Panhandle Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist Program
The Texas Master Naturalist program is a state-sponsored effort directed toward developing a local corps of "master volunteers" to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.
Do I have to be some kind of "master-level" expert to be a Texas Master Naturalist?
Not at all. The "master" designation is similar to that of "Master Gardener", a program that has much in common with this one. The Certified Texas Master Naturalist title indicates completion of a standardized level of training - 40 hours of initial training (first year only) plus 8 hours per year of advanced training; and the title also indicates a commitment to volunteer service (at least 40 hours per year).
How does all of this work, exactly?
New members join a local chapter and receive 40 hours of training covering topics within all the traditional naturalist disciplines: Plant and Animal Biology -with specific sessions for Insects and each of the major vertebrate classes (Mammals, Birds, etc.), Ecology, Geology, Archaeology, Paleontology, Ecosystem Restoration and Management, etc. The training emphasizes our local Texas Eco-Regions. Keep in mind that member training is not the ultimate goal of the program - the whole point of the training is to enhance volunteer service in the Texas Panhandle!
What kind of volunteer service opportunities are available?
There are, quite literally, hundreds of opportunities to participate in naturalist-related volunteer service in the Texas Panhandle. Any unpaid activity which contributes somehow to the beneficial management of local natural resources and natural areas can become an approved chapter project. Leading hikes, working with scouts or other educational groups, nature trail building, interpretive trail signage or guides, wildlife monitoring or research, planning or maintaining demonstration gardens (using native plants or for the benefit of native wildlife) these are the kinds of things most Texas Master Naturalists do with their volunteer time.
Would some of these TMN activities be of special interest to birders?
Definitely. Examples of volunteer projects which are already approved in the Panhandle Chapter are Christmas Bird Counts, Great Backyard Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and Texas Hummingbird Roundup. Participation in Panhandle Bird Club field trips or Texas Ornithological Society meetings is suitable for advanced training hours. Potential volunteer projects for the future include hummingbird gardens in public areas (one pending in Palo Duro Canyon SP), habitat improvement projects on public lands such as Buffalo Lake NWR, trail development, educational outreach programs related to birding or bird conservation, purple martin band data collection, and more.
Who are the instructors for the 40 hours of new member training?
The Panhandle chapter has been incredibly fortunate to have so many top-notch local experts in their fields say “yes” when we invited them to conduct some of our training. Instructors who have developed and presented our chapter’s training include: J.R. Bell, NRCS; Rich Kazmaier, Professor, WTAMU; Alvin Lynn, Santa Fe Trail Association and Texas Historical Commission; Ray Matlack, Professor, WTAMU; Wes Phillips, National Park Service; Jim Ray, Pantex Biologist; Gerald Schultz, Professor, WTAMU; Len Slesick, artist and local weather personality; Rick Todd, USDA; and others including numerous knowledgeable staff with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Where does the training take place?
The training, which is a combination of classroom-style instruction and field trips, takes place in a wide variety of locations which generally include: Alibates National Monument, Amarillo Public Library, Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Crossbar Ranch (BLM land north of Amarillo), Duncan Ranch (private ranch near Skellytown), Palo Duro Canyon State Park, West Texas A&M University (ANS Building), and Wildcat Bluff Nature Center.
What are the dates, how much does it cost, and where do I sign up?
The training is one Saturday morning a month and runs from March through November. For exact dates, times, and cost, see the enclosed TMN membership application and/or call Susan Thompson. For even more details on the Statewide program, see the State TMN webpage at http://masternaturalist.tamu.edu/