Master Naturalists seeking new members

HARLINGEN — Gaining an understanding of the unique plants, animals and ecology of the Rio Grande Valley is one of the motivations which push many of the environmentally curious into the Texas Master Naturalists program.

If successfully completed, the 10-week training course, along with 10 hours of field trips and community service, will provide certification as a Texas Master Naturalist in the Rio Grande Valley chapter.

“I think a person who wants to be a Master Naturalist probably is a person who first of all likes nature, likes plants, likes all of our wildlife here in the Valley like birds, butterflies or all the animals that we have or the other creepy-crawler things,” said Frank Wiseman, a long-time Texas Master Naturalist. “We’ve got people of every kind of walk of life.”

The next series of classes to qualify as a Texas Master Naturalist begin Jan. 9 at the Cameron County Annex Building’s conference room in San Benito. Those classes will be held Wednesday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m., and will be accompanied by Saturday field trips.

Cost of the training is $150 but scholarships are available. The registration deadline is Nov. 30, and the scholarship application deadline is Nov. 15.

The Texas Master Naturalist educational volunteer program is sponsored by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Sea Grant Program and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“Texas Master Naturalist chapters are made up of volunteers with diverse interests who are involved in myriad activities to learn about, work with, and help educate others about the special land in which we live,” said chapter sponsor, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent Tony Reisinger.

“When nature is left to itself, a unique ecosystem develops — after hundreds of years,” Reisinger said. “Today, that unique ecosystem is what Texas Master Naturalists learn about and help sustain — the Rio Grande Valley’s native habitat and the critters that depend on it.”

Classes are taught by local university professors and field experts from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Texas Master Naturalists have a high profile in the Valley, and can be found regularly at educational events, tree plantings and other nature-related activities.

“I think one of the best things that people learn is working in a group of volunteers,” said Wiseman, speaking by phone from Hugh Ramsey Nature Park where Texas Master Naturalists meet every Thursday morning to work on the garden-like parts of the popular city park.

“Like when we come out here to Ramsey, we have a good time because we have all the camaraderie, the friendship, and getting to know each other,” he added. “A lot of times from here we go on for example and eat lunch together and continue our social life that way. It doesn’t mean we’re going to become real fast friends with everybody, but we extend our friendships and our likes and dislikes and learn more about people and the communities we live in.”

How do I become a certified Master Naturalist?

How do I become a certified Master Naturalist?

Complete an organized training program sponsored by a Master Naturalist chapter that involves a minimum of 40 hours of instruction composed of both classroom and field experience

Obtain a minimum of eight hours of approved advanced training

Complete a minimum of 40 hours of chapter-approved volunteer service

To retain certification in each subsequent year members must complete a minimum of eight hours of advanced training and provide a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer service in chapter-approved projects

For more information

Information about scholarship categories and registration forms are on the chapter’s website at www.rgvctmn.org

Also on the website are a list of the Texas Master Naturalist partners, speakers’ bureau topics, monthly speakers schedule, live bird cam, a gallery of articles written by members, a list of Valley native plant growers and a bimonthly native habitat blog.

To speak to a Texas Master Naturalist, call 956-455-7310 or e-mail rgvctmntreasurer@gmail.com

If you go

WHAT — Texas Master Naturalist certification

WHERE — Classes are in San Benito in the Cameron County Annex Building conference room

WHEN — Classes begin Jan. 9, last 10 weeks and are limited to 25 people

COST — $150 includes textbook, fees and one-year membership; full or partial scholarships available

DEADLINE — Applications must be made by Nov. 30; scholarship applications must be submitted by Nov. 15