Mar 6, 2016, 4:20 PM by Mary Waters   [ updated Mar 6, 2016, 5:43 PM ]

This a new section, which will feature reports from the current class.  This article was written, and photographs taken, by Spring Class 2016 member Jennifer Trandell.

On a sunny, blue sky Saturday, the Gulf Coast Master Naturalist 2016 Spring Class

gathered for their first fieldtrip at G. W. Jones State Park. The tour was led by John Warner of the Texas A&M Forest Service to learn about forest ecology and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. The tour began as we hopped onto a hay wagon and headed out into the forest. 

The park consists of 1722 acres; mostly pine with some hardwood species. The Forest Service uses prescribed fires, machine mulching and herbicides to control the invasive species and restore balance.  John Warner led the group to various areas of the park revealing each of the methods of management including areas left natural. In the natural environment, the native yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) is a thick impenetrable bramble of understory brush. Warner explained that sunlight is unable to reach the forest floor where seed trees and native grasses should grow. In Jones Park there are 2 types of pine - loblolly and short leaf.  Pine trees live up to 100 years and open, old growth pine stands are the preferred nesting area for endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. There are somewhere between 24 and 40 birds living in clusters throughout the park. Trees are marked with an identifying green band but missing bark and sap running down the trunk also identifies the nests. Some of the chapter members arrived early and were able to view the active woodpeckers before class. During the tour plenty of birds were spotted and identified by several experts in our group. Bird songs filled the air and everyone enjoyed the wonderful weather in the forest classroom!

W. Goodrich Jones State Park is open to the public year round during daylight hours and is considered a birding hot spot. This spring volunteers are needed during the Red-cockaded Woodpecker’s nesting season to help with roost checks, counting eggs and banding of babies for identification. For more information contact Donna Work dwork@tfs.tamu.edu

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