Master naturalists recruiting new members

HARLINGEN — It’s all about establishing where you are, even in a state as big as Texas.

The Rio Grande Valley Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists is one of 48 or so chapters across the width and breadth of Texas.

And it is recruiting new members.

The RGV Chapter is seeking applicants for about 25 slots in its training program which consists of 30 hours of classroom work, 10 hours of field work and eight hours of advanced training. Classes begin in January 2018.

“It provides people with a sense of place,” said chapter President M. Lee Brown, who became a Texas Master Naturalist in 2010. “I’ve lived in different places, and I was a master naturalist before in a different part of Texas.

“I came here, and I was like ‘wow, I really don’t know what’s going on,’” she said of the unique flora and fauna found in the Rio Grande Valley. “I took the class again.”

The cost of the class is $150, but scholarships are available. Classroom training is every Wednesday evening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Cameron County Annex Building in San Benito, where the RGV chapter also holds its meetings.

“Last year, we had between 35 and 37 people,” Brown said. “We’re trying to keep this class small. I think the quality of the training is better.”

The classroom training uses textbooks, but the real essence of the learning process is mentoring from current Texas Master Naturalists who have experience and knowledge that transcends what can be found even in the best textbooks. There are around 11,000 certified Texas Master Naturalists.

“People have different interests,” Brown said. “A lot of people will focus on birds in their project, on working with bird habitats or counting birds and helping a lot of our partner agencies with their projects.

“Then of course there are the plants,” she added. “We’ve got some bird people and some plant people.”

Training in the program covers everything from land stewardship to geology to ecosystem concepts, Brown said.

“So once you get in and you find other people who are interested in the same thing, there are always projects focused on that so you can continue learning in those areas,” she said. “We started a water specialist part of it where you take special training through the state to focus on water conservation and water quality.”

The key to mastering the program, she said, is to learn to see how our natural world is interconnected.

“The training provides a way to actually learn the different habits of species, the ecosystems, the weather, the soils — it gives you an introduction to where you are now,” she adds.

“One part of our mission is outreach in education, to teach other people about it,” she said, “which is so important now, especially with everything becoming so urbanized.”

Texas Master Naturalist Program

LOCATION — 1390 W. Expressway 83, San Benito

CLASSES START — Jan. 10, 2018

CLASS DAYS — Wednesdays

CLASS TIME — 6-9 p.m.

TRAINING SESSIONS — 30 hours of class time, 10 hours of field trips (Saturdays), eight hours of advanced training


TMN CERTIFICATION — Upon completion

COST — $150 via PayPal, but scholarships available with Nov. 15 deadline for application