Quicker program earns Master Naturalist badge

HARLINGEN — Call it an accelerated path to Texas nature.

The Rio Grande Valley chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists has announced a variation on its three-month, once-weekly certification training.

Beginning this fall, the nature experts will begin offering a 10-week program with classes twice a week. Upon successful completion, participants will be certified as a Texas Master Naturalist.

“This will be an abbreviated session and still contain all the state-required classes,” said Steve Lanoux, chapter president.

Texas Master Naturalists is a statewide organization sponsored by the Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Sea Grant and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Once certified, its members often become key educational resources in the Valley, serving as guides at locations such as Resaca de la Palma State Park, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, Sea Turtle Inc., Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Estero Llano Grande State Park, the Valley Nature Center and even more venues.

The areas of study to become a Master Naturalist in Texas are broad, ranging from urban and rural ecosystems, plants, insects, biodiversity ecology, hydrology, herpetology, ornithology, entomology, wetland ecology, ichthyology, forest and riparian ecology and more.

“After graduating, chapter members may become involved in charitable, scientific and educational outreach within the Rio Grande Valley,” Lanoux said. “They will continually train in areas of personal interest. Throughout the year, volunteers are offered a network of workshops, lectures and advanced training opportunities not generally open to the public.”

Class size is limited to 25 participants, who must be 18 or older. Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy county residents are welcome, as are Winter Texans.

The cost of the training is $150 and includes a textbook, fees and a one-year membership in the Texas Master Naturalists.

Classes will meet on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings, with most being held at the Cameron County Annex Building conference room at Williams Road and U.S. Expressway 77/83 in San Benito.

The registration deadline is July 31. For more information or to register, go to the chapter website at www.rgvctmn.org