By Bruce Stewart, President
As you may know, our chapter is hosting the TMN Annual Meeting October 18th to 20th on Lake Ray Hubbard at the Hilton Hotel in Rockwall. On the weekend of the event, several of the TMN chapters will be managing the various tasks that will be necessary to conduct the meeting: auction, book sales, logo wear sales, art and media competition, and registration.
The North Texas Master Naturalist Chapter is managing the silent auction at the annual meeting. We decided to automate the auction to manage the bidding on an expected 400 items or so by the 700 master naturalists who will attend. Most of the items will be received on Thursday and Friday, bidding will begin on Friday evening, and the bidding will conclude Saturday evening; payment must be received, and all items removed by noon on Sunday. As you can see, this process has been a challenge to conduct with paper and pencil. We hope that running the auction with smartphones and computers will make it easier to manage and a more satisfying experience for the bidders.
The conference officially runs from Friday noon, all day Saturday, until Sunday noon. We are working with the seven other chapters in North Texas to identify places that can show the master naturalists from throughout the state what resources we have here and what master naturalists are doing at each place. We have an abundance of sites that would interest master naturalists. The limiting factor to the field excursions we can offer is the transportation necessary to get to each place from Rockwall. We will have access to a limited number of TPWD vans which hold about fifteen people but must be driven by state employees. We are also looking to add a few local buses which we can borrow from Dallas area organizations. We may also have the funds to rent a few additional buses or vans. If you have connections to an organization which may have a van or bus let us know.
Narrowing Down the Options
We are in the process of narrowing down and defining trips that would take two hours, four hours, or all day. We are also planning some excursions that could take place before or after the official conference on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday morning, Sunday afternoon or Monday. For example, we might schedule a tour of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) in Fort Worth and have master naturalists meet there on Thursday using their own transportation. We are working with a list that was started by Amy Martin (2018 class member) and has been massaged somewhat as we try to logically combine venues to maximize the time we have away from the hotel in Rockwall.
Presentations at the Conference
The other major learning opportunity that master naturalists have is attending presentations in classrooms at the Hilton Rockwall Hotel. These presentations are given by experts in a variety of fields that would be of interest to master naturalists. We would like to encourage as many experts as possible from North Texas to speak at the conference. The process begins now with a submission of an abstract of the proposed presentation. Once all proposals are received, the TMN staff reviews them and selects those that would provide a comprehensive program for the conference. With multiple presentations given each hour, there is much more offered that one can attend during the conference.
Presenters have two choices for how they might attend the conference. They may register for a one, two, or three-day pass and attend all the sessions and consume the meals that are available each day. Alternatively, a presenter may come to the conference and just give their program and not register for the conference. This is a good choice if time or funds are limited. In prior years, most of the presenters from our chapter registered for at least one day so they could attend the sessions of that day.
A few things that you might not have noticed that the board has approved this year.
Third Saturday at Dogwood Canyon
Dogwood Canyon’s workday is usually on the third Saturday of the month. If you attend, you will have several options for volunteer hours (VH) and advanced training (AT) as well as getting outside. The workday begins at 9 a.m. and will give you three hours of VH. At noon there is a lunch provided and then there will be a presentation of up to two hours AT. This gives us an opportunity to have a presentation and possibly get outside which is difficult to do at our Wednesday evening chapter meetings. Check the calendar to verify the start times and to see what each program will be.
Chapter Dues Changed
The board approved changing the annual dues for members from $30 to $40 beginning in 2020. We have not changed the dues for several years, but our expenses have been increasing. The insurance that we must carry as a requirement to work at or use the facilities at several venues has increased significantly since 2010 or so. We are also having to pay to rent space for meetings as our numbers have grown and the smaller venues aren’t large enough.
Summer Skills Inventory
We plan to send out a brief survey this summer so that we can better understand your needs and the skills that you might offer the chapter. We need this information not only for the new members but also for those who have been with us a while so we can plan activities for the coming year. We also need this information to help us identify members who might want to help as a member of a committee, a committee chair, or a board member.
The nominating committee will meet later in the summer to identify candidates for the 2020 – 2021 term. You may nominate an active chapter member or yourself for the positions that will need to be filled for the next term. The nominating committee will present their proposed slate of candidates in October and we will vote on them at the November chapter meeting. To nominate someone, contact Judy Parsons, past president, with your nominee. To learn more about the duties of the Board and Committees, refer to Appendix E from our Chapter Operating Handbook on our website. The board positions that will be open in 2020 include the president, communications director, treasurer, and the volunteer services and advanced training director.
Urban Wildlife Conference
In August we will host an Urban Wildlife Conference. Sam Kieschnick, our Texas Parks and Wildlife advisor, will set up the program and secure speakers for the event. The North Texas Master Naturalist Chapter will manage the administration of the program: registration of participants, collection of fees, arrange a luncheon, coffee, and snacks and produce the certificates of completion the attendees will require to maintain their certifications with the state. More information will be coming on the Urban Wildlife Conference soon.
Summer is usually a slow time for the North Texas Master Naturalist Chapter. However, we will be busy with the Urban Wildlife Conference and preparations for the Annual Conference. I appreciate all that each of you do to make these activities successful.