HARLINGEN — A new year means a new cohort of Texas Master Naturalists.

The Rio Grande Valley Chapter is currently taking applications for its next series of classes to certify successful participants as Texas Master Naturalists.

The classes begin Jan. 15 and are held on Wednesday nights for 10 weeks. Some Saturday field trips also are included.

“I’ve lived here over 30 years and it really wasn’t until I retired and took the class that I just realized what a very, very unique place we live in,” said Joni Gillis, a master naturalist and education coordinator for the RGV chapter. “I think one person that kind of helped prior to taking the classes is I saw presentations by Carol Goolsby who at that time was at Quinta Mazatlan about the unique area we live in. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world.”

The cost of the classes is $150 but there are scholarships available. Beginning in mid-January, participants will meet each Wednesday night for 10 weeks at the Cameron County Annex Building at 1390 U.S. 83 Expressway in San Benito.

The classes cover everything from birds, mammals, reptiles and plants to the region’s geology and climate and how these interact to make the Valley as unique as it is.

“We want to preserve what we have because unfortunately we’re down to about 3 percent of our native plants” in their natural habitat, Gillis added. “If that goes away, so does our tourism with birding and the butterflies. It’ll disappear because the birds aren’t interested in exotic plants or plants from other areas.”

For more information on the classes, go online to https://rgvctmn.org/2019-class-information

If You Go

WHAT — Texas Master Naturalist 2020 class

WHEN — Begins Jan. 15, classes every Wednesday night for 10 weeks; some Saturday field trips

WHERE — Cameron County Annex Building, 1390 U.S. 83 Expressway, San Benito

COST — $150 (scholarships available)

INFORMATION — https://rgvctmn.org/2019-class-information