Leader Wanted: Special Focus on Southern Dallas Programming

By V. Rose Mercer, Class of 2012

Do you recall our chapter efforts to extend naturalist education to southern Dallas county?

You may recall I bragged on our 2018 fall class for achieving several chapter goals. One was to extend our naturalist education and training into southern Dallas County as an effort to strengthen our commitment to our project partners and increase volunteer hours at Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, Trinity River Audubon Center, Cedar Ridge Preserve, John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, Twelve Hills Nature Center, and more. In January, I reported to our board and committee members the remarkable reverse in previously plummeting volunteer hours at those project partners. Are those remarkable volunteer hours sustainable now that the fall class projects are complete?

I advocate for continuing this effort by providing advanced training in a location convenient to residents in the southern Dallas county contingent. Our brilliant multi-faceted plan is simple and simple to replicate. It just takes our program committee or speakers bureau to partner with a North Texas Master Naturalist project and then schedule advanced training programs to coincide with regularly scheduled workdays for a combined VH/AT hour-grabbing monthly opportunity just as we did at Dogwood Canyon his year.

Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center’s Director Julie Collins, and Bruce Ballengee, a member of Dogwood’s stewardship board and the Audubon Texas state board, are both North Texas Master Naturalists. Together this year we scheduled a monthly program to begin just as each of Dogwood’s Saturday workdays ended, and an anonymous donor provided food.

The 2019 effort began in January, when Meghan Peoples debuted her “Taxonomy and Field-journaling” advanced training program for 38 participants. Gwen Eishen walked us through her hilariously engaging “Tracks and Scat” presentation in February. Several teenagers from Athletes for Change joined the program after their nearby workday, ate pizza and giggled alongside me.

In March, Scott Kiester flew down from the Elm Fork Chapter to share “The Mystery, Wonder and Science of Avian Migration.” We skipped April and May for Earth Day festivities and weather. Stephanie Varnum taught us orchid-gamy and gave firsthand accounts of our multi-year “Orchid Study at Cedar Ridge Preserve” in June. City of Cedar Hill city manager Greg Porter spoke in July on “Urban Conservation and the Wildlife Corridor along 1382.” At the end of September, Dale Clark designated October THE month for butterflies. He shared slide after slide of his gorgeous photography to help us keep our eyes open for what we can see fluttering about. Finally, to complete our joint-effort programming, Katrina Pound, PhD shared her climate change research with evidence from our streams and waterways. You want to hear this important talk when she gives it again!

A 2018 fall class member, Katrina wrote recently: “I personally am very grateful for Fourth Saturdays at Dogwood. It’s one of the closer opportunities to where I live, and I’ve appreciated being able to get the VH and AT credit in the same place. I appreciate the work in promoting it and keeping it going.”

And Julie writes: “I have appreciated the opportunity to share the beauty of Dogwood Canyon with not only our TMN chapters, but also people from our local communities. It is partnerships like these that make it a win-win for everyone. The Dogwood Canyon staff is small and does not currently have capacity to offer programming and search out speakers each month, so thank you, for your magnificent effort to make a difference in southern Dallas County.”

These programs attracted NTMNs, community leaders, city staff, non-naturalist volunteers and Master Naturalists from surrounding chapters.

Before starting law school in August, I failed to find a partner to continue this important effort into next year. Is that you? Do you want to take the baton and begin programming additional advanced training opportunities in tandem with an approved NTMN project to coincide with their workdays in southern Dallas county? Outstretch your hand.

With gratitude for your volunteerism.

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